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State of ‘enmeshment’…and growing out of it (heuristic process notes)

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 @ 1:07 pm
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Posted in  Heuristics, Personal Process, Reflexivity

After spending months of conducting research interviews, reading,’presenting at audiences, discussing about my topic etc, there is a ‘next’ stage now awaiting in the PhD process that has to do with ongoing data analysis, reading, organising writing etc…and what i experience is a deep feeling of ‘enmeshment’, both emotionally and practically speaking. On the one hand i see that this is a ‘normal’ ( i.e. expected) place to be at this stage due to the size of the whole Thesis thing but i also know there is so much more that is going on for me, which has to do with the ‘nature’ of the topic itself and the dynamics it brings up as well as my personal involvement with the ‘meanings’ and dimensions inherent in it. I can observe that in comparison to months ago, i have developed some ‘resilience’ in terms of being able to ‘stay’ and bear those feelings that the PhD topic is raising. But, no matter how difficult or challenging those feelings are, i still need to produce text in the end of the day and give birth to a Thesis that is coherent, rigorous and contributes to the pool of knowledge and sound practice in some ways, a Thesis that engages the reader and can stand rigorously and scholarly enough as a PhD piece.

I have been reading again Ann Scott’s paper (Scott A. 2008 The Effect of Doing Qualitative Research on Novice Researchers. European Journal for Qualitative research in psychotherapy Vol 3 Spring 2008 Accessed …).
To justify her choice of Heuristic Method she says: I chose a method where I could include myself overtly in the research process as I wished to be more congruent with my manner of practice as an integrative psychotherapist”. I think that whole issue of striving towards congruence is also central in relation to my own methodological choices also.

In terms of the enmeshment state, i can see that at some point it needs to be unravelled so that i can gain a more ‘cognitive’ understanding of the process and write up in an organised way, without losing the creative mode though or the lively tone that comes with the emotional side of describing powerful meanings and phenomena…that is the big challenge really, how to balance the cognitive with the emotional side ( i guess my immediate answer to that, at a personal level, is to strive towards staying connected with my spiritual side that creates the balance and brings the more unifying force…..easier said than realised though! its a whole way of being!)

Scott highlights 4 major themes that have to do with the impact of reflexive research on the researcher:

1. personal relevance of research topic

2. the overwhelming nature of the process

3. the effect on the self

4. the experience of academic supervision

i can see commenting on each of the above subheadings in my own Thesis about my own process, good part for the Methodology chapter i think! i could use it as a starting point

When reading this article, am also gripped by the use of certain words/language. Besides the word ‘enmeshed’, Scott uses also the expressions of becoming ‘embroiled’ or ‘engulfed’ by the heuristic research process, all very demonstrative in terms of describing the powerful dynamic explored.

Another interesting point Scott makes is the following:

“It is notable that this enmeshment with research material was in contrast to the way these co-researchers would behave with clients. They were trained in self-awareness and in the operation of the internal supervisor concept (Casement, 1985) in order to be ethical clinical practitioners. Transferability of this skill into the research paradigm was not evident”.

I do really often wonder for myself why this internal supervisor concept that indeed operates when with clients and keeps me clearer in the process, does not get transferred in the relationship with the Thesis….shall i conceptualise the Thesis as a person tself to make it any easier??? after all, the thesis is a being in itw own write but the difference is that i am the creator, the artist, the one that gives birth to it which puts me in such a different position in relation to it as compared to when being with a client….is that really what creates the difference in terms of the internal supervisor bit? i.e the fact that there may be a conflict of role also in relation to my practitioner approach (humanistic, more or less not as directive and pro-active as with Thesis-shaping and creating role)…i would be interested to pose that question to the PhD group or other researchers and see what they think…

As i was writing this post, i posed at some point and watched/listened to this awesome video:

The lyrics of the ‘Amazing Grace’ song ((a Christian hymn that has been sung by so many cultures), by John Newton, seem  so relevant to what i feel i need and het inspired by to keep authentic, reflexive and courageous in undertaking this path of study. Here they are:

Amazing Grace Song

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me –
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T’was Grace that taught –
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear –
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares –
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far –
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me –
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be –
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years –
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise –
then when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me –
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

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