Explicitation interview and memory (2)

Explicitation interview and memory (2)  Consistency beween theory and past lived evocation; Pierre Vermersch

english translation from Expliciter, 107; p38-51, 2015

My last paper ended on an observation : I could find few to no ressources in experimental psychology in the field of memory because only the results of the spontaneous memory performances were considered, while  the explicitation interview could help, accompany, guide the remembrance and therefore precisely could overcome these spontaneous limits.

How was this helpful proceeding born, how did it grow, how is it congruant with its foundations ? Do the practises emerge from these foundations ?

I will treat successively :1/ How the explicitation interview originates : on one side as a precise response to a precise methodological need : to have access directly to information which the subject and only the subject is able to give, because this matter is invisible by the observer (Vermersch 2012) ; on the other side, the explicitation interview comes from varied inspirations, like influences from  my  practice of self observation and its authentical verbal translation, and  from discovering far away past life experiences by means of psychotherapy, and at last from practising task analysis . The explicitation interview comes also from my insertion within Work Psychology  as well as the strong educational imprint from my first technical studies (technical drawing, machining). 2/ Then I will define the specificity of explicitation interview as a micro description of past lived experiences and how it takes roots into initial acting. (Vermersch 2000, Vermersch 2002,Vermersch 2014). From that specificity, several unexpected consequences will rise up :  3/  First main essential consequence : by the very fact of being lived, every event is permanently passively remembered, far more than the subject beleives he has remembered or thinks he can recall. 4/ The second amazing consequence, is the power to awake a past experience by the way of an indirect awakening intention technic. Not only unexpected awakening as in the well-known  exemple of « Proust’s madeleine », but also an intentional awakening. 5/ A third consequence is the possibility to live in the past, be present in the past instead of remembering this past .To understand this, we need to assert the existence of two very different acts of getting in relation to past : recall and evocation. Recalling is a wilful action, consciently directed by the will, abstract, un-sensorial, un-emotional, dry, mainly  about learned matter  (semantic memory) ; evocation is unintentional, embodied, concrete, nearly sensorial, even emotional, warm, giving more or less the sensation to live again.

Fundamentally, the explicitation interview will endlessly emphasize the evocation act and will make it possible because it is recognized and accompagnied from the  first-person point of view.  On the other side,  this act depends only on getting in touch with the intimacy of one’s personal past-lived experience.  Consequently, the explicitation interview practice never will ask someone to recall, which would directly activate recalling process but instead of it, suggests to « let come back »,  then moves the attention focus on past life.

The main point is that only past experience, within its relation to the person who embodied it, can create this type of memory based on the acting of evocation.

We will finally see that experimental psychology researchers  perceived this difference but did not succeded to operate it and  collected datas linked to the sole abstract memory :  recall based on an effort  to remember. Instead of it, we carefully avoid to ask an effort to remember in the course of the explicitation interview. We will see later  why.

These intire consequences will show the consistency of the revival technics aimed to guide the person towards the evocation act, then let the person stay carefully there, guiding at the same time to precisely investigate the person’s past life experience by the means of « empty sense language ».

Therefore, we have strong links betwen these components that I can sum up this way :

–    The explicitation interview is aimed exclusively at the lived past, which leads to unknown  possibilities because :

–    Each lived past always brings passive, continuous, unintentional remembrance, creating and making available an extremely wide deposit of informations which are unknown by the very one who nervertheless lived it.

–    The passive remembrance of lived past goes together with means of awakening it by the priviligied use of an aimed act based on an « awakening intention ».

–    When this awakening of the lived past is obtained, it is merely easy not to remember past but to live it again and move one’s attention’s focus among this past, following the universal properties of each lived past.

I develop the whole point and conclude about the relative interest of the remembrance issue, compared to all the possibilities furthermore.

 

1/ The beginning : how to understand the explicitation interview’s origin and its vocation to aim exclusively the lived past actions in order to find unexpected  consequences.

 

I was led, nearly obliged to use an interview technic when I intended to go further in the description and analysis of cognitive functioning in aimed activities. Go further than take in account the sole result or the length of the task, poor information of the proceeding. Go further than video recordings that I plentifully used, which was limited to the visible part of the process (Vermersch 1975, Vermersch 1976, Vermersch 1976). To document the invisible, I had to ask it to the one who lived it, because only this person was able to find it by the way of introspection, more precisely retrospection (introspection of the past).  To do so, I had to ask words, verbalization, in brief :  lead an interview. But at that time, none of interview’s technics was made for the verbalization of the lived acting, not only the research un-directive interview (Blanchet 1985, Blanchet,Ghiglione et al. 1987, Blanchet 1991) but also the countless sizes of semi-structured or comprehensive interviews peculiar to sociologic researches.  On the other side, the Piaget’s critical interview was created to induce a contradictory question to check if the child was abble to overcome the contradiction and express an invariant structure.

Furthermore, the interview’s technics were badly thought of in the area of  psychology, supposedly unprecise, inductive, leading to rebuilt rationalisations, poor. And worse, as a principle, any reference to introspection was totally  turned down by a narrow positivist science.

What was to do ?

My choice, my compromise solution was to build an interview technic always linked to a finalized activity (exercice, work, performance). It always looks for the realization proceeding consistancy (as in a crime inquiry : in all cases, one needs to check on the time, scene, tools, acting and motives to assign the suspect’s guilt. This permits a triangulation : the action decription can help the comparison between verbalisation and task analysis and also, when possible, it can be compared to acts with their traces and their observables. Therefore to create validation possibilities by crosschecking and also being in accordance whith my choice of scientific objective ( mental actions research), I focused on acting verbalization to get its explicitation which means to go further than tacit information or practises, in order to be explicited.

This did not match to many research practices. At the time, there was lots of questionning about representations and opinions. I left this field and postulated that the only way to know if a representation had a meaning was to see if it appeared in acting and though, to know the real acting. Without asking for the goal, because its sole verbalization would not inform me about its actual proceeding. The only way to know this goal was to discover the actual acting proceeding !

I was focused on action verbalization, which is only one part of past lived experience. But at the same time, the most connected part to an universal specificity of all past experience : its strong and necessary ingraving within the framework of time (see next §).

The main goal of my research was the past-lived and only the past-lived moved up by efficient actions.

I was not figuring the whole implications about memory from this exclusive focusing on past-lived experiences. To discover and understand these consequences, I suggest to go back to define past-lived concept.

In my first attempt in creating the technic, I did not ask myself any problem about possible rememorizing. I was obsessed in acceeding to potential information by means of introspection and was asking myself upon the way to be socially accepted (in fact, first by my CNRS regular evaluation).

Looking back from now, I can understand this lack of concern about remembrance by the fact I was familiar with self- observation and its groupal verbalization learned from a spiritual search, then also from my psychotherapy experience, as a client and also as a therapist. In this case, nobody asks if the client remembers (of a childhood trauma, for example) but when the person will let the memories comme back. The fact that one can recall these memories is an unquestioned evidence. In the end, to point my past surrounding, my concern upon prioritarely be informed of the action’s lived memory was fed and kept up from my tecnical training, for example the « machining scales » which needs to see froward precisely all the logical steps and if it can be made practically by a steady working. Yet, I first published a paper on « the algorithm in educational methods » (Vermersch1971), which emphasized the systematical organization of each aimed action. Innocently, I mean with no intention, I gathered lots of components leading to a technic aimed upon the verbalization of past lived acting as an organised and descriptive action.

 

2/ Define the past-lived concept and draw out its consequences

 

Main point of my proceeding, the concept of past-lived experience is wrongly simple, as if we could immediatly stay at a tautologic assessment « the lived-past is what I lived » . A better definition is interesting in order to clearly oppose it to what is not past-lived, not as simple as it seems. I will list again the positive fundamental specificities and also the indicators showing that the person left her presence to her past-lived experience. The reason is : if the fact of speaking about past-lived is so important for evocation in past-lived-again mode, then, we need to know how to percieve when it is not or no more the case, in order to guide, bring back to the verbalization of past-lived experience. The issue is both theorical : what is called past-lived ? And practical : how to appeal to the past and stay in contact whit this past-lived ?

–                      Past-lived = the past lived experience belongs to one and only one person.

A first foundamental specificity : every past-lived is the one of one person. I avoid the question of animal or artificial intelligence. More precisely, lived by only one person (not by a group, a society, a team, neither a couple etc). In a collective situation each one lives one’s proper experience.

Each person lives and consequently has one’s own lived experience, there is no doubt about it.

This specificity may seem like a commonplace.

Except that it is very easy, while verbalizing, to quit personnal speech position in term of « I », skipping to « One » for example or « We »  or to the pedagogical demonstration by the « You » (and there, you must do…) speaking of the others and no more of me. It is important to understand that the person leaves her relation to herself  when changing personnal address ; this person leaves her own experience to enlarge it. Consequently, one looses the capacity to guide her in the exploration of her past-lived. Practically, to keep this specificity activated, it means that the interviewer attentively listens the speech adress of the person in order to guide her back to herself. Be able of delicatly pass from « and then, we were all very efficient » to «  and when you were all very efficient, what were you careful of, you,? ». When I speak of remembrance « guiding », this guiding consists in attentive listening to expressions used by the interviewed in order to lead delicately the person towards the criteria respect which permit the remembrance of her own past experience.  Constantly, we will find this melting of these fundamental specificities of the goal with the listening/helping/guiding of the interviewed. We do not guide the real remembrance but we guide the conditions which allow this peculiar act of past-lived remembrance : evocation. The evocation action will only be possible by a verbalization rooted whithin the subject’s identity.

It is an important aspect of the explicitation interview process, to care about finding, creating, guiding, recovering the conditions which lead to its realization in terms of past-lived access. It is only by a first person point of view in the proceeding, and making clear its practice by the expicitation of the explicitation that I could set up precisely all these points.

 

–                      A past-lived experience is always singular, unique.

Each one is unique. Certainly,  several past experiences, sometimes may seem nearly identical. But their gathering makes a logical category : a past-lived class (« every time I turn my key in the lock »). A class of past-lived is not one experience, it is an abstraction. Nobody ever lives a class of past-lived. At every moment of one’s life, one lives a singular experience which will never identically be repeated.

So, each past experience is unique. It means, in terms of guiding, that if I want to know a person’s past-lived experience, I must guide her to the description of a singular moment, never a general experience.  The only fact of pointing ONE singular past experience permits a precise contact whith the past and permits  to go further in precisely exploring this past experience.

There again,  this past-lived specificity leads to be aware of the person’s loosing her contact with the singular experience she is speaking of.  This occurs when we hear some generalization ( « I make it like I always do »,  « and there, it depends on the way it occurs », « always you must », « every time I do… ») which shows that the person has slided off from a singular experience towards a general case, and though, is no more in contact  with her personal past-lived experience. At this moment, the main risk is the person’s speaking of her ideas, her theories, her description of what she generaly does, but not what she does when she does it , which is only reachable whithin all implicit details in the course of this unique, singular moment of past lived experience.

The explicitation interview practice needs to precisely pay attention to enunciation in order to immediatly check out the skids and to delicately recover so that the person stays right in good contact with herself and looks for her singular experience. Obviously, such a listening is to be trained by practicing in order to be assimilated.

 

            Each past-lived experience is engraved in the framework of time, because of its length, its asymetrical and irreversible movement towards future and by its successive stages of organization.

Being engraved in time’s progress is an universal specificity of each past-lived experience : it has a duration, asymetically going from now to the future without return, basis of a productive causality. This specificity is essential for us by the fact it will be the heart of our entire questioning to verify the obtained explicitation level by the precise description of its developing degrees. When we read an interview copy, when we lead an explicitation interview, the background interviewer’s questionning is to know if he gets the time progress and if not, what again is missing ? But to go deeper into this point, we need to go further by defining the proper stitching of time  in each past experience, from its generating ( which makes its efficiency).

 

The past lived experience can be defined by a micro temporality scale consistent with efficiency.

We need to size up past-lived experience within a temporal kniting which fits to its efficiency : it means by elementary acts, like those of a fraction of a second. A past-lived experience becomes explicited if, and only if it is fitted to the sort of elementary acts which compose it  and their length.

At this moment, we absolutly need to concentrate and never mix the autobiographical approach, defined by longer fractions of time, in years, days, like life events, stages of life, with our past-lived experience explicitation approach. The experience of life occured in both cases to a person ( life remains in past-lived experience ), but to my point of view, the past is defined by its consistency with its micro generation. Defined by the speed, the length of information gathering, reasonning, verbalisation and sequences of gesture, which all make this past experience. I dont deny that the lived actions also have goals or under goals overcoming a minute’s time, or that internal states vary slowly et progressively, but informing one’self directly or only in terms of goals leave unkown the reason why the acts realization or their failure are generated. You may be able to describe a piece of music in terms of large movements or smaller ones (the theme,  a patterns) but if you take the point of view of the performer, the pianist for example, his success depends on how correctly each finger press on the board, instantly foreseeing where hands and fingers must be to play correctly the next part. Obviously, we are there in the sphere of a micro phenomenology of theefficiency. But like  space scales in the field of geographical maps, there are many possible temporal scales for describing acts in terms of time description, each one being consistent  with the peculiar informative goal we look for. The main point is to use the appropriate matching between the detailled scale level and the determinate goals.

In a practical way, if we choose the micro temporality scale as a description level, we need to pay much attention to point out items which can/must be split to lead the explicitation to the level where we can understand its actual development. Typically by picking out the action verbs which tell a global action, it is easy to relaunch by splitting up the description towards the finer points of the production of acts : « then, I begin to file documents », file is a global action verb, « and when you begin to file documents, how do you begin ? » for example.

The spontaneous verbalization seldom reaches these levels of details, yet here are the expression of the implicit competences as well as most of the error causes. In the same way, we will pay attention to opinions, global assessements (« it was easy », « I had a hard time »…) in order to find criterion proof of their information value (« how did you found it easy, at that time ? ». The exceptional point lies in finding, without any trouble, this level of detail by the authentical contact with past-lived experience. From this detail level, we really are allowed to understand the reason why the action was generated and also its result. But psychologically speaking, how is it possible ? Now, we can get into the first fundamental hypothesis about memorizing : passive memory of the past-lived experiences.

I do not develop all the parts which simultaneously compose a past-lived experience such as corporal, cognitive, emotional, beliefs, identities etc. The main point is that all these part are engraved upon the micro time scale and all can be described with different degrees of scales according to the need of clearence.

 

****

 

The priority  of the explicitation interview was the choice of having the past-lived experience described, as I have just defined it.  Latter on and mostly by accident, I discovered an extraordinary specificity : every past experience is memorized in an unwilling way, therefore in a passive way. We look for a past, being sure it exists (we lived it) and sure also it has let hints we are able to reach back.

 

3/ The link between lived-past and passive memorization : retention and retention awakening (Husserl).

By the only fact of being alive and in each singular lived moment , I am constantly touched, informed, alerted, in a partly reflexive conscient way  and mainly in different forms of non-conscient ways. But to insure my life on a continuous base, I have to recognize myself within my proper identity. Each present moment has to be « retained », be the object of a retention asdefined by Husserl who made a clear analysis of this point. (Husserl 1964,1905). This retention is equivalent to a permanent, unintentional, passive memorizing (passive equals unvoluntary as I have no will to constantly memorize all I am living, « that » memorizes by itself within myself. Without this permanent passive memorizing, I could not size up a conversation, identify a comrade, find my way back home, identify myself on and on. Needless to look for an experimental proof as one can feel it by contacting a person suffering from Alzheimer illness. To  answer again every two minutes to questions already answered before is so amazing and unusual, the person have not memorized the answer you gave her several times ! Also when you are not identified by a relative while  a visit. Our conscient life memorial foundation is so obvious and totally invisible that its only loss reveals its essential, constant work, indispensable to the course of our acts and to settle our identity. We have a marvel within ourselves and it has scarcely been explored because of its silent being. This marvel is called retention, the passive memorization of our past-lived experience. Unexplored and worst, neglected by experimental psychology research which only paid attention to voluntary memorization while the explicitation interview always explores what has not been deliberatly remembered : past-lived experiences.

So we have two consequences :

The main one consists in the fact that there is a lot of information memorized inside us. Consequently, we are abble to awake again these retentions since a huge past-lived information deposit is available. Be careful ! I dont huppold the idea of recording all lived experience, the subject is not a mechanical device like a video or a tape recorder. As a matter of fact, we memorized a lot more information than we are aware of having.

The second consequence is strange, even upsetting since we do not know anything about having memorized this way. In other words, our reflexive consciousness is not at all aware of all the deposits within ourselves by the simple fact of being alive.

What mainly prevents to reach, awake these retention is the limiting belief that I dont remember, I cannot remember since, when I try, nothing comes first. Obviously, I am not aware of the fact that the way I try (by a memory effort) is precisely the way to avoid because it activates an improper act : remembrance and it blocks up the apropriate act : evocation. This negative opinion easely touches the interviewer as well : how the interviewed could recall such a thing ? Therefore I cannot succed. I called « dread » (Vermersch 2006) this feeling which overcomes us when we aim to recall a past moment. In fact, the whole situation is invisibely false : I do not know what I know and could be reached if I knew how to do or if I had an appropriate help, therfore I wrongly conclude that it is impossible.  Which is untrue ! To be nice, even so I’ll make an effort to remember, I’ll try to build again, to guess the likely way. All these efforts for recalling make difficult, even impossible the way to past-lived experience ! If we have a correct psychophenomenology of relating to past acts, we immediately see that the efforts lead always to the remembrance, largely unefficient in comparison with lived-past again, which needs evocation.

We really have a passive memorizing of the past, but to understand its awakening and its return, we need to distinguish two peculiar acts which let the past coming back to present : recall and evocation.

Gusdorf’s outstanding book « Memory and the person » ( Gusdorf 1951) made a praiseworthy extensive review of  his time (first half of the late century) points of views about memory. He shows the opposition, already well known and familiar then, between two acts of memorization. These two acts were distinguished according to chosen criterion :

ñ   between a willful recall (I want remember something) and an unwilling recall (my past comes back) ;

ñ   or for other authors, between a dry knowledge memory and a warm affective one (reviving past-lived emotions) ;

ñ   another one, very near : an abstract memory (concepts) and a concrete one (of my past-lived experience).

Experimental psychology research has left aside/ignored these distinctions. And when Tulving proposed the « episodic memory » (Tulving, Donaldson  & al. 1972) to set up the specificity of personal events memories, he did not take reference of any previous work that would inform him that he had invented the « episodic » term (Tulving 2009) but not at all the underlying idea : the concrete memory.

The whole research made with the expicitation interview has lead us to know and carefuly dinstinguish those two sorts of acts : the recall, voluntary, from an effort, abstract ; and the evocation, unvoluntary,  effortless, concrete, emotional, founded on the past-lived. Yet there is a strong link between the evocation act and the sort of content reached : the living sense. Evocation is a form, less or more, of past-lived experience, in other words, the feeling of living again in the past, not remembering it but being present again. Needless to say that past-lived experience must not be took in a literal sense, since it is impossible to live twice a moment, but it aims to caracterize the feeling to be there again, to live it again. This position stands only for what is personal, private, intimate, in short, my lived-past. Vice versa, from going on the past-lived explicitation, it was inescapable to take account the genuine specific evocation as a privilegied  access to past-lived. Evocation was imperative to me as a privilegied act leading to live again a past moment.

Going further, I need to distinguisch two times in the deliberate course of the unvoluntary evocation : the first is the access time, in other words the selective awakening of passive memory, the second is the maintaining time in order to develop past exploration by a guiding of attentional focus within the presentified past.

 

1                     Past awakening by means of an awakening intention : willing the involuntary.

 

The past awakening as a concrete memory is a wellknown fact, it is  imprevisible, spontaneously arising from a sensorial event. The interesting point of all the examples schows the past awakening as a possible event which proves the accessibility of the past, even if we do not know this possibility. Proust told a long example of past awakening by the means of a « madeleine » taste (Proust, 1987, 1929). First, he describes the spontaneous arising of the past, as an identical sensoriality echoing from past to present time. Then, when he wants to deepen that echo of the past,  and he discovers how his efforts are ineffective and counter-productive in developing this past contact which, by the end, will more plainly occur by a let-release attitude, a passive welcome. Here are all the elements of an awakening method, but its sensorial starting point is unexpeted and also unpredictable !

The past awakening is possible, always testified . The passive memory  is rightly here, spontaneously available, abble to offer itself with a warm feeling of the past being present. But would this awakening be coming by chance, given the circumstances, we could not go further. What happened to be exciting was our power to awaken this memory. How ? The answer precisely stands upon the strong differences betwen two acting : recall and evocation. First of all, we need to avoid anything that could call up the recall act, then build up the conditions for starting the evocation act, which is delicate, technically speaking, as it is an unvolontary act. Therefore, we have a negative aspect in the technic : what is not to do and is, unfortunately, easy to do first. We have too a positive part : guiding, by the words of the interviewer, the welcoming of the past awakening.

 

Avoiding everything which could lead to an act of recall therefore creating evocation conditions.

 

The interviewer’s job is using his own words, he cares about the effects of his words upon the other, what is called perlocutory effects (Austin 1970) (Vermersch 2006). If two different ways of past remembrance really exist, then we have to avoid the words leading to the first one : recall. Recalling is called up by a voluntary memory research. We must get round this « wilful » feature. Thus the first point is to be careful of never asking the person to recall, to try hard to remember. If we suggest recalling, it will lead to a memory effort and by way of consequence, will directly exclude the concrete past contact. So, the acts are not only different, but also exclusive from one another. If one is on, the other one cannot be on at the same time. The two interior positions of past memorizing are incompatible, even opposite : recall takes the past as an untemporal object, evocation is soaked in it ; recall induces, has a cleaved position, evocation leans on a unified subjective position.

Past contacting as a past-lived experience cannot come from a voluntary effort. Then, beyond the inapropriate way, how to proceed to generate thisawakening ?

As such, the interviewer will trigger the favouring conditions to let evocation act occur. I insist upon « trigger the right conditions » because it is impossible to directly ask a person to let herself   » be in an evocation act », I can only lead, trigger the fact, for the person, to be in her past by a re-living mode. Strictly identical to what we have learnt by all technics of work on one’s self since 70 years!

To do so, some carefuly choosen words are enough, most of the time. As for example, one of the possible sentences  I teach in the basic sessions of the explicitation interview . It begins with « I propose to you », which is a simple way to let the person pay attention. In other words, we must avoid any complicated expression leading the person to ask herself about what is going on. Yet, the second point : « I propose to you, if you agree », which is asking if the person consents. Questionning on the past-lived experience is intruding in the privacy of the person. So we need her consent, the person must know that we ask her consent which is not trivial and in no way considered as obvious, whatever  the exterior connections (hierarchic, personal, etc).There are intimacy stages and with the explicitation interview, we do not touch to emotion, identity, traumas, then only to the lived-past actions. This past belongs to me, my proper privacy and I make the choice of sharing it with someone else or not. We know, by practicing, that the sharing of the living past is impossible without this consent.

Next step : « I propose to you, with your consent, to take time… ». To  take time prepares the following induction, so that the person will not feel hurried in finding quickly an answer which would put her in the way of making an effort to answer : the fact we want to avoid by all means.

This preliminary  sequence ends by « …to let come back… » before precising the goal. The words have their importance, it is not a « making » which would be a voluntary act leading to recall, instead of that, let things go and more precise : let come back. The point is to prepare one’self to the return, giving up position upon which I have no power about its result. As such, « let come back » aims a let-go, effortless position ready to welcome what will come without foreseeing  what will be offered.

Here, I insist upon the words, but they are nothing without a quiet rythm of the speach, nothing without some breaks which emphasize the « taking time », nothing also without the corporal setting, the related movements, the right physical distance.The non-verbal part of comunication is not left aside.

Truly, this kind of phrase have strong inductive effects, all the useless interference has been dismissed, each word is chosen from its inductive effect. Nevertheless, the perlocutory effects are not mechanical, they are productive if and only if the person’s consent is present and if the result control is neglected or left appart (cf Nadine Faingold paper in this issue, as a good example of the control which blocks the let come back.)  This gap between the simplicity of the sentences and their strong effectiveness may seem strange. This elaboration of technical sentences is alike those developed by psychotherapy and personal development technic used during the last seventy years (Gestalt, Directed waking dream, Eriksonian hypnosis,NLP, Relaxation, Neuro language, Internal dialogue etc…) All these technics for accompany the person and work on one’s self have in common, for someone exterior, to seem completely unimportant.The words are planned to guide the person’s attention towards her inner self and not towards thinking about the words used. When the person let herself be guided by the words, then she easily changes, switches to another contact with herself. We have there a large range of practical expertise of the perlocutory effects ( how my words react on the other person) ignored by linguists as well as psychologist researchers. I only trained and transposed these to the explicitation interview practice and its goals which are not therapetical neither a help to changing, but a gathering of descriptive information, truely goals of researchers and practitioners.

 

Induce an awakening intention

 

Therefore, we have a first stage which tries to create the conditions of an intent to awake a singular past moment. When this welcoming mood is acheived, which favours the evocation act, we must give a goal, a target to that act and take much care of not leading to voluntary efforts and its immediate consequence : the misplaced settling of the abstract recalling action.

There are two more expressions on the sentences I teach : the first one defines a goal in the past, the second one prepares the following to set up the interview.

« I propose you, with your consent, to take time to let come back   a moment where you were doing x (or : an important moment when you were doing x) and you let me know by a sign when you are there… » let’s begin with the end of the sentence,  » and you let me know by a sign when you are there… », which simply clears how the person will come back to you after this silent time of welcoming what past gives out. Nothing can be done, at that welcoming time, besides being directed to the person. What comes to the person points out the intention progressing inside her. Indirectly, we let know that the person can take time to stay there, as she will indicate when to continue. If nothing comes, the interviewer will ask, after a moment : what happens when you let come back the moment you were doing x ? If the person hesitates between two ways, simply suggest to choose one. But before this ending we added « a moment when you did x », or with another criterion : « an important moment when you did x ». As such, we give a goal to the intention. Certainly, there is a target, a goal, but not closely defined, only by limiting criteria which surround an area of judicious possibilities. Prior to the interview, a negociated agreement has been settled about the goal, the relevant sort of actions and its criterion . For example if a teacher wants a report  about how an excercise has been carried on, the goal is obvious : it is the excercise ; about a practice analysis, we need to add a criterion which will sort out within numerous similar lived situations ; as a researcher, the proposal can be widely open towards what best demonstrates the action we look for. The main point is to express an aim open, meaning that it will not oblige the subject to relate (to match) to the former interviewer’s words, and also meaning an aim delimited by an interest which appears with a place, a moment, a sort of action, a criterion linked to this moment, so that what will come would be laid down by the infraconscient. We search for the coming of a past moment in the way it offers itself  and not in a seeking way. The unvoluntary search is the condition of the past coming back on a lived-past mode. And it works allright, even if it seems completly uncertain.

We must solve, in this second step, what seems conflicting : the voluntary search for an unvoluntary act : evocation. The term « Intention » means a voluntary plan of seeking a determined goal. This intention  awakes, because, even if it is voluntary, it lets an unknown answer happen, in other words, consenting in advance, without knowing, what will be given to the person and is waiting for the answer in a passive agreement way. I want something, without being wilful on the proceeding to answer, but letting the association operate. So there is a mover : the intention, and a passive way to have it moved, which means to wait for the awakening of the reply.

Awakening intention works not only for passive memory but also each time I look for/wish for an unkown inventing response . For example, in the directed waking dream, when we propose to « meet the old sage » or discover « one’s power animal » or to se « a house », we launch each time a request, hoping it will reveal information unkown to the person. Since she does not know in advance the aspect of this old sage, this house or this animal which all come as an answer to the intention. Same for the focusing technic, when answering to a precise question, we turn towards the sensorial feeling supposedly echoing. I am tuned in to this feeling by an intention which discovers this feeling. Question formulating products an intention which aims the coming of a significant bodily answer related to the question. I cannot have a prior control of the pertinence of this link, I can only launch the intention.

 

This proceeding is easier when guided by someone. When alone, it is the case of auro-explicitation, we risk being tricked by our own mind which cannot bear the oxymoron : willingly ask for the unvoluntary.

 

The past as lived again : attention mooving around the past-lived experience

 

Now we suceed in leading the person towards being in contact with  one of her past moment (and not « remembering » , we care about the words which trap in wrong description). We check about her contacting (evocation non-verbal signs, first person speech) and we pay attention to the specificity of that moment (words about its singularity). Then, we are able to guide her in exploring her past moment.

I assert this paradox : it seems we are exactly in a memory process and we are not. We are not remembering, we are living past again. Remembrance is a third person’s point of view, a conventional one, based on memory commonplace concepts as used in third person addressing. From a subjective point of view, the person using a first person addressing is not remembering but she is living again her past , she has « come back again » to her past and we absolutly need not to drive her away from this stage. We must know how to guide her within the course of this past-lived experience, without asking her to make efforts. How ?

Here again, two points : avoid what comes first in mind and do what is widely un-intuitive like all the wordings settled by the practitioners of relation since half a century, which must be practiced ( self experiencing to understand how it feels from one’s own past experience) and learned by a real training on formulation and also on precise observation of their effects.

The questionning progress do not requests to be ruled before, no need to process each step in a direct order (the begining, then first step etc) or in reverse order as cognitive interview recommends (the end, what comes before it, etc) (Fisher and Geiselman 1992).

Fundamentally we unfold the questioning from what is spontaneously  given in the begining, then we guide, we move, we stop for a moment the attentional radius wether on what came before, or on what followed, or we stay in the moment and we have it divided into its more elementary components, or we relaunch to the information search about the opinion, the decision, the expressed change of mind.

Guiding is guiding the person’s watching beam…

 

In his background, the interviewer keeps on estimating if the description is complete concerning the time development, he always  minds about the person’s speech to see if the level of detail brings a clear understanding, whether it needs to be more detailled ; even further on his background, he constantly watches if the first person adressing is maintained and if the singular past-lived experience has not been spread within a generalization form. But all these simultaneous estimations do not express in systematic ordered questions. The questionning follows, deepens, relaunches from what is told. The inner consistency is to let the person be in her past-lived act, with a warm, intimate contact with it, and « simply » shifting her attention within her past-lived experience. Consequently, we plainly must avoid any relaunch which would break off this intimate link with the past. Any questioning which makes the past a matter of thoughts, judgment, comments will get the person out of the past-lived position.

For example, rational questions,  requests for explanations, even saying « so… » or ordinary expression like « what do you think of that ? », « how do you feel it ? », all these will disconnect the person from her intimate contact and lead her towards  another cognitive act than past-lived experience.

 

The explicitation interview consistency

 

I did not want to explain in detail all available technics to lead a complete exploration of past-lived experience. I had no place and also I choose not to give commented examples since there are lots of them in the review Expliciter. Impossible to learn how to swim by mail, the only act of getting in the water will let the person learn. Every researcher who aims exploring subjectivity within a first/second person addressing (Vermersch 2014) has to become himself an expert practioner in visiting and exploring his own interior world.

My main thread is simple : I dismissed the experimental psychology data because it only took in account the spontaneous achievements while I take an interest in exceeding the obvious limits.

This exceeding leans on an interest about the lived-past, defined by its microphenomenology, thus about the stage of details where we can perceive its efficiency. This interest for the past opens the door of a deposit of informations whose limits are unknown besides the fact of being wider than what we beleive we can remember. The main point is the awakening of this passive memory which offers itself not as a remembrance but as a lived-past by the means of the evocation act.

Generating this past awakening, guiding the  attentional beam within this past is made all the way by the precise and delicate use of injunctions leading to favourable conditions and helping the person in exploring her proper past in order to bring it to thoughtful consciousness and ability to verbalize it. Most of the spontaneous expressions of the target we rightfully aim, as an interviewer, are opposite or against productive. The skill for relaunching , created and developed by the relation practicioners, consists in inducing, generating the search for the result and not asking for that result. These relaunches have nothing extraordinary, at first sight, they are a bunch of commonnesses but they build well-define perlocutory effects and they remove what prevents to get the result. I did not invent them ; I only trained  myself and managed them to fit with the help of micro phenomenology explicitation of past-lived experience.

 

Afterword : Memory and explicitation interview : go beyond the fascinating evocation !

 

I just wrote this long paper which will become a chapter of a book about the connexion between the explicitation interview and past-lived evocation. Nevertheless, I feel it nearly trivial !  Only a way to agree to a request and also an opportunity to repeat some ideas under a new angle. But I do not consider this theme as the most important for the future, even if I understand that some researchers would rightfully be fascinated in willing to prove in a more systematic way the validity of this help to remembrance. I never was. As long as it works in a satisfying way, as long as we have a satisfying understanding-even an incomplete one-of why it works, I have enough. There are so many other most interesting themes to explore !

Several more stimulating tracks appear to me : the perlocutory effects, the universal structures of the past-lived experiences, the developing of a psychophenomenology !

The explicitation interview and the perlocutory effects :

The perlocutory effects are the main tools for practicing explicitation interview, vice versa , the explicitation interview is the privilegied tool to explore them. Their common point is in considering the first person point of view which aims at a finalized act (a goal) and a productive one (entending for a result), the ability to inquire about effective subjectivity on a microphenomenology level.

The explicitation interview is nothing without a science of the perlocutory effects under the other’s subjectivity. Words to avoid are indicated all along my text, those to be favoured, each time showing their subjective effects and also those we wish to avoid at all cost. This  clear intention is only possible on the basis of a microphenomenology of the way to acess to past, and  the restraints to respect in order to stay in contact with the past under the mode of past-lived experience. Without a knowledge of these acts in the first/second person’s address, and of the effects of the words over their modulations, we could not  clearly integrate them into an explicitation interview technic. Which also means that the explicitation interview seems to me, in reverse, the best tool for exploring the perlocutory effects. They can be intimately revealed only according to the interviewer about hid perlocutory intentions (how does he want to effect the other) which only is attested by a first person addressing, then in comparing his expression with his   intention, following the comparison between expected and producted effects. To go further, we can gather information on the interviewed expectations, how he recieved the words of the other (what he understands, how he interprets them) and what are the effects over his person. This is typically what we began to document by the comments which explicit everyone’s interior world as the interview goes by.

All the relation practitioners constantly use the perlocutory effects, all the practitioners have set up empiric practice, it is time to precisely examine these effects, and it is possible only by means of documentation, only by having access to the first person point of view of the person who looks for these effects as well as the one who is the subject of these effects.

 

The universal structure of all the past-lived experiences :

 

Evocation is a necessary means to document the past-lived experiences, but the guiding of the description relies not on memory but on the knowledge of the prior structure of the past-lived experiences. It is as well important to know what to question, when to relaunch, when to divide the scale as to have the memory of it. If the questions are inappropriate, memory or not, information will not be updated. Yet, the informant generaly do not control the space categorization about descripting his own past-lived experience. He is like a novice painter who has to portray someone, he has the model in front of eyes, in that sense, he sees him, but he does not know how to manage the information which structures a face, and in this sens, he does not see him. The spontaneous relation to our past-lived experience is also that kind of naïve, it has to be relieved by a constructed knowledge about past-lived experience structure.

 

Exactly, to bring a successful conclusion to the explicitation of past-lived experience, it is not enough to have the good tools, it is necessary to know where we go, for what we wait, the criteria of the purposes of the explicitation. From the beginning, I have developed an analysis of the universal structure of all the finalized past-lived experience which is permanently used as a reference to the listening and the support of the interviewed person. The main problem is that we cannot prescribe the order and the granularity of the description, it would contradict the urge to let come the past in the way it offers. Therefore we have to welcome what is offered, in its spontaneous order, in the spontaneous granularity level where it expresses ; and from there, relaunch to help detail functional expression, stay at a moment to split realization steps, re-direct to cross some formulation of a judgment towards the criteria which underlies it etc. All the past-lived experience are taken in an asymmetric temporal structure, this stucture is organized by stages themselves realized by elementary actions that follow one another. It is a permanent guide to know to what extend the temporal structure complements itself, to locate what is still lacking. For that, we have an universal qualitative organization : every past-lived experience has a beginning, an end and a succesion that leads from one to another. But as soon as the beginning is specified, the question of the relevance of the ante-beginning arises (it is often a moment of preparation that determines, in fact, the organization of the continuation) ; and as soon as the end is clarified, the importance of the post-end must be estimated (often, the action does not stop in its result, immediate consequences are to take into account moreover, aspects of arrangement, management of relations are present).

The help to the explicitation rests not only on the guiding towards a relation to a past-lived experience and a fragmentation of the description, it rests, in fact, on the point that the interviewer has a key for reading the universal temporal structure of the progress of any possible action : it means that when an act, or a micro-act begins,  before that, an information  has necessarily been taken which determines the choice of this action ; also, when an action ends to shift to another, an information was took as a criterion of ending ; the choice of the next action is determined  by information. When an opinion is expressed, the interviewer immediatly knows he must get criteria basing this opinion ; when there is an unique qualifying word, it needs to spread into more basic qualifying ; when there is an isolated action verb, it is the way open for fragmenting the action into its elementary components.

An experienced interviewer makes constantly a task-analysis while he listens and questions, he waits for structure because he knows to identify each action structure and he uses it as a guide. All the errors we noticed afterward, while reading the protocols, are based on the loss of this regulating vision of the structured organization of each past-lived experience : loss of the temporal progress, ignorance of the articulation between the taking of information and the action, blindness on the transitions etc…

The explicitation interview is not only a technical help to past-lived evocation, it is also a vision of the organization of past-lived experience, it is articulated on a past-lived psychophenomenology.

And mutually, we need a micro-phenomenology of past-lived experiences to discover and understand the subjective dimension of the cognition.

However, even having  a practical skill in the access to past-lived experience, even undestanding the universal structure of all past-lived experiences, we can be in trouble to lead an explicitation interview. When we are in a research situation, on a facet of the subjectivity about which we never have questioned, on which there has been already no study of preliminary exploration, then, we can be left in the situation of not knowing what to question, not knowing what to describe. Or more than that, being in a form of failure, more or less complete, a preliminary step to the discovery, the invention of the categorial range which will allow to identify the composition of the past-lived experience we try to have described (by the person ?). We met with this difficulty when we wanted, for the first time, to have discribed the evocation action or the guiding of the attention, or stil, the micro transitions. The mastery of the explicitation interview is not the mastery of the categorial range of all the forms of subjective experience ! A lot, a lot is still to be done, as psychology did not allowed itself to study this sphere of research since its begining as a scientific discipline !

 

The explicitation interview within its foundations !

The explicitation interview is not just anchored in the past evocation or in the regain of consciousness, it is, at first and above all, a means to describe the past-lived experience, the past in its finalized dimension (subordinate to a purpose).

In this sense, it is not a general interview technic, it was not created for any use. It is not at all meant to gather opinions, representations, knowledges, plans. It was not made for just help the person in expression herself in general, it has no therapeutic purpose. It was created to know the action in all its dimensions : material, materialized, interior.

The only way to know internal actions is to ask the one who created/lived them to describe them. We can partly guess them from the observables, infer them, but only the person who lived them can give evidence (she can, which does not mean she will spontaneously be able to do it, and without an help to the description!).

The explicitation interview is a specialized technic in the micro-phenemenology of the lived action. And it is exactly the information which is need as well by the practitioners : teachers, coaches, trainers, ergonomists, as the researchers who take in account of cognition, whatever be their speciality (sport, art, care, education, work etc.) The micro-phenemenology of the lived action is just one way to name what appears to the subject (it is what makes a phenomenology ; a phenomenon is what appears to me) and which can be characterized by the degree of acuteness consistent with the psychical causality of this action (which fixes the micro level). However, even if we never look for gathering opinions or representations, the objectivization of the action will let us guess the opinions and the representations which underline the acts (cf. the Piguet’s example , Have you read Jean-Claude Piguet ?  (Vermersch 1996) : charity is charity only when it is charity ; in other words, the only charity lies in the effective act of charity, the thoughts of charity, the words of charity are not charity).

The explicitation interview serves a psychology of the cognition, it applies to the part that may take a psycho phenomenology, the part which documents the cognition from the first person point of view and the second person towards the widened project of a complete psychology taking in account the external observation as well as the internal one.

 

 

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Explicitation interview and memory (2)  Consistency beween theory and past lived evocation; Pierre Vermersch

english translation from Expliciter, 107; p38-51, 2015

My last paper ended on an observation : I could find few to no ressources in experimental psychology in the field of memory because only the results of the spontaneous memory performances were considered, while  the explicitation interview could help, accompany, guide the remembrance and therefore precisely could overcome these spontaneous limits.

How was this helpful proceeding born, how did it grow, how is it congruant with its foundations ? Do the practises emerge from these foundations ?

I will treat successively :1/ How the explicitation interview originates : on one side as a precise response to a precise methodological need : to have access directly to information which the subject and only the subject is able to give, because this matter is invisible by the observer (Vermersch 2012) ; on the other side, the explicitation interview comes from varied inspirations, like influences from  my  practice of self observation and its authentical verbal translation, and  from discovering far away past life experiences by means of psychotherapy, and at last from practising task analysis . The explicitation interview comes also from my insertion within Work Psychology  as well as the strong educational imprint from my first technical studies (technical drawing, machining). 2/ Then I will define the specificity of explicitation interview as a micro description of past lived experiences and how it takes roots into initial acting. (Vermersch 2000, Vermersch 2002,Vermersch 2014). From that specificity, several unexpected consequences will rise up :  3/  First main essential consequence : by the very fact of being lived, every event is permanently passively remembered, far more than the subject beleives he has remembered or thinks he can recall. 4/ The second amazing consequence, is the power to awake a past experience by the way of an indirect awakening intention technic. Not only unexpected awakening as in the well-known  exemple of « Proust’s madeleine », but also an intentional awakening. 5/ A third consequence is the possibility to live in the past, be present in the past instead of remembering this past .To understand this, we need to assert the existence of two very different acts of getting in relation to past : recall and evocation. Recalling is a wilful action, consciently directed by the will, abstract, un-sensorial, un-emotional, dry, mainly  about learned matter  (semantic memory) ; evocation is unintentional, embodied, concrete, nearly sensorial, even emotional, warm, giving more or less the sensation to live again.

Fundamentally, the explicitation interview will endlessly emphasize the evocation act and will make it possible because it is recognized and accompagnied from the  first-person point of view.  On the other side,  this act depends only on getting in touch with the intimacy of one’s personal past-lived experience.  Consequently, the explicitation interview practice never will ask someone to recall, which would directly activate recalling process but instead of it, suggests to « let come back »,  then moves the attention focus on past life.

The main point is that only past experience, within its relation to the person who embodied it, can create this type of memory based on the acting of evocation.

We will finally see that experimental psychology researchers  perceived this difference but did not succeded to operate it and  collected datas linked to the sole abstract memory :  recall based on an effort  to remember. Instead of it, we carefully avoid to ask an effort to remember in the course of the explicitation interview. We will see later  why.

These intire consequences will show the consistency of the revival technics aimed to guide the person towards the evocation act, then let the person stay carefully there, guiding at the same time to precisely investigate the person’s past life experience by the means of « empty sense language ».

Therefore, we have strong links betwen these components that I can sum up this way :

–    The explicitation interview is aimed exclusively at the lived past, which leads to unknown  possibilities because :

–    Each lived past always brings passive, continuous, unintentional remembrance, creating and making available an extremely wide deposit of informations which are unknown by the very one who nervertheless lived it.

–    The passive remembrance of lived past goes together with means of awakening it by the priviligied use of an aimed act based on an « awakening intention ».

–    When this awakening of the lived past is obtained, it is merely easy not to remember past but to live it again and move one’s attention’s focus among this past, following the universal properties of each lived past.

I develop the whole point and conclude about the relative interest of the remembrance issue, compared to all the possibilities furthermore.

 

1/ The beginning : how to understand the explicitation interview’s origin and its vocation to aim exclusively the lived past actions in order to find unexpected  consequences.

 

I was led, nearly obliged to use an interview technic when I intended to go further in the description and analysis of cognitive functioning in aimed activities. Go further than take in account the sole result or the length of the task, poor information of the proceeding. Go further than video recordings that I plentifully used, which was limited to the visible part of the process (Vermersch 1975, Vermersch 1976, Vermersch 1976). To document the invisible, I had to ask it to the one who lived it, because only this person was able to find it by the way of introspection, more precisely retrospection (introspection of the past).  To do so, I had to ask words, verbalization, in brief :  lead an interview. But at that time, none of interview’s technics was made for the verbalization of the lived acting, not only the research un-directive interview (Blanchet 1985, Blanchet,Ghiglione et al. 1987, Blanchet 1991) but also the countless sizes of semi-structured or comprehensive interviews peculiar to sociologic researches.  On the other side, the Piaget’s critical interview was created to induce a contradictory question to check if the child was abble to overcome the contradiction and express an invariant structure.

Furthermore, the interview’s technics were badly thought of in the area of  psychology, supposedly unprecise, inductive, leading to rebuilt rationalisations, poor. And worse, as a principle, any reference to introspection was totally  turned down by a narrow positivist science.

What was to do ?

My choice, my compromise solution was to build an interview technic always linked to a finalized activity (exercice, work, performance). It always looks for the realization proceeding consistancy (as in a crime inquiry : in all cases, one needs to check on the time, scene, tools, acting and motives to assign the suspect’s guilt. This permits a triangulation : the action decription can help the comparison between verbalisation and task analysis and also, when possible, it can be compared to acts with their traces and their observables. Therefore to create validation possibilities by crosschecking and also being in accordance whith my choice of scientific objective ( mental actions research), I focused on acting verbalization to get its explicitation which means to go further than tacit information or practises, in order to be explicited.

This did not match to many research practices. At the time, there was lots of questionning about representations and opinions. I left this field and postulated that the only way to know if a representation had a meaning was to see if it appeared in acting and though, to know the real acting. Without asking for the goal, because its sole verbalization would not inform me about its actual proceeding. The only way to know this goal was to discover the actual acting proceeding !

I was focused on action verbalization, which is only one part of past lived experience. But at the same time, the most connected part to an universal specificity of all past experience : its strong and necessary ingraving within the framework of time (see next §).

The main goal of my research was the past-lived and only the past-lived moved up by efficient actions.

I was not figuring the whole implications about memory from this exclusive focusing on past-lived experiences. To discover and understand these consequences, I suggest to go back to define past-lived concept.

In my first attempt in creating the technic, I did not ask myself any problem about possible rememorizing. I was obsessed in acceeding to potential information by means of introspection and was asking myself upon the way to be socially accepted (in fact, first by my CNRS regular evaluation).

Looking back from now, I can understand this lack of concern about remembrance by the fact I was familiar with self- observation and its groupal verbalization learned from a spiritual search, then also from my psychotherapy experience, as a client and also as a therapist. In this case, nobody asks if the client remembers (of a childhood trauma, for example) but when the person will let the memories comme back. The fact that one can recall these memories is an unquestioned evidence. In the end, to point my past surrounding, my concern upon prioritarely be informed of the action’s lived memory was fed and kept up from my tecnical training, for example the « machining scales » which needs to see froward precisely all the logical steps and if it can be made practically by a steady working. Yet, I first published a paper on « the algorithm in educational methods » (Vermersch1971), which emphasized the systematical organization of each aimed action. Innocently, I mean with no intention, I gathered lots of components leading to a technic aimed upon the verbalization of past lived acting as an organised and descriptive action.

 

2/ Define the past-lived concept and draw out its consequences

 

Main point of my proceeding, the concept of past-lived experience is wrongly simple, as if we could immediatly stay at a tautologic assessment « the lived-past is what I lived » . A better definition is interesting in order to clearly oppose it to what is not past-lived, not as simple as it seems. I will list again the positive fundamental specificities and also the indicators showing that the person left her presence to her past-lived experience. The reason is : if the fact of speaking about past-lived is so important for evocation in past-lived-again mode, then, we need to know how to percieve when it is not or no more the case, in order to guide, bring back to the verbalization of past-lived experience. The issue is both theorical : what is called past-lived ? And practical : how to appeal to the past and stay in contact whit this past-lived ?

–                      Past-lived = the past lived experience belongs to one and only one person.

A first foundamental specificity : every past-lived is the one of one person. I avoid the question of animal or artificial intelligence. More precisely, lived by only one person (not by a group, a society, a team, neither a couple etc). In a collective situation each one lives one’s proper experience.

Each person lives and consequently has one’s own lived experience, there is no doubt about it.

This specificity may seem like a commonplace.

Except that it is very easy, while verbalizing, to quit personnal speech position in term of « I », skipping to « One » for example or « We »  or to the pedagogical demonstration by the « You » (and there, you must do…) speaking of the others and no more of me. It is important to understand that the person leaves her relation to herself  when changing personnal address ; this person leaves her own experience to enlarge it. Consequently, one looses the capacity to guide her in the exploration of her past-lived. Practically, to keep this specificity activated, it means that the interviewer attentively listens the speech adress of the person in order to guide her back to herself. Be able of delicatly pass from « and then, we were all very efficient » to «  and when you were all very efficient, what were you careful of, you,? ». When I speak of remembrance « guiding », this guiding consists in attentive listening to expressions used by the interviewed in order to lead delicately the person towards the criteria respect which permit the remembrance of her own past experience.  Constantly, we will find this melting of these fundamental specificities of the goal with the listening/helping/guiding of the interviewed. We do not guide the real remembrance but we guide the conditions which allow this peculiar act of past-lived remembrance : evocation. The evocation action will only be possible by a verbalization rooted whithin the subject’s identity.

It is an important aspect of the explicitation interview process, to care about finding, creating, guiding, recovering the conditions which lead to its realization in terms of past-lived access. It is only by a first person point of view in the proceeding, and making clear its practice by the expicitation of the explicitation that I could set up precisely all these points.

 

–                      A past-lived experience is always singular, unique.

Each one is unique. Certainly,  several past experiences, sometimes may seem nearly identical. But their gathering makes a logical category : a past-lived class (« every time I turn my key in the lock »). A class of past-lived is not one experience, it is an abstraction. Nobody ever lives a class of past-lived. At every moment of one’s life, one lives a singular experience which will never identically be repeated.

So, each past experience is unique. It means, in terms of guiding, that if I want to know a person’s past-lived experience, I must guide her to the description of a singular moment, never a general experience.  The only fact of pointing ONE singular past experience permits a precise contact whith the past and permits  to go further in precisely exploring this past experience.

There again,  this past-lived specificity leads to be aware of the person’s loosing her contact with the singular experience she is speaking of.  This occurs when we hear some generalization ( « I make it like I always do »,  « and there, it depends on the way it occurs », « always you must », « every time I do… ») which shows that the person has slided off from a singular experience towards a general case, and though, is no more in contact  with her personal past-lived experience. At this moment, the main risk is the person’s speaking of her ideas, her theories, her description of what she generaly does, but not what she does when she does it , which is only reachable whithin all implicit details in the course of this unique, singular moment of past lived experience.

The explicitation interview practice needs to precisely pay attention to enunciation in order to immediatly check out the skids and to delicately recover so that the person stays right in good contact with herself and looks for her singular experience. Obviously, such a listening is to be trained by practicing in order to be assimilated.

 

            Each past-lived experience is engraved in the framework of time, because of its length, its asymetrical and irreversible movement towards future and by its successive stages of organization.

Being engraved in time’s progress is an universal specificity of each past-lived experience : it has a duration, asymetically going from now to the future without return, basis of a productive causality. This specificity is essential for us by the fact it will be the heart of our entire questioning to verify the obtained explicitation level by the precise description of its developing degrees. When we read an interview copy, when we lead an explicitation interview, the background interviewer’s questionning is to know if he gets the time progress and if not, what again is missing ? But to go deeper into this point, we need to go further by defining the proper stitching of time  in each past experience, from its generating ( which makes its efficiency).

 

The past lived experience can be defined by a micro temporality scale consistent with efficiency.

We need to size up past-lived experience within a temporal kniting which fits to its efficiency : it means by elementary acts, like those of a fraction of a second. A past-lived experience becomes explicited if, and only if it is fitted to the sort of elementary acts which compose it  and their length.

At this moment, we absolutly need to concentrate and never mix the autobiographical approach, defined by longer fractions of time, in years, days, like life events, stages of life, with our past-lived experience explicitation approach. The experience of life occured in both cases to a person ( life remains in past-lived experience ), but to my point of view, the past is defined by its consistency with its micro generation. Defined by the speed, the length of information gathering, reasonning, verbalisation and sequences of gesture, which all make this past experience. I dont deny that the lived actions also have goals or under goals overcoming a minute’s time, or that internal states vary slowly et progressively, but informing one’self directly or only in terms of goals leave unkown the reason why the acts realization or their failure are generated. You may be able to describe a piece of music in terms of large movements or smaller ones (the theme,  a patterns) but if you take the point of view of the performer, the pianist for example, his success depends on how correctly each finger press on the board, instantly foreseeing where hands and fingers must be to play correctly the next part. Obviously, we are there in the sphere of a micro phenomenology of theefficiency. But like  space scales in the field of geographical maps, there are many possible temporal scales for describing acts in terms of time description, each one being consistent  with the peculiar informative goal we look for. The main point is to use the appropriate matching between the detailled scale level and the determinate goals.

In a practical way, if we choose the micro temporality scale as a description level, we need to pay much attention to point out items which can/must be split to lead the explicitation to the level where we can understand its actual development. Typically by picking out the action verbs which tell a global action, it is easy to relaunch by splitting up the description towards the finer points of the production of acts : « then, I begin to file documents », file is a global action verb, « and when you begin to file documents, how do you begin ? » for example.

The spontaneous verbalization seldom reaches these levels of details, yet here are the expression of the implicit competences as well as most of the error causes. In the same way, we will pay attention to opinions, global assessements (« it was easy », « I had a hard time »…) in order to find criterion proof of their information value (« how did you found it easy, at that time ? ». The exceptional point lies in finding, without any trouble, this level of detail by the authentical contact with past-lived experience. From this detail level, we really are allowed to understand the reason why the action was generated and also its result. But psychologically speaking, how is it possible ? Now, we can get into the first fundamental hypothesis about memorizing : passive memory of the past-lived experiences.

I do not develop all the parts which simultaneously compose a past-lived experience such as corporal, cognitive, emotional, beliefs, identities etc. The main point is that all these part are engraved upon the micro time scale and all can be described with different degrees of scales according to the need of clearence.

 

****

 

The priority  of the explicitation interview was the choice of having the past-lived experience described, as I have just defined it.  Latter on and mostly by accident, I discovered an extraordinary specificity : every past experience is memorized in an unwilling way, therefore in a passive way. We look for a past, being sure it exists (we lived it) and sure also it has let hints we are able to reach back.

 

3/ The link between lived-past and passive memorization : retention and retention awakening (Husserl).

By the only fact of being alive and in each singular lived moment , I am constantly touched, informed, alerted, in a partly reflexive conscient way  and mainly in different forms of non-conscient ways. But to insure my life on a continuous base, I have to recognize myself within my proper identity. Each present moment has to be « retained », be the object of a retention asdefined by Husserl who made a clear analysis of this point. (Husserl 1964,1905). This retention is equivalent to a permanent, unintentional, passive memorizing (passive equals unvoluntary as I have no will to constantly memorize all I am living, « that » memorizes by itself within myself. Without this permanent passive memorizing, I could not size up a conversation, identify a comrade, find my way back home, identify myself on and on. Needless to look for an experimental proof as one can feel it by contacting a person suffering from Alzheimer illness. To  answer again every two minutes to questions already answered before is so amazing and unusual, the person have not memorized the answer you gave her several times ! Also when you are not identified by a relative while  a visit. Our conscient life memorial foundation is so obvious and totally invisible that its only loss reveals its essential, constant work, indispensable to the course of our acts and to settle our identity. We have a marvel within ourselves and it has scarcely been explored because of its silent being. This marvel is called retention, the passive memorization of our past-lived experience. Unexplored and worst, neglected by experimental psychology research which only paid attention to voluntary memorization while the explicitation interview always explores what has not been deliberatly remembered : past-lived experiences.

So we have two consequences :

The main one consists in the fact that there is a lot of information memorized inside us. Consequently, we are abble to awake again these retentions since a huge past-lived information deposit is available. Be careful ! I dont huppold the idea of recording all lived experience, the subject is not a mechanical device like a video or a tape recorder. As a matter of fact, we memorized a lot more information than we are aware of having.

The second consequence is strange, even upsetting since we do not know anything about having memorized this way. In other words, our reflexive consciousness is not at all aware of all the deposits within ourselves by the simple fact of being alive.

What mainly prevents to reach, awake these retention is the limiting belief that I dont remember, I cannot remember since, when I try, nothing comes first. Obviously, I am not aware of the fact that the way I try (by a memory effort) is precisely the way to avoid because it activates an improper act : remembrance and it blocks up the apropriate act : evocation. This negative opinion easely touches the interviewer as well : how the interviewed could recall such a thing ? Therefore I cannot succed. I called « dread » (Vermersch 2006) this feeling which overcomes us when we aim to recall a past moment. In fact, the whole situation is invisibely false : I do not know what I know and could be reached if I knew how to do or if I had an appropriate help, therfore I wrongly conclude that it is impossible.  Which is untrue ! To be nice, even so I’ll make an effort to remember, I’ll try to build again, to guess the likely way. All these efforts for recalling make difficult, even impossible the way to past-lived experience ! If we have a correct psychophenomenology of relating to past acts, we immediately see that the efforts lead always to the remembrance, largely unefficient in comparison with lived-past again, which needs evocation.

We really have a passive memorizing of the past, but to understand its awakening and its return, we need to distinguish two peculiar acts which let the past coming back to present : recall and evocation.

Gusdorf’s outstanding book « Memory and the person » ( Gusdorf 1951) made a praiseworthy extensive review of  his time (first half of the late century) points of views about memory. He shows the opposition, already well known and familiar then, between two acts of memorization. These two acts were distinguished according to chosen criterion :

ñ   between a willful recall (I want remember something) and an unwilling recall (my past comes back) ;

ñ   or for other authors, between a dry knowledge memory and a warm affective one (reviving past-lived emotions) ;

ñ   another one, very near : an abstract memory (concepts) and a concrete one (of my past-lived experience).

Experimental psychology research has left aside/ignored these distinctions. And when Tulving proposed the « episodic memory » (Tulving, Donaldson  & al. 1972) to set up the specificity of personal events memories, he did not take reference of any previous work that would inform him that he had invented the « episodic » term (Tulving 2009) but not at all the underlying idea : the concrete memory.

The whole research made with the expicitation interview has lead us to know and carefuly dinstinguish those two sorts of acts : the recall, voluntary, from an effort, abstract ; and the evocation, unvoluntary,  effortless, concrete, emotional, founded on the past-lived. Yet there is a strong link between the evocation act and the sort of content reached : the living sense. Evocation is a form, less or more, of past-lived experience, in other words, the feeling of living again in the past, not remembering it but being present again. Needless to say that past-lived experience must not be took in a literal sense, since it is impossible to live twice a moment, but it aims to caracterize the feeling to be there again, to live it again. This position stands only for what is personal, private, intimate, in short, my lived-past. Vice versa, from going on the past-lived explicitation, it was inescapable to take account the genuine specific evocation as a privilegied  access to past-lived. Evocation was imperative to me as a privilegied act leading to live again a past moment.

Going further, I need to distinguisch two times in the deliberate course of the unvoluntary evocation : the first is the access time, in other words the selective awakening of passive memory, the second is the maintaining time in order to develop past exploration by a guiding of attentional focus within the presentified past.

 

1                     Past awakening by means of an awakening intention : willing the involuntary.

 

The past awakening as a concrete memory is a wellknown fact, it is  imprevisible, spontaneously arising from a sensorial event. The interesting point of all the examples schows the past awakening as a possible event which proves the accessibility of the past, even if we do not know this possibility. Proust told a long example of past awakening by the means of a « madeleine » taste (Proust, 1987, 1929). First, he describes the spontaneous arising of the past, as an identical sensoriality echoing from past to present time. Then, when he wants to deepen that echo of the past,  and he discovers how his efforts are ineffective and counter-productive in developing this past contact which, by the end, will more plainly occur by a let-release attitude, a passive welcome. Here are all the elements of an awakening method, but its sensorial starting point is unexpeted and also unpredictable !

The past awakening is possible, always testified . The passive memory  is rightly here, spontaneously available, abble to offer itself with a warm feeling of the past being present. But would this awakening be coming by chance, given the circumstances, we could not go further. What happened to be exciting was our power to awaken this memory. How ? The answer precisely stands upon the strong differences betwen two acting : recall and evocation. First of all, we need to avoid anything that could call up the recall act, then build up the conditions for starting the evocation act, which is delicate, technically speaking, as it is an unvolontary act. Therefore, we have a negative aspect in the technic : what is not to do and is, unfortunately, easy to do first. We have too a positive part : guiding, by the words of the interviewer, the welcoming of the past awakening.

 

Avoiding everything which could lead to an act of recall therefore creating evocation conditions.

 

The interviewer’s job is using his own words, he cares about the effects of his words upon the other, what is called perlocutory effects (Austin 1970) (Vermersch 2006). If two different ways of past remembrance really exist, then we have to avoid the words leading to the first one : recall. Recalling is called up by a voluntary memory research. We must get round this « wilful » feature. Thus the first point is to be careful of never asking the person to recall, to try hard to remember. If we suggest recalling, it will lead to a memory effort and by way of consequence, will directly exclude the concrete past contact. So, the acts are not only different, but also exclusive from one another. If one is on, the other one cannot be on at the same time. The two interior positions of past memorizing are incompatible, even opposite : recall takes the past as an untemporal object, evocation is soaked in it ; recall induces, has a cleaved position, evocation leans on a unified subjective position.

Past contacting as a past-lived experience cannot come from a voluntary effort. Then, beyond the inapropriate way, how to proceed to generate thisawakening ?

As such, the interviewer will trigger the favouring conditions to let evocation act occur. I insist upon « trigger the right conditions » because it is impossible to directly ask a person to let herself   » be in an evocation act », I can only lead, trigger the fact, for the person, to be in her past by a re-living mode. Strictly identical to what we have learnt by all technics of work on one’s self since 70 years!

To do so, some carefuly choosen words are enough, most of the time. As for example, one of the possible sentences  I teach in the basic sessions of the explicitation interview . It begins with « I propose to you », which is a simple way to let the person pay attention. In other words, we must avoid any complicated expression leading the person to ask herself about what is going on. Yet, the second point : « I propose to you, if you agree », which is asking if the person consents. Questionning on the past-lived experience is intruding in the privacy of the person. So we need her consent, the person must know that we ask her consent which is not trivial and in no way considered as obvious, whatever  the exterior connections (hierarchic, personal, etc).There are intimacy stages and with the explicitation interview, we do not touch to emotion, identity, traumas, then only to the lived-past actions. This past belongs to me, my proper privacy and I make the choice of sharing it with someone else or not. We know, by practicing, that the sharing of the living past is impossible without this consent.

Next step : « I propose to you, with your consent, to take time… ». To  take time prepares the following induction, so that the person will not feel hurried in finding quickly an answer which would put her in the way of making an effort to answer : the fact we want to avoid by all means.

This preliminary  sequence ends by « …to let come back… » before precising the goal. The words have their importance, it is not a « making » which would be a voluntary act leading to recall, instead of that, let things go and more precise : let come back. The point is to prepare one’self to the return, giving up position upon which I have no power about its result. As such, « let come back » aims a let-go, effortless position ready to welcome what will come without foreseeing  what will be offered.

Here, I insist upon the words, but they are nothing without a quiet rythm of the speach, nothing without some breaks which emphasize the « taking time », nothing also without the corporal setting, the related movements, the right physical distance.The non-verbal part of comunication is not left aside.

Truly, this kind of phrase have strong inductive effects, all the useless interference has been dismissed, each word is chosen from its inductive effect. Nevertheless, the perlocutory effects are not mechanical, they are productive if and only if the person’s consent is present and if the result control is neglected or left appart (cf Nadine Faingold paper in this issue, as a good example of the control which blocks the let come back.)  This gap between the simplicity of the sentences and their strong effectiveness may seem strange. This elaboration of technical sentences is alike those developed by psychotherapy and personal development technic used during the last seventy years (Gestalt, Directed waking dream, Eriksonian hypnosis,NLP, Relaxation, Neuro language, Internal dialogue etc…) All these technics for accompany the person and work on one’s self have in common, for someone exterior, to seem completely unimportant.The words are planned to guide the person’s attention towards her inner self and not towards thinking about the words used. When the person let herself be guided by the words, then she easily changes, switches to another contact with herself. We have there a large range of practical expertise of the perlocutory effects ( how my words react on the other person) ignored by linguists as well as psychologist researchers. I only trained and transposed these to the explicitation interview practice and its goals which are not therapetical neither a help to changing, but a gathering of descriptive information, truely goals of researchers and practitioners.

 

Induce an awakening intention

 

Therefore, we have a first stage which tries to create the conditions of an intent to awake a singular past moment. When this welcoming mood is acheived, which favours the evocation act, we must give a goal, a target to that act and take much care of not leading to voluntary efforts and its immediate consequence : the misplaced settling of the abstract recalling action.

There are two more expressions on the sentences I teach : the first one defines a goal in the past, the second one prepares the following to set up the interview.

« I propose you, with your consent, to take time to let come back   a moment where you were doing x (or : an important moment when you were doing x) and you let me know by a sign when you are there… » let’s begin with the end of the sentence,  » and you let me know by a sign when you are there… », which simply clears how the person will come back to you after this silent time of welcoming what past gives out. Nothing can be done, at that welcoming time, besides being directed to the person. What comes to the person points out the intention progressing inside her. Indirectly, we let know that the person can take time to stay there, as she will indicate when to continue. If nothing comes, the interviewer will ask, after a moment : what happens when you let come back the moment you were doing x ? If the person hesitates between two ways, simply suggest to choose one. But before this ending we added « a moment when you did x », or with another criterion : « an important moment when you did x ». As such, we give a goal to the intention. Certainly, there is a target, a goal, but not closely defined, only by limiting criteria which surround an area of judicious possibilities. Prior to the interview, a negociated agreement has been settled about the goal, the relevant sort of actions and its criterion . For example if a teacher wants a report  about how an excercise has been carried on, the goal is obvious : it is the excercise ; about a practice analysis, we need to add a criterion which will sort out within numerous similar lived situations ; as a researcher, the proposal can be widely open towards what best demonstrates the action we look for. The main point is to express an aim open, meaning that it will not oblige the subject to relate (to match) to the former interviewer’s words, and also meaning an aim delimited by an interest which appears with a place, a moment, a sort of action, a criterion linked to this moment, so that what will come would be laid down by the infraconscient. We search for the coming of a past moment in the way it offers itself  and not in a seeking way. The unvoluntary search is the condition of the past coming back on a lived-past mode. And it works allright, even if it seems completly uncertain.

We must solve, in this second step, what seems conflicting : the voluntary search for an unvoluntary act : evocation. The term « Intention » means a voluntary plan of seeking a determined goal. This intention  awakes, because, even if it is voluntary, it lets an unknown answer happen, in other words, consenting in advance, without knowing, what will be given to the person and is waiting for the answer in a passive agreement way. I want something, without being wilful on the proceeding to answer, but letting the association operate. So there is a mover : the intention, and a passive way to have it moved, which means to wait for the awakening of the reply.

Awakening intention works not only for passive memory but also each time I look for/wish for an unkown inventing response . For example, in the directed waking dream, when we propose to « meet the old sage » or discover « one’s power animal » or to se « a house », we launch each time a request, hoping it will reveal information unkown to the person. Since she does not know in advance the aspect of this old sage, this house or this animal which all come as an answer to the intention. Same for the focusing technic, when answering to a precise question, we turn towards the sensorial feeling supposedly echoing. I am tuned in to this feeling by an intention which discovers this feeling. Question formulating products an intention which aims the coming of a significant bodily answer related to the question. I cannot have a prior control of the pertinence of this link, I can only launch the intention.

 

This proceeding is easier when guided by someone. When alone, it is the case of auro-explicitation, we risk being tricked by our own mind which cannot bear the oxymoron : willingly ask for the unvoluntary.

 

The past as lived again : attention mooving around the past-lived experience

 

Now we suceed in leading the person towards being in contact with  one of her past moment (and not « remembering » , we care about the words which trap in wrong description). We check about her contacting (evocation non-verbal signs, first person speech) and we pay attention to the specificity of that moment (words about its singularity). Then, we are able to guide her in exploring her past moment.

I assert this paradox : it seems we are exactly in a memory process and we are not. We are not remembering, we are living past again. Remembrance is a third person’s point of view, a conventional one, based on memory commonplace concepts as used in third person addressing. From a subjective point of view, the person using a first person addressing is not remembering but she is living again her past , she has « come back again » to her past and we absolutly need not to drive her away from this stage. We must know how to guide her within the course of this past-lived experience, without asking her to make efforts. How ?

Here again, two points : avoid what comes first in mind and do what is widely un-intuitive like all the wordings settled by the practitioners of relation since half a century, which must be practiced ( self experiencing to understand how it feels from one’s own past experience) and learned by a real training on formulation and also on precise observation of their effects.

The questionning progress do not requests to be ruled before, no need to process each step in a direct order (the begining, then first step etc) or in reverse order as cognitive interview recommends (the end, what comes before it, etc) (Fisher and Geiselman 1992).

Fundamentally we unfold the questioning from what is spontaneously  given in the begining, then we guide, we move, we stop for a moment the attentional radius wether on what came before, or on what followed, or we stay in the moment and we have it divided into its more elementary components, or we relaunch to the information search about the opinion, the decision, the expressed change of mind.

Guiding is guiding the person’s watching beam…

 

In his background, the interviewer keeps on estimating if the description is complete concerning the time development, he always  minds about the person’s speech to see if the level of detail brings a clear understanding, whether it needs to be more detailled ; even further on his background, he constantly watches if the first person adressing is maintained and if the singular past-lived experience has not been spread within a generalization form. But all these simultaneous estimations do not express in systematic ordered questions. The questionning follows, deepens, relaunches from what is told. The inner consistency is to let the person be in her past-lived act, with a warm, intimate contact with it, and « simply » shifting her attention within her past-lived experience. Consequently, we plainly must avoid any relaunch which would break off this intimate link with the past. Any questioning which makes the past a matter of thoughts, judgment, comments will get the person out of the past-lived position.

For example, rational questions,  requests for explanations, even saying « so… » or ordinary expression like « what do you think of that ? », « how do you feel it ? », all these will disconnect the person from her intimate contact and lead her towards  another cognitive act than past-lived experience.

 

The explicitation interview consistency

 

I did not want to explain in detail all available technics to lead a complete exploration of past-lived experience. I had no place and also I choose not to give commented examples since there are lots of them in the review Expliciter. Impossible to learn how to swim by mail, the only act of getting in the water will let the person learn. Every researcher who aims exploring subjectivity within a first/second person addressing (Vermersch 2014) has to become himself an expert practioner in visiting and exploring his own interior world.

My main thread is simple : I dismissed the experimental psychology data because it only took in account the spontaneous achievements while I take an interest in exceeding the obvious limits.

This exceeding leans on an interest about the lived-past, defined by its microphenomenology, thus about the stage of details where we can perceive its efficiency. This interest for the past opens the door of a deposit of informations whose limits are unknown besides the fact of being wider than what we beleive we can remember. The main point is the awakening of this passive memory which offers itself not as a remembrance but as a lived-past by the means of the evocation act.

Generating this past awakening, guiding the  attentional beam within this past is made all the way by the precise and delicate use of injunctions leading to favourable conditions and helping the person in exploring her proper past in order to bring it to thoughtful consciousness and ability to verbalize it. Most of the spontaneous expressions of the target we rightfully aim, as an interviewer, are opposite or against productive. The skill for relaunching , created and developed by the relation practicioners, consists in inducing, generating the search for the result and not asking for that result. These relaunches have nothing extraordinary, at first sight, they are a bunch of commonnesses but they build well-define perlocutory effects and they remove what prevents to get the result. I did not invent them ; I only trained  myself and managed them to fit with the help of micro phenomenology explicitation of past-lived experience.

 

Afterword : Memory and explicitation interview : go beyond the fascinating evocation !

 

I just wrote this long paper which will become a chapter of a book about the connexion between the explicitation interview and past-lived evocation. Nevertheless, I feel it nearly trivial !  Only a way to agree to a request and also an opportunity to repeat some ideas under a new angle. But I do not consider this theme as the most important for the future, even if I understand that some researchers would rightfully be fascinated in willing to prove in a more systematic way the validity of this help to remembrance. I never was. As long as it works in a satisfying way, as long as we have a satisfying understanding-even an incomplete one-of why it works, I have enough. There are so many other most interesting themes to explore !

Several more stimulating tracks appear to me : the perlocutory effects, the universal structures of the past-lived experiences, the developing of a psychophenomenology !

The explicitation interview and the perlocutory effects :

The perlocutory effects are the main tools for practicing explicitation interview, vice versa , the explicitation interview is the privilegied tool to explore them. Their common point is in considering the first person point of view which aims at a finalized act (a goal) and a productive one (entending for a result), the ability to inquire about effective subjectivity on a microphenomenology level.

The explicitation interview is nothing without a science of the perlocutory effects under the other’s subjectivity. Words to avoid are indicated all along my text, those to be favoured, each time showing their subjective effects and also those we wish to avoid at all cost. This  clear intention is only possible on the basis of a microphenomenology of the way to acess to past, and  the restraints to respect in order to stay in contact with the past under the mode of past-lived experience. Without a knowledge of these acts in the first/second person’s address, and of the effects of the words over their modulations, we could not  clearly integrate them into an explicitation interview technic. Which also means that the explicitation interview seems to me, in reverse, the best tool for exploring the perlocutory effects. They can be intimately revealed only according to the interviewer about hid perlocutory intentions (how does he want to effect the other) which only is attested by a first person addressing, then in comparing his expression with his   intention, following the comparison between expected and producted effects. To go further, we can gather information on the interviewed expectations, how he recieved the words of the other (what he understands, how he interprets them) and what are the effects over his person. This is typically what we began to document by the comments which explicit everyone’s interior world as the interview goes by.

All the relation practitioners constantly use the perlocutory effects, all the practitioners have set up empiric practice, it is time to precisely examine these effects, and it is possible only by means of documentation, only by having access to the first person point of view of the person who looks for these effects as well as the one who is the subject of these effects.

 

The universal structure of all the past-lived experiences :

 

Evocation is a necessary means to document the past-lived experiences, but the guiding of the description relies not on memory but on the knowledge of the prior structure of the past-lived experiences. It is as well important to know what to question, when to relaunch, when to divide the scale as to have the memory of it. If the questions are inappropriate, memory or not, information will not be updated. Yet, the informant generaly do not control the space categorization about descripting his own past-lived experience. He is like a novice painter who has to portray someone, he has the model in front of eyes, in that sense, he sees him, but he does not know how to manage the information which structures a face, and in this sens, he does not see him. The spontaneous relation to our past-lived experience is also that kind of naïve, it has to be relieved by a constructed knowledge about past-lived experience structure.

 

Exactly, to bring a successful conclusion to the explicitation of past-lived experience, it is not enough to have the good tools, it is necessary to know where we go, for what we wait, the criteria of the purposes of the explicitation. From the beginning, I have developed an analysis of the universal structure of all the finalized past-lived experience which is permanently used as a reference to the listening and the support of the interviewed person. The main problem is that we cannot prescribe the order and the granularity of the description, it would contradict the urge to let come the past in the way it offers. Therefore we have to welcome what is offered, in its spontaneous order, in the spontaneous granularity level where it expresses ; and from there, relaunch to help detail functional expression, stay at a moment to split realization steps, re-direct to cross some formulation of a judgment towards the criteria which underlies it etc. All the past-lived experience are taken in an asymmetric temporal structure, this stucture is organized by stages themselves realized by elementary actions that follow one another. It is a permanent guide to know to what extend the temporal structure complements itself, to locate what is still lacking. For that, we have an universal qualitative organization : every past-lived experience has a beginning, an end and a succesion that leads from one to another. But as soon as the beginning is specified, the question of the relevance of the ante-beginning arises (it is often a moment of preparation that determines, in fact, the organization of the continuation) ; and as soon as the end is clarified, the importance of the post-end must be estimated (often, the action does not stop in its result, immediate consequences are to take into account moreover, aspects of arrangement, management of relations are present).

The help to the explicitation rests not only on the guiding towards a relation to a past-lived experience and a fragmentation of the description, it rests, in fact, on the point that the interviewer has a key for reading the universal temporal structure of the progress of any possible action : it means that when an act, or a micro-act begins,  before that, an information  has necessarily been taken which determines the choice of this action ; also, when an action ends to shift to another, an information was took as a criterion of ending ; the choice of the next action is determined  by information. When an opinion is expressed, the interviewer immediatly knows he must get criteria basing this opinion ; when there is an unique qualifying word, it needs to spread into more basic qualifying ; when there is an isolated action verb, it is the way open for fragmenting the action into its elementary components.

An experienced interviewer makes constantly a task-analysis while he listens and questions, he waits for structure because he knows to identify each action structure and he uses it as a guide. All the errors we noticed afterward, while reading the protocols, are based on the loss of this regulating vision of the structured organization of each past-lived experience : loss of the temporal progress, ignorance of the articulation between the taking of information and the action, blindness on the transitions etc…

The explicitation interview is not only a technical help to past-lived evocation, it is also a vision of the organization of past-lived experience, it is articulated on a past-lived psychophenomenology.

And mutually, we need a micro-phenomenology of past-lived experiences to discover and understand the subjective dimension of the cognition.

However, even having  a practical skill in the access to past-lived experience, even undestanding the universal structure of all past-lived experiences, we can be in trouble to lead an explicitation interview. When we are in a research situation, on a facet of the subjectivity about which we never have questioned, on which there has been already no study of preliminary exploration, then, we can be left in the situation of not knowing what to question, not knowing what to describe. Or more than that, being in a form of failure, more or less complete, a preliminary step to the discovery, the invention of the categorial range which will allow to identify the composition of the past-lived experience we try to have described (by the person ?). We met with this difficulty when we wanted, for the first time, to have discribed the evocation action or the guiding of the attention, or stil, the micro transitions. The mastery of the explicitation interview is not the mastery of the categorial range of all the forms of subjective experience ! A lot, a lot is still to be done, as psychology did not allowed itself to study this sphere of research since its begining as a scientific discipline !

 

The explicitation interview within its foundations !

The explicitation interview is not just anchored in the past evocation or in the regain of consciousness, it is, at first and above all, a means to describe the past-lived experience, the past in its finalized dimension (subordinate to a purpose).

In this sense, it is not a general interview technic, it was not created for any use. It is not at all meant to gather opinions, representations, knowledges, plans. It was not made for just help the person in expression herself in general, it has no therapeutic purpose. It was created to know the action in all its dimensions : material, materialized, interior.

The only way to know internal actions is to ask the one who created/lived them to describe them. We can partly guess them from the observables, infer them, but only the person who lived them can give evidence (she can, which does not mean she will spontaneously be able to do it, and without an help to the description!).

The explicitation interview is a specialized technic in the micro-phenemenology of the lived action. And it is exactly the information which is need as well by the practitioners : teachers, coaches, trainers, ergonomists, as the researchers who take in account of cognition, whatever be their speciality (sport, art, care, education, work etc.) The micro-phenemenology of the lived action is just one way to name what appears to the subject (it is what makes a phenomenology ; a phenomenon is what appears to me) and which can be characterized by the degree of acuteness consistent with the psychical causality of this action (which fixes the micro level). However, even if we never look for gathering opinions or representations, the objectivization of the action will let us guess the opinions and the representations which underline the acts (cf. the Piguet’s example , Have you read Jean-Claude Piguet ?  (Vermersch 1996) : charity is charity only when it is charity ; in other words, the only charity lies in the effective act of charity, the thoughts of charity, the words of charity are not charity).

The explicitation interview serves a psychology of the cognition, it applies to the part that may take a psycho phenomenology, the part which documents the cognition from the first person point of view and the second person towards the widened project of a complete psychology taking in account the external observation as well as the internal one.

 

 

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