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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/206554
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- Reflection and development worn lightly: the experience of developing and applying a practice process that draws upon significant life events
- Green, Ern
- Much has been written about the value in career counselling of identifying and exploring themes that run through adults’ accounts of significant life events and experiences, using structured interviews, autobiographical methods, and card sorts (eg, Saviskas 1994, 2004). There is also a considerable and growing literature on the transformational power of self-reflection, as well as theoretical speculation as to the way meaning is constructed through self-reflection (the work of Mezirow (1991) stands out in this respect). The contribution of this study has been to find ways to work with people’s recollection of significant events so that the potential insight and energy latent in the story telling is released into their lives present and future. The idea of meaning that is held lightly is the conceptual frame that has been developed to both explain and inform those practices. As a form of ongoing self-reflection, practised with care and respect, it can even be understood as a life skill that allows us to fruitfully engage with the things that make our lives both wonderful and heartbreaking, and the issues and situations that challenge our practice. One of the perspectives that was very valuable in the initial development of my own ideas was Kelly’s (1955) seminal work on the value of articulating the polar opposite of any personal construct in order to fully appreciate its deeply personal meaning, This perspective stimulated my interest in exploring the creative insight and energy that might arise when particular ways of understanding life events are enriched by the exploration of opposites (for example, exploring both the sense of belonging and not-belonging; feeling secure or feeling insecure). On the basis of my experience through this study, I eventually moved to a less oppositional framework and instead found ways to search for enriched meaning in the shadow nearby. Working with alternates and opposites also highlights the potential limitation of remaining attached to taken-for-granted meanings associated with the significance of events. The desire to remain attached to our own self-readings, in order to make sense of ourselves, and the freedom that comes from reading ourselves with new eyes, reflects one of the great debates of recent years: the power of narratives (whether grand or purely local and personal) in creating meaning, compared with the power of deconstruction and irony associated with post-modernism. The poetics of the remembered and remembering self (Randall and McKim, 2008) in reading our lives came to be a major theoretical influence on the study. This leads to my major conceptual conclusion from this study: that when we are able to hold lightly the meanings we attach to our stories about ourselves, we enter a reflective space and that being able to work fruitfully in this space is a useful life skill, one that can inject insight, options for action and energy into both our work and non-work lives. As a form of knowing, this skill can be identified as a form of post modern aesthetic irony, one that focuses the importance of narrative openness to change and tolerance for ambiguity (McAdams, 2001). As I was starting to appreciate as the study drew to its close, the greatest potential for this skill is when it brings confidence and skill to engaging with dilemmas that are current or present, and not exclusively a reconciliation with the past. The study also offers an exploration of the way research practice, as an extended exercise in meaning making, can itself play out the same central idea: how do we make useful meaning without becoming unhelpfully attached to our own interpretations? How does a researcher dance lightly with sense-making without holding on too tight? This study describes how a relatively conventional process of interviewing, searching transcripts for themes and engaging with scholarly literature was transformed by the use of lyrical metaphorical writing that triggered a different, imaginative take on the work. This writing was used to capture experiences in the resea rcher’s own life that ran in parallel with the interviews and the coding. These experiences both profoundly reflected and informed the work with the stories of others, and powerfully guided the engagement with the literature. While not an auto-ethnography, this profound engagement with the researcher’s own intuitive self has been an essential ingredient in coming to understand both the value of wearing reflection lightly and the means for holding that creative space. The thesis journey is therefore presented as a process of knowing, doing ,being and becoming (Higgs and Titchen, 2001).
- Publication type
- Thesis (PhD)
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Business and Enterprise. Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship
- Publication year
- Australasian Digital Theses collection
- Copyright © 2011 Ernest Calvert Green.