The universal structure of every past-lived experience Orientation basis for the practice of the explicitation interview

The universal structure of every past-lived experience. Orientation basis for  the practice of the explicitation interview

( An answer to a question during the colloquium RIFREQ may 2015 Montpellier Fr.)

Pierre Vermersch

During my lecture and in numerous recents papers, I speak of « the universal structure of all past-lived experiences » as a permanent universal guide to pay attention and explore the understanding of the description given by the interviewed.

Someone  asked if I formalized this structure.

I have not made a real formalization, instead a systematization which allows to find easily one’s way for, on one part, the practice of the guiding and the following throught the interview and, on the other part, for the researcher,  in the stage of formalization of the data from the verbalizations collected in preparation for their analysis.

 

For a good understanding of my point of view, we have to tell apart the generic properties of all past-lived experiences from the specific properties of each sphere of the experience.

 

The universal structure relates to generic properties. It is universal because it applies and it appears within all the possible past-lived experiences.

 

A/ Universal structure of the generic properties of the past-lived experiences.

 

Fundamentally, each past experience has a temporal organization. It can be understood in several ways.

 

1/ Every past-lived experience takes place in time, takes time to occur.

It is a trivial definition, but the interest lies in its negative properties.

When an author gives the description of a lived experience without any temporality, he leaves the lived experience to favor a peculiar event wich we do not know how it began, from what stages it was concieved, how it ended for something else. For example, when often the philosophers speak about introspection, consciousness, subjective experience. All I read, by now, refers to « see a tomato », « imagine an olive », « think of some rhubarb » etc, without ever taking in account the temporal dynamics of the experience. Instead of that, when interviewing someone about an action he lived, you must ask to yourself permanently if you have succeeded in getting  the time  progress of what you listen.

 

The time development of each past-lived experience is characterized by various qualitative structures :

 

  • Radically irreversible, it occurs from now to future, therefore it matters a lot to catch the before/after of the information hold which founds the decisions, the evaluations about what genders the next experience.
  • Each temporal progress has a beginning (a relative one), a succession of stages, an end (relative) ; before each beginning is an ante-beginning which may be important to understand its development ; and after each end, there is a post-end sometimes crucial. The term of beginning and end is always relative and must be precised relatively to criteria ( as change of goal, of place, of cycle, of acting).
  • Each of these times or stages can even itself be divided up, split up into smaller detailed description units which leads to understand how the action was generated. For example, in a thesis, the student describes the fact that the first page of a software is three times read. Thusly we must know how this front page is read, and even more, how is organized the reading of the first sentence on this first page and so on…
  • Each of these stages or micro-stages has always a qualitative structure : before it has been an information seizure which fixes up the micro-aim and also the supposedly appropriate acting answer ; then the act, a micro-act and the end coming from an information seizure which let know if the act was appropriate to the goal and settles, for one part, the decision to go to the next stage. (We are then very close to the TOTE model by Miller).

 

Practicaly, the temporal splitting into micro-stages is possible by noticing the verbs of action and by the relaunch on how the person does what she does.

Practically, we take in account the qualitative structure by discovering the beginning and the end, as they are based on information holdings which validate criteria of choice, of decision (and how do you knew it was over ?) often very implicite.

 

  • Each hold of information is organized with criteria ; most of the time, we have words about the result : the judgement (I knew it was easy, everything was allright etc). It is always interesting to make the spreading of the criteria attached to the grips of information.

 

The temporal qualitative structure is mostly based on information grips which determine the choice of the beginning and the assessment of the end. So it is crucial to get the assessment criteria on an adequate level to make them understandable for the gendering of the lived action.

 

2/ Past-lived experience layers and experiencial qualities of the past-lived experiences

 

Nearby the temporal structures, each lived experience  is made of numerous aspects simultaneously developing but nevertheless they must be considered and decribed separetly : I called them layers of past-lived experience. Meaning that each one is made of a cognitive layer of mental acts ; an emotional value layer (feelings) ; a bodily layer, with sensation of posture, gesture ; a value and believes layer ; an indentity layer (who am I when I am telling that ?) ; and more.

 

They are always there, but the researcher or the practitioner may not be interested by the whole of the past-lived layers. We must always have in mind what kind of descriptive information we search according to the goal we pursue.

 

B/ Specific properties

 

Each time we examine one sort of past-lived experience which has not yet been described and about which we need to know what to describe, and what are its pertinent descriptive categories, then, to know how to question and master the universal structures of every past-lived experience is enough !

As I am doing now, if I want to compare the process of evocation genuine to the explicitation interview with the peculiar one induced in the eriksonian trance, I found myself in front of the difficult distinction between the several states of psychic minds, the several acts induced or inhibited. As such, we need to invent new descriptive categories. For example, hypnosis induces easely someone to let his arm go up by itself, how categorize this fact ? We must discover the « agentivity » category (to feel responsible of what we do) and consequently the possibility of the loss of aggressiveness peculiar to the hypnosis, which does not occur in the explicitation interview. Each time we had to explore a mental act which was not yet conceptually cleared before, we felt in a condition of impotence and error, a blindness which became transformed by successive trials taking advantage of the first failures. It was the case for describing the evocation process and the attentionnal movements, and it is still the case for the lived experiences of dissociation.

 

As a result, it is important, in the field of research strategies, to give a full status to the exploratory analysis, to emphasize a thorough case study for the falsely rigorous prospect of an important sampling.

 

To conclude

 

The idea of an universal structure of all past-lived experiences organized by qualitative temporal structures and by past-lived layers, is not a complete and a formalized theory, its aim is pragmatical : to understand how to get a description of a past-lived experience to make it understandable, whatever its contents.

 

The important privative point is to locate quickly among the past-lived examples if temporality is taken in account or not, and also which  layer is privilieged (are there any other which could be pertinent but are not taken?).

 

Finally, we must not confuse the competence acquired from the control of the marks given by the universal structure with the competence we need constantly to develop for describing some sorts of acts which have never been examined in a first person speech position (and there are lots of them!!!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The universal structure of every past-lived experience. Orientation basis for  the practice of the explicitation interview

( An answer to a question during the colloquium RIFREQ may 2015 Montpellier Fr.)

Pierre Vermersch

During my lecture and in numerous recents papers, I speak of « the universal structure of all past-lived experiences » as a permanent universal guide to pay attention and explore the understanding of the description given by the interviewed.

Someone  asked if I formalized this structure.

I have not made a real formalization, instead a systematization which allows to find easily one’s way for, on one part, the practice of the guiding and the following throught the interview and, on the other part, for the researcher,  in the stage of formalization of the data from the verbalizations collected in preparation for their analysis.

 

For a good understanding of my point of view, we have to tell apart the generic properties of all past-lived experiences from the specific properties of each sphere of the experience.

 

The universal structure relates to generic properties. It is universal because it applies and it appears within all the possible past-lived experiences.

 

A/ Universal structure of the generic properties of the past-lived experiences.

 

Fundamentally, each past experience has a temporal organization. It can be understood in several ways.

 

1/ Every past-lived experience takes place in time, takes time to occur.

It is a trivial definition, but the interest lies in its negative properties.

When an author gives the description of a lived experience without any temporality, he leaves the lived experience to favor a peculiar event wich we do not know how it began, from what stages it was concieved, how it ended for something else. For example, when often the philosophers speak about introspection, consciousness, subjective experience. All I read, by now, refers to « see a tomato », « imagine an olive », « think of some rhubarb » etc, without ever taking in account the temporal dynamics of the experience. Instead of that, when interviewing someone about an action he lived, you must ask to yourself permanently if you have succeeded in getting  the time  progress of what you listen.

 

The time development of each past-lived experience is characterized by various qualitative structures :

 

  • Radically irreversible, it occurs from now to future, therefore it matters a lot to catch the before/after of the information hold which founds the decisions, the evaluations about what genders the next experience.
  • Each temporal progress has a beginning (a relative one), a succession of stages, an end (relative) ; before each beginning is an ante-beginning which may be important to understand its development ; and after each end, there is a post-end sometimes crucial. The term of beginning and end is always relative and must be precised relatively to criteria ( as change of goal, of place, of cycle, of acting).
  • Each of these times or stages can even itself be divided up, split up into smaller detailed description units which leads to understand how the action was generated. For example, in a thesis, the student describes the fact that the first page of a software is three times read. Thusly we must know how this front page is read, and even more, how is organized the reading of the first sentence on this first page and so on…
  • Each of these stages or micro-stages has always a qualitative structure : before it has been an information seizure which fixes up the micro-aim and also the supposedly appropriate acting answer ; then the act, a micro-act and the end coming from an information seizure which let know if the act was appropriate to the goal and settles, for one part, the decision to go to the next stage. (We are then very close to the TOTE model by Miller).

 

Practicaly, the temporal splitting into micro-stages is possible by noticing the verbs of action and by the relaunch on how the person does what she does.

Practically, we take in account the qualitative structure by discovering the beginning and the end, as they are based on information holdings which validate criteria of choice, of decision (and how do you knew it was over ?) often very implicite.

 

  • Each hold of information is organized with criteria ; most of the time, we have words about the result : the judgement (I knew it was easy, everything was allright etc). It is always interesting to make the spreading of the criteria attached to the grips of information.

 

The temporal qualitative structure is mostly based on information grips which determine the choice of the beginning and the assessment of the end. So it is crucial to get the assessment criteria on an adequate level to make them understandable for the gendering of the lived action.

 

2/ Past-lived experience layers and experiencial qualities of the past-lived experiences

 

Nearby the temporal structures, each lived experience  is made of numerous aspects simultaneously developing but nevertheless they must be considered and decribed separetly : I called them layers of past-lived experience. Meaning that each one is made of a cognitive layer of mental acts ; an emotional value layer (feelings) ; a bodily layer, with sensation of posture, gesture ; a value and believes layer ; an indentity layer (who am I when I am telling that ?) ; and more.

 

They are always there, but the researcher or the practitioner may not be interested by the whole of the past-lived layers. We must always have in mind what kind of descriptive information we search according to the goal we pursue.

 

B/ Specific properties

 

Each time we examine one sort of past-lived experience which has not yet been described and about which we need to know what to describe, and what are its pertinent descriptive categories, then, to know how to question and master the universal structures of every past-lived experience is enough !

As I am doing now, if I want to compare the process of evocation genuine to the explicitation interview with the peculiar one induced in the eriksonian trance, I found myself in front of the difficult distinction between the several states of psychic minds, the several acts induced or inhibited. As such, we need to invent new descriptive categories. For example, hypnosis induces easely someone to let his arm go up by itself, how categorize this fact ? We must discover the « agentivity » category (to feel responsible of what we do) and consequently the possibility of the loss of aggressiveness peculiar to the hypnosis, which does not occur in the explicitation interview. Each time we had to explore a mental act which was not yet conceptually cleared before, we felt in a condition of impotence and error, a blindness which became transformed by successive trials taking advantage of the first failures. It was the case for describing the evocation process and the attentionnal movements, and it is still the case for the lived experiences of dissociation.

 

As a result, it is important, in the field of research strategies, to give a full status to the exploratory analysis, to emphasize a thorough case study for the falsely rigorous prospect of an important sampling.

 

To conclude

 

The idea of an universal structure of all past-lived experiences organized by qualitative temporal structures and by past-lived layers, is not a complete and a formalized theory, its aim is pragmatical : to understand how to get a description of a past-lived experience to make it understandable, whatever its contents.

 

The important privative point is to locate quickly among the past-lived examples if temporality is taken in account or not, and also which  layer is privilieged (are there any other which could be pertinent but are not taken?).

 

Finally, we must not confuse the competence acquired from the control of the marks given by the universal structure with the competence we need constantly to develop for describing some sorts of acts which have never been examined in a first person speech position (and there are lots of them!!!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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