The explicitation interview as limits exceedings !

The explicitation interview as exceedings of the limits!

 

Pierre Vermersch

 

True to its title, this article aims to present the course of the creation and of the
improvement of the explicitation interview in terms of multiple exceedings beyond usual limits, or in terms of transgressing historically dated limits, or passing into areas (as the exploration of dissociation or exo positions) where we are used to see immediately psychopathological or psychiatric connotations, whereas simply, this has been a century that we did not explore the natural subjectivity facets without prejudice, in a non-pathological framework (without religion, without spirituality, without disease, without drugs).

1 / The first transgression, if not the worse: exceeding the rejection of introspection.

The idea which founds the creation of the explicitation interview lays on a first overtaking, against the grain of everything I had been taught at the university, in opposition to the dominant ideology totally hostile to the use of introspection in cognitive research.

For me, this exceeding responded to a need of common sense that for psychological research, we had to know about what a person has lived according to her, avoiding the stupid and short sighted principle of not wanting to take it into account ! Therefore, this overrun was  aiming to restore in research the perspective in first person position. And this view can only be obtained by accessing to what has been lived and to the descriptive words for its implementation. In order to interfere not with the experience while it is lived, I preferred the retrospective access, the introspective verbalization will therefore lay on the ability to recall past  lived experiences.

This position and this decision are my starting point. They express my answer to a researcher’s need to have information for which there is just no other conceivable means than introspection! And all the countless ways to collect traces, observations, electrophysiological signals of any kind will never give these intimate information.

Introspection is of interest for research only by the production of verbalizations[1], and since the person involved is not the researcher (mostly), we need a technique to accompany the verbalization, a technique of interview, which will be the explicitation interview. We had to create a new technique because the interview techniques of the time did not fit my needs, neither the technique of non-directive interview, more for clinical data than for research, nor Piaget’s critical interview aimed primarily to verify the stability of invariants, using against proposals, and not also all the techniques of collecting representations and opinions.

To create a new technique, my first decision was to focus on the acted dimension of the lived experience because questioning a finalized and productive action (whether material, symbolic or mental) required to register any discourse within the constraints (physical, logical, chronological, causal) inherent in the aim of a result and this potentially allowed to triangulate verbalisations with all these objectivable constraints. The primacy of the reference to the acted experience permitted me to avoid questioning for example representations without even knowing how they were embodied! Furthermore, the inherent properties of the action sequences led me to think immediately about the possibility of fragmenting the description (I will resume this later).

2 / Exceeding the usual limits of remembering: the evocation.

The following exceeding was to found all the implementation of the explicitation interview upon the mobilization of an act of involuntary remembering: evocation. So I discovered the indirect techniques to initiate, to maintain, and produce much more and detailed information than anything we had achieved so far.

The major transgression was to reject the method and the results of all experimental psychology studies about memory that were only concerned in describing  their limits, so I reversed the process, in order to design an aid to remembering! We must realize that the enormous scientific literature on memory recognizes these limitations, notes that we can easily manipulate memories, and easily create false memories, but nobody has worked on how to assist in the remembrance and the ability to create the conditions to make no confusion.

Not that the technique of evocation be perfect, or complete, but it provides a wealth of information on the past lived experience that astounds the researcher, the practitioner, and even the one who lived it!

3 / Exceeding reflexive consciousness: the retrospective awareness of the contents of consciousness in action,  the pre-reflected consciousness .

This exceeding of the limits of remembrance was logically accompanied by a second overflow related to the structure of consciousness. If we make the assumption of a three-level structure of consciousness (Husserl), on one hand, we have a reflexive consciousness that knows what it is aware at the time it is lived, but represents little things in regard with the whole of what touches us, without knowing about it, and with the whole which is passively memorized. Then we have a conscience in action or pre reflected consciousness mobilizing many resources during the act, but the subject does not even know that he has put them into practice. And finally, a third layer can be described as unconscious which is active as a Potential of all the resources available by the subject as organized sedimentation of all his past lived experiences. By implementing evocation, we discovered that the subject who takes time to get into his his past relived, becomes aware (switches from pre reflected consciousness to reflected consciousness) of some of his past elements he discovers just when he speaks, to his astonishment. This new exceeding thus relies on the help to get the awareness of what the person lived!

So the explicitation interview is based on two deeply subjective and inter connected dimensions: an act of involuntary remembering (evocation) and an act of reflection allowing the retrospective awareness of one’s own past lived experience.

These are the subjective, psychological bases of the technique of the explicitation interview ;  then, all techniques leading to the access by evocation and to becoming aware will still be further developed.

4 – Exceeding the level of detail: fragmentation.

The first technical overtaking is the possibility to break (to go into more details) each set action. Each action verb statement alerts the interviewer about the possibility or the need to develop it into the most basic description of actions that compose it in order to make it fully intelligible. Then it becomes possible to hear what is too global, and restart on exactly what the person just said (without inducing nothing new on the part of the interviewer). Typically : “I do x”, « and when you do x, where do you start?  » or “when you do x,… what are you doing ?”. It does not look like much, but these are relaunch techniques I’ve never seen clearly elsewhere! As though many remained blind to the details of the description or could not set the themes of the method.

 

5 – Exceeding the deficient qualification: the expansion of the qualities.

The technical additional exceeding is the one which turns its attention to the judgments from two points of views:

a / if comes a verbalization of a judgment (eg: “it was fine”, “it was ok”) we have to identify the criterion (the information outlet which informs, which bases the judgment). Without knowledge of the criterion (“how you knew that…” ) the information given by the judgment rests on nothing, you are not informed, you have only one comment, not a description;

b / each qualifier can be picked up and amplified to be broken down into finer qualification, more discriminating. Almost as if someone tells you that this wine is fragrant, … and when it is fragrant how can one describe this perfume … The contribution of questioning techniques in sensory sub-modalities
developed by NLP can be invaluable for helping with this expansion.

6 / Exceed listening what is said to hear what is missing: listening and analyzing the activity (hollow listening).

The third technical exceeding is based on the task analysis[2], allowing to hear what is missing in the described course of the action. That is to say that for any type of task, there are compulsory ways , essential steps because of logical constraints (I need to know where to get information and for it, I must have taken the information relevant to what I have to do among all possibilities). Also physical constraints e. g. I must wear my socks before my shoes, I have to know where to go to buy my tickets, and if you arrive at the Gare de Lyon station … the question arises immediately about how you know where distributors are!) ; time constraints (for an oven being hot, you have to preheat, which lasts for an incompressible time; to go somewhere, it lasts the time to perform the moving).

The analysis of the task is to have constantly in mind scenario structures (scripts) to imagine constraints, essential steps to achieve the explicitation of the action. Not that the interviewer knows everything, but he understands that to achieve such action, it was necessary to be informed before, knowing where information is, to know what to be informed, same for the ending (think about the TOTE model). He has a logical idea of the potential causal structure of any action that allows, in the wire of the interview, to hear what is not said and will miss to rebuild sufficient intelligibility of the course of the acting. The task analysis gives keys to a « hollow listening » i.e. to hear what someone does not say, and therefore be able to relaunch, to question him accurately.
This is also why the description of little known mental acts requests to build for oneself a representation of functional conditions of their implementation. When, for the first time, we wanted to describe the evocation act, we did not know what was the fact of describing this act, and we only were able to describe the content of the act, not its stages, its development, its properties.

7 / Exceed indiscriminate acceptance of all types of speeches.

The fourth exceeding technique is based on the theory of areas of verbalization (Vermersch 1994, 2014) and on the attention to distinguish among these areas those which do not belong to the description of the action, unfitting in view of 1/ the
description, 2 / the action 3/ a specified time,  4/ a first person speech, in order to guide the person to this description. These four criteria must be met permanently. And there, again, a « hollow listening » is opening to be able to hear and distinguish the description from the comments, the lack of first person addressing, the statement of theories, and no more the description of one’s own action, but the one of the context or circumstances, or even the description of what others are doing while missing or forgetting what someone, oneself, is acting.

For these four exceeding techniques we have developed much know- how, many formulations of effective relaunchings, deleting many intuitively attractive but against productive formulations, and here I do not detail all of them, we must learn from experiential practice. We can not learn to dance the tango through correspondence courses.

What I just presented did put us in motion for about fifteen years, until discovering the limits of fragmentation, the expansion of qualities or the hollow listening. In actions of rapid decision-making, in the transitions between sub goals, we had difficulties in going into sufficient details for catching the real course of the action. So we sought for further exceedings with two techniques of “inner practices”: the dissociation (the co-identities) and the implementation of sub personalities.

8 / Exceeding by the techniques of dissociation and of perspective changings.
First psychological exceeding: taking into account the possibility of producing changes in retrospective points of views by means of different techniques that are all based on the normal ability of consciousness to dissociate itself to perceive itself as a reflection object exactly in what it was entangled without been able to go further. Consciousness is semiotization, it is based on the ability to work on what is reflected, so on a double, and therefore a normal duplication, which does not lose the person’s identity.

Basically these dissociation techniques are based on a release from the usual position of consciousness, to create new divisions. Not only, split between the egoic pole and the  target pole but also move the ego pole so that it takes as an object of attention and aiming the previous intentional structure (egoic pole +  first object of attention). These new splits can be obtained simply by changing the addressing, by the change of agent, as if only in passing from I to he, the point of view changes and new information appears on what « he » was doing. We may appeal to »the observer », « the witness » of oneself that is present in everyone, or we can still ask the person to get up and change places by finding a position that suits him better « see » « learn » what he did in the past. This position shift[3] can be done by imagination and be just equally effective. We may hold simultaneously a position change and the suggestion to convene another oneself according to many variants that I will not develop here. This exceeding by means of exploring new splits allowed us to see that new information on past lived experiences could be updated. We had not only the becoming of awareness, but a change of origin of the attentional radius which produced quite amazing effects and allowed to go beyond what we had done so far.

9 / Exceeding by taking into account the multiple sub personalities.
The second psychological exceeding, is linked to the consideration that one could have in oneself several sources of agentivity during an experience of decision making (agentivity means the fact to be an agent, to be involved, to be the driving force).
I am asked to make a choice, such as finding a new spatial position which suits me, a part of me (an agent inside me) has already chosen and gone to another place; another part of me (another agent) is reluctent and hinders the nascent movement, a third agent plays a regulatory role, so we named these parts of oneself, these agents, « sub personalities ».

We discovered that it was possible to become aware and to verbalize separately the role of each of these sub personalities when a micro transition occurred, which opens many more subtleties in the description of parts of oneself and the understanding of the course of intimate acts of deliberation and choice.

Furthermore, we opened a quite interesting and non-pathological distinction, because these sub personalities are not necessarily personalized, they can appear to me (in an  incomprehensible way if we do not accept the assumption of the Potential as an unknown source of my reflected consciousness), as totally impersonal as Sylvie said in her protocol “ that decides it is high enough”. During the Summer University we observed many examples of differentiation between  » my body chooses  » and  » that decides » or « something in me decides. » The “that” or “something in me” are not the result of a descriptive laziness, but the expression of a perception of agentivity which I do not feel as related to me,  but it expresses « through »me.

These two psychological exceedings on one hand has much improved our way to new
descriptive subtleties of the action, on the other, has led us to what really seems impenetrable to reach with the reflected consciousness. Acts are performing in us which unfoldings are not accessible directly by introspection.

Is it possible to exceed this limit?  Yes, that’s what we did in the last Summer University
(August 2015) in working more clearly on what was already opened in 2009 in a bit anecdotal way: intellectual feelings and their translation. But, by that time, we had only a
superficial view, while, now, we are entering in a transcendental vision. (See, in conclusion, this new theme).
10 / Exceeding by taking into account the Potential, the N3 and N4.
It has always been well known by philosophers and by « proto-psychologists » of the 19th century, long before the Freud’s theming of the unconscious, that « thinking is an unconscious activity of the mind » according to the beautiful formula of Binet (1905 ). Before any neurotic or psychopathological consideration linked to the fame of Freud’s work, there has always been a theoretical awareness of what was happening inside us, in our thoughts, in our actions, more than reflexive consciousness knew. (Some books clearly sum up the state of the question before Freud: Vaysse, JM (1999) L’inconscient des modernes, essai sur l’origine métaphysique de la psychanalyse, Paris, Gallimard. Whyte, L. L. (1971). L’inconscient avant Freud, Paris, Payot. Bres,Y. (2002), L’inconscient. Paris, Ellipses.).

The school of Würzburg (1901-1911) was one of the starting point of introspective studies of thought and immediately fell on descriptive statements from subjects that were not describing the content of their actions or of their thinking, but “images”, “impressions”” giving indirect evidence of the content,  “intellectuals feelings” showing indirect signs of the direction, of the adjustment on the current process without necessarily providing the details. The stupid rejection of introspection has not led to progress on these issues since the early 20th century.

I gathered all these indirect signals of cognitive processes in progress, and I chose to name them the Level 3 (N3) for the description of the lived action.
All we have presented, as far, as exceedings allowed to go further and further in level 2 description (N2), that is to say the factual description level, more and more detailed of each lived moment. N3 does not add an additioal level of details, it adds a signal, supposedly relevant, about the properties of the current process (now or in the remembrance). This signal can be expressed as a spontaneous manifestation of the Potential or could be deliberately sought by using various awakening intentions, through inner techniques as focusing (bodily feelings), or Feldenkrais and NLP (non-verbal input). This level of N3 description provides information on what happens in the unconscious activity of thinking. I proposed to name these activities: the Potential to leave the private characteristics and the neurotic connotations of the term “unconscious”.

What becomes interesting is the ability to switch from the signal to the meaning. Because, if in a first time, the N3 is a sign of the activity of the Potential, this sign does not give its sense, it gives only  a signal but we can, in a second time, move to a further step, by asking what does this sign “tells us more?”, “ what it says?”. In other words, by launching again an arousing intention towards the potential (by definition with no sense of reflective consciousness), in order to let emerge the meaning of these signals which explain some properties of the current process, N3.

In doing so, we access to a new level of description (N4), but a description of what?

In fact, within the Potential, we find sedimented, crystallized everything that affected the subject wether he knows it or not (with or without reflected consciousness), as well as all schemes that were generated by exercise, repetition, the adaptation to new situations (adequate assimilations, less successful accommodations). Therefore we have, with the Potential, an organizational dimension: the schemes at all levels of organizations of different cognitive functioning registers available (see Vermersch 1976). And the recognition of these patterns will not give us the details of the process, but the understanding of how, depending which model, this process has organized and
produced the observed result.

The N3 level tells us, informs us indirectly from the implementation of these schemes, and in retrospect gives us a track to make intelligible not the micro details inaccessible for the reflected consciousness of an action, but the organizing scheme(s) that was mobilized and which reports the organization of this action.

We exceeded the step by step description, detail by detail, for an update of the underlying organization of the action!

What may seem complicated is depending on how we question the N3, we can have
as a response not directly the tracking of the mobilized patterns, but what lies
upstream schemas (I have in mind the organization of the logical levels grid of Dilts): we can have an answer, not a scheme but the co-dominant identity that emerged, or
the dominant beliefs that motivated the action, or the emotions that bore the action or
were the dominant climate. And within the logic of the explicitation interview, it is always important to translate the information on the co-identity, beliefs or emotions into specific action patterns, still in the basic idea of returning to action. I can understand that my answer was organized by my responsible parent co-identity. Good. And in this co identity, what scheme, of which action organization was mobilized to respond to the situation ? Same in principle when it appears in first beliefs or emotional climate formulations. If we take as reference the alignment of logic levels grid from
Dilts, the N2 level is the one of the making, the N4 level is that of skills, available in organizing patterns(which would correspond to the N3 level, and is absent from the grid).

What is technically interesting is that it is possible by some techniques requesting the feelt experience (inspired from generalized focusing), or by nonverbal vision of what happened (Feldenkrais model coming from NLP see Dilt) or by the exploration of some exo positions, to help the interviewee to produce these signs (N3) and distinguish in a second time the organizational direction (the scheme N4).
Here we are today (2015).

What does the future hold?

 

11 / A possible track: take into account the transcendental !

In fact, over thirty years of practice, we have learned to practice countless inner exercises : evocation layout, dissociation, focusing, directed waking dreams, geniuses strategies (Walt Disney, Feldenkrais, Hopscotch, Cross-fertilization), aligning of logic levels and, personally, I have yet explored many others (source list, decreation, intensive illumination, meditation, chi techniques, overtone singing, etc.)

We have experienced all as a subject, as a guide, as an observer, as a transcripter and as a commentator.

The question for me now is: what does the fact of being able to achieve these practices tells us about the properties of subjectivity ?

In other words, by the fact to dissociate readily, to imagine oneself in the position of the creator, of the critic, of the realist; by the fact of making the experience of watching a problem without using language, just by seeing it as movement and color; by knowing to get in evocation and easily discover what I experienced; by the fact of knowing to answer without hesitate to an instruction that requests to « move our places of awareness » and I could still add a lot, what this tells me about subjectivity?.

By being able to perform inner acts, what does it teach us about the properties of
consciousness, the properties of remembrance, the properties of attention, the properties of the personal identity, all subjectivity properties.

►By the fact of achieving such acts, we are sent back to the conditions of possibility of such acts. These conditions of possibility are the fundamental properties of subjectivity.
►Thematize the conditions of possibility is to enter the field of the transcendental.
►Enter in this field of the transcendental, is developing a science of subjectivity
analyzing the consequences of being able to achieve them (reread slowly).

But consequently, you see, in the against-field, how it was, how it is, how it will be important, fruitful, necessary, to explore, to discover, to practice inner exercises!
By the fact of inner practice on oneself, in a setting that is not already strongly preempted by a religious, spiritual, psychopathological or militant ideology, we can finally see the horizon of the potentialities of subjectivity.
Transcendental reflection from our practices is what is awaiting us.
The main benefit that I imagine will result from the effect in return on our theoretical clarification about our practices. We practiced, we advanced, we have refined our tools, why do they succeed?  And if we would understand it, beyond the patiently developed tools, would not it be, again, another possible exceeding ?

 

[Note.  Of course, the explicitation interview, like all interview techniques is organized in the framework of an inter-subjectivity carefully adjusted, in respect to  ethics and deontology, with negotiated confidentiality, listening to others, paying carefull attention to the relational dimension.)  Furthermore, in addition to each of the points discussed in this paper, many technical details allowing their implementation are not discussed here and require the reading of my book, and most of all, a true experiential training.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]As opposed to the sole expression, that is to say, the body language, singing, poetic, comic, which must, sooner or later, be re-translated in words in order to be used in research.

[2] In the field of Work Psychology, we distinguish the task analysis or analysis of what is required to properly perform the task, from the activity analysis, which is the description generated by the observation and / or the interview about what is actually done by a subject.

[3]The term « changes of position » contains two non-exclusive options which we exprienced: 1 / change of posture, 2 / switch places, in a physical way or by imagination.

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The explicitation interview as exceedings of the limits!

 

Pierre Vermersch

 

True to its title, this article aims to present the course of the creation and of the
improvement of the explicitation interview in terms of multiple exceedings beyond usual limits, or in terms of transgressing historically dated limits, or passing into areas (as the exploration of dissociation or exo positions) where we are used to see immediately psychopathological or psychiatric connotations, whereas simply, this has been a century that we did not explore the natural subjectivity facets without prejudice, in a non-pathological framework (without religion, without spirituality, without disease, without drugs).

1 / The first transgression, if not the worse: exceeding the rejection of introspection.

The idea which founds the creation of the explicitation interview lays on a first overtaking, against the grain of everything I had been taught at the university, in opposition to the dominant ideology totally hostile to the use of introspection in cognitive research.

For me, this exceeding responded to a need of common sense that for psychological research, we had to know about what a person has lived according to her, avoiding the stupid and short sighted principle of not wanting to take it into account ! Therefore, this overrun was  aiming to restore in research the perspective in first person position. And this view can only be obtained by accessing to what has been lived and to the descriptive words for its implementation. In order to interfere not with the experience while it is lived, I preferred the retrospective access, the introspective verbalization will therefore lay on the ability to recall past  lived experiences.

This position and this decision are my starting point. They express my answer to a researcher’s need to have information for which there is just no other conceivable means than introspection! And all the countless ways to collect traces, observations, electrophysiological signals of any kind will never give these intimate information.

Introspection is of interest for research only by the production of verbalizations[1], and since the person involved is not the researcher (mostly), we need a technique to accompany the verbalization, a technique of interview, which will be the explicitation interview. We had to create a new technique because the interview techniques of the time did not fit my needs, neither the technique of non-directive interview, more for clinical data than for research, nor Piaget’s critical interview aimed primarily to verify the stability of invariants, using against proposals, and not also all the techniques of collecting representations and opinions.

To create a new technique, my first decision was to focus on the acted dimension of the lived experience because questioning a finalized and productive action (whether material, symbolic or mental) required to register any discourse within the constraints (physical, logical, chronological, causal) inherent in the aim of a result and this potentially allowed to triangulate verbalisations with all these objectivable constraints. The primacy of the reference to the acted experience permitted me to avoid questioning for example representations without even knowing how they were embodied! Furthermore, the inherent properties of the action sequences led me to think immediately about the possibility of fragmenting the description (I will resume this later).

2 / Exceeding the usual limits of remembering: the evocation.

The following exceeding was to found all the implementation of the explicitation interview upon the mobilization of an act of involuntary remembering: evocation. So I discovered the indirect techniques to initiate, to maintain, and produce much more and detailed information than anything we had achieved so far.

The major transgression was to reject the method and the results of all experimental psychology studies about memory that were only concerned in describing  their limits, so I reversed the process, in order to design an aid to remembering! We must realize that the enormous scientific literature on memory recognizes these limitations, notes that we can easily manipulate memories, and easily create false memories, but nobody has worked on how to assist in the remembrance and the ability to create the conditions to make no confusion.

Not that the technique of evocation be perfect, or complete, but it provides a wealth of information on the past lived experience that astounds the researcher, the practitioner, and even the one who lived it!

3 / Exceeding reflexive consciousness: the retrospective awareness of the contents of consciousness in action,  the pre-reflected consciousness .

This exceeding of the limits of remembrance was logically accompanied by a second overflow related to the structure of consciousness. If we make the assumption of a three-level structure of consciousness (Husserl), on one hand, we have a reflexive consciousness that knows what it is aware at the time it is lived, but represents little things in regard with the whole of what touches us, without knowing about it, and with the whole which is passively memorized. Then we have a conscience in action or pre reflected consciousness mobilizing many resources during the act, but the subject does not even know that he has put them into practice. And finally, a third layer can be described as unconscious which is active as a Potential of all the resources available by the subject as organized sedimentation of all his past lived experiences. By implementing evocation, we discovered that the subject who takes time to get into his his past relived, becomes aware (switches from pre reflected consciousness to reflected consciousness) of some of his past elements he discovers just when he speaks, to his astonishment. This new exceeding thus relies on the help to get the awareness of what the person lived!

So the explicitation interview is based on two deeply subjective and inter connected dimensions: an act of involuntary remembering (evocation) and an act of reflection allowing the retrospective awareness of one’s own past lived experience.

These are the subjective, psychological bases of the technique of the explicitation interview ;  then, all techniques leading to the access by evocation and to becoming aware will still be further developed.

4 – Exceeding the level of detail: fragmentation.

The first technical overtaking is the possibility to break (to go into more details) each set action. Each action verb statement alerts the interviewer about the possibility or the need to develop it into the most basic description of actions that compose it in order to make it fully intelligible. Then it becomes possible to hear what is too global, and restart on exactly what the person just said (without inducing nothing new on the part of the interviewer). Typically : “I do x”, « and when you do x, where do you start?  » or “when you do x,… what are you doing ?”. It does not look like much, but these are relaunch techniques I’ve never seen clearly elsewhere! As though many remained blind to the details of the description or could not set the themes of the method.

 

5 – Exceeding the deficient qualification: the expansion of the qualities.

The technical additional exceeding is the one which turns its attention to the judgments from two points of views:

a / if comes a verbalization of a judgment (eg: “it was fine”, “it was ok”) we have to identify the criterion (the information outlet which informs, which bases the judgment). Without knowledge of the criterion (“how you knew that…” ) the information given by the judgment rests on nothing, you are not informed, you have only one comment, not a description;

b / each qualifier can be picked up and amplified to be broken down into finer qualification, more discriminating. Almost as if someone tells you that this wine is fragrant, … and when it is fragrant how can one describe this perfume … The contribution of questioning techniques in sensory sub-modalities
developed by NLP can be invaluable for helping with this expansion.

6 / Exceed listening what is said to hear what is missing: listening and analyzing the activity (hollow listening).

The third technical exceeding is based on the task analysis[2], allowing to hear what is missing in the described course of the action. That is to say that for any type of task, there are compulsory ways , essential steps because of logical constraints (I need to know where to get information and for it, I must have taken the information relevant to what I have to do among all possibilities). Also physical constraints e. g. I must wear my socks before my shoes, I have to know where to go to buy my tickets, and if you arrive at the Gare de Lyon station … the question arises immediately about how you know where distributors are!) ; time constraints (for an oven being hot, you have to preheat, which lasts for an incompressible time; to go somewhere, it lasts the time to perform the moving).

The analysis of the task is to have constantly in mind scenario structures (scripts) to imagine constraints, essential steps to achieve the explicitation of the action. Not that the interviewer knows everything, but he understands that to achieve such action, it was necessary to be informed before, knowing where information is, to know what to be informed, same for the ending (think about the TOTE model). He has a logical idea of the potential causal structure of any action that allows, in the wire of the interview, to hear what is not said and will miss to rebuild sufficient intelligibility of the course of the acting. The task analysis gives keys to a « hollow listening » i.e. to hear what someone does not say, and therefore be able to relaunch, to question him accurately.
This is also why the description of little known mental acts requests to build for oneself a representation of functional conditions of their implementation. When, for the first time, we wanted to describe the evocation act, we did not know what was the fact of describing this act, and we only were able to describe the content of the act, not its stages, its development, its properties.

7 / Exceed indiscriminate acceptance of all types of speeches.

The fourth exceeding technique is based on the theory of areas of verbalization (Vermersch 1994, 2014) and on the attention to distinguish among these areas those which do not belong to the description of the action, unfitting in view of 1/ the
description, 2 / the action 3/ a specified time,  4/ a first person speech, in order to guide the person to this description. These four criteria must be met permanently. And there, again, a « hollow listening » is opening to be able to hear and distinguish the description from the comments, the lack of first person addressing, the statement of theories, and no more the description of one’s own action, but the one of the context or circumstances, or even the description of what others are doing while missing or forgetting what someone, oneself, is acting.

For these four exceeding techniques we have developed much know- how, many formulations of effective relaunchings, deleting many intuitively attractive but against productive formulations, and here I do not detail all of them, we must learn from experiential practice. We can not learn to dance the tango through correspondence courses.

What I just presented did put us in motion for about fifteen years, until discovering the limits of fragmentation, the expansion of qualities or the hollow listening. In actions of rapid decision-making, in the transitions between sub goals, we had difficulties in going into sufficient details for catching the real course of the action. So we sought for further exceedings with two techniques of “inner practices”: the dissociation (the co-identities) and the implementation of sub personalities.

8 / Exceeding by the techniques of dissociation and of perspective changings.
First psychological exceeding: taking into account the possibility of producing changes in retrospective points of views by means of different techniques that are all based on the normal ability of consciousness to dissociate itself to perceive itself as a reflection object exactly in what it was entangled without been able to go further. Consciousness is semiotization, it is based on the ability to work on what is reflected, so on a double, and therefore a normal duplication, which does not lose the person’s identity.

Basically these dissociation techniques are based on a release from the usual position of consciousness, to create new divisions. Not only, split between the egoic pole and the  target pole but also move the ego pole so that it takes as an object of attention and aiming the previous intentional structure (egoic pole +  first object of attention). These new splits can be obtained simply by changing the addressing, by the change of agent, as if only in passing from I to he, the point of view changes and new information appears on what « he » was doing. We may appeal to »the observer », « the witness » of oneself that is present in everyone, or we can still ask the person to get up and change places by finding a position that suits him better « see » « learn » what he did in the past. This position shift[3] can be done by imagination and be just equally effective. We may hold simultaneously a position change and the suggestion to convene another oneself according to many variants that I will not develop here. This exceeding by means of exploring new splits allowed us to see that new information on past lived experiences could be updated. We had not only the becoming of awareness, but a change of origin of the attentional radius which produced quite amazing effects and allowed to go beyond what we had done so far.

9 / Exceeding by taking into account the multiple sub personalities.
The second psychological exceeding, is linked to the consideration that one could have in oneself several sources of agentivity during an experience of decision making (agentivity means the fact to be an agent, to be involved, to be the driving force).
I am asked to make a choice, such as finding a new spatial position which suits me, a part of me (an agent inside me) has already chosen and gone to another place; another part of me (another agent) is reluctent and hinders the nascent movement, a third agent plays a regulatory role, so we named these parts of oneself, these agents, « sub personalities ».

We discovered that it was possible to become aware and to verbalize separately the role of each of these sub personalities when a micro transition occurred, which opens many more subtleties in the description of parts of oneself and the understanding of the course of intimate acts of deliberation and choice.

Furthermore, we opened a quite interesting and non-pathological distinction, because these sub personalities are not necessarily personalized, they can appear to me (in an  incomprehensible way if we do not accept the assumption of the Potential as an unknown source of my reflected consciousness), as totally impersonal as Sylvie said in her protocol “ that decides it is high enough”. During the Summer University we observed many examples of differentiation between  » my body chooses  » and  » that decides » or « something in me decides. » The “that” or “something in me” are not the result of a descriptive laziness, but the expression of a perception of agentivity which I do not feel as related to me,  but it expresses « through »me.

These two psychological exceedings on one hand has much improved our way to new
descriptive subtleties of the action, on the other, has led us to what really seems impenetrable to reach with the reflected consciousness. Acts are performing in us which unfoldings are not accessible directly by introspection.

Is it possible to exceed this limit?  Yes, that’s what we did in the last Summer University
(August 2015) in working more clearly on what was already opened in 2009 in a bit anecdotal way: intellectual feelings and their translation. But, by that time, we had only a
superficial view, while, now, we are entering in a transcendental vision. (See, in conclusion, this new theme).
10 / Exceeding by taking into account the Potential, the N3 and N4.
It has always been well known by philosophers and by « proto-psychologists » of the 19th century, long before the Freud’s theming of the unconscious, that « thinking is an unconscious activity of the mind » according to the beautiful formula of Binet (1905 ). Before any neurotic or psychopathological consideration linked to the fame of Freud’s work, there has always been a theoretical awareness of what was happening inside us, in our thoughts, in our actions, more than reflexive consciousness knew. (Some books clearly sum up the state of the question before Freud: Vaysse, JM (1999) L’inconscient des modernes, essai sur l’origine métaphysique de la psychanalyse, Paris, Gallimard. Whyte, L. L. (1971). L’inconscient avant Freud, Paris, Payot. Bres,Y. (2002), L’inconscient. Paris, Ellipses.).

The school of Würzburg (1901-1911) was one of the starting point of introspective studies of thought and immediately fell on descriptive statements from subjects that were not describing the content of their actions or of their thinking, but “images”, “impressions”” giving indirect evidence of the content,  “intellectuals feelings” showing indirect signs of the direction, of the adjustment on the current process without necessarily providing the details. The stupid rejection of introspection has not led to progress on these issues since the early 20th century.

I gathered all these indirect signals of cognitive processes in progress, and I chose to name them the Level 3 (N3) for the description of the lived action.
All we have presented, as far, as exceedings allowed to go further and further in level 2 description (N2), that is to say the factual description level, more and more detailed of each lived moment. N3 does not add an additioal level of details, it adds a signal, supposedly relevant, about the properties of the current process (now or in the remembrance). This signal can be expressed as a spontaneous manifestation of the Potential or could be deliberately sought by using various awakening intentions, through inner techniques as focusing (bodily feelings), or Feldenkrais and NLP (non-verbal input). This level of N3 description provides information on what happens in the unconscious activity of thinking. I proposed to name these activities: the Potential to leave the private characteristics and the neurotic connotations of the term “unconscious”.

What becomes interesting is the ability to switch from the signal to the meaning. Because, if in a first time, the N3 is a sign of the activity of the Potential, this sign does not give its sense, it gives only  a signal but we can, in a second time, move to a further step, by asking what does this sign “tells us more?”, “ what it says?”. In other words, by launching again an arousing intention towards the potential (by definition with no sense of reflective consciousness), in order to let emerge the meaning of these signals which explain some properties of the current process, N3.

In doing so, we access to a new level of description (N4), but a description of what?

In fact, within the Potential, we find sedimented, crystallized everything that affected the subject wether he knows it or not (with or without reflected consciousness), as well as all schemes that were generated by exercise, repetition, the adaptation to new situations (adequate assimilations, less successful accommodations). Therefore we have, with the Potential, an organizational dimension: the schemes at all levels of organizations of different cognitive functioning registers available (see Vermersch 1976). And the recognition of these patterns will not give us the details of the process, but the understanding of how, depending which model, this process has organized and
produced the observed result.

The N3 level tells us, informs us indirectly from the implementation of these schemes, and in retrospect gives us a track to make intelligible not the micro details inaccessible for the reflected consciousness of an action, but the organizing scheme(s) that was mobilized and which reports the organization of this action.

We exceeded the step by step description, detail by detail, for an update of the underlying organization of the action!

What may seem complicated is depending on how we question the N3, we can have
as a response not directly the tracking of the mobilized patterns, but what lies
upstream schemas (I have in mind the organization of the logical levels grid of Dilts): we can have an answer, not a scheme but the co-dominant identity that emerged, or
the dominant beliefs that motivated the action, or the emotions that bore the action or
were the dominant climate. And within the logic of the explicitation interview, it is always important to translate the information on the co-identity, beliefs or emotions into specific action patterns, still in the basic idea of returning to action. I can understand that my answer was organized by my responsible parent co-identity. Good. And in this co identity, what scheme, of which action organization was mobilized to respond to the situation ? Same in principle when it appears in first beliefs or emotional climate formulations. If we take as reference the alignment of logic levels grid from
Dilts, the N2 level is the one of the making, the N4 level is that of skills, available in organizing patterns(which would correspond to the N3 level, and is absent from the grid).

What is technically interesting is that it is possible by some techniques requesting the feelt experience (inspired from generalized focusing), or by nonverbal vision of what happened (Feldenkrais model coming from NLP see Dilt) or by the exploration of some exo positions, to help the interviewee to produce these signs (N3) and distinguish in a second time the organizational direction (the scheme N4).
Here we are today (2015).

What does the future hold?

 

11 / A possible track: take into account the transcendental !

In fact, over thirty years of practice, we have learned to practice countless inner exercises : evocation layout, dissociation, focusing, directed waking dreams, geniuses strategies (Walt Disney, Feldenkrais, Hopscotch, Cross-fertilization), aligning of logic levels and, personally, I have yet explored many others (source list, decreation, intensive illumination, meditation, chi techniques, overtone singing, etc.)

We have experienced all as a subject, as a guide, as an observer, as a transcripter and as a commentator.

The question for me now is: what does the fact of being able to achieve these practices tells us about the properties of subjectivity ?

In other words, by the fact to dissociate readily, to imagine oneself in the position of the creator, of the critic, of the realist; by the fact of making the experience of watching a problem without using language, just by seeing it as movement and color; by knowing to get in evocation and easily discover what I experienced; by the fact of knowing to answer without hesitate to an instruction that requests to « move our places of awareness » and I could still add a lot, what this tells me about subjectivity?.

By being able to perform inner acts, what does it teach us about the properties of
consciousness, the properties of remembrance, the properties of attention, the properties of the personal identity, all subjectivity properties.

►By the fact of achieving such acts, we are sent back to the conditions of possibility of such acts. These conditions of possibility are the fundamental properties of subjectivity.
►Thematize the conditions of possibility is to enter the field of the transcendental.
►Enter in this field of the transcendental, is developing a science of subjectivity
analyzing the consequences of being able to achieve them (reread slowly).

But consequently, you see, in the against-field, how it was, how it is, how it will be important, fruitful, necessary, to explore, to discover, to practice inner exercises!
By the fact of inner practice on oneself, in a setting that is not already strongly preempted by a religious, spiritual, psychopathological or militant ideology, we can finally see the horizon of the potentialities of subjectivity.
Transcendental reflection from our practices is what is awaiting us.
The main benefit that I imagine will result from the effect in return on our theoretical clarification about our practices. We practiced, we advanced, we have refined our tools, why do they succeed?  And if we would understand it, beyond the patiently developed tools, would not it be, again, another possible exceeding ?

 

[Note.  Of course, the explicitation interview, like all interview techniques is organized in the framework of an inter-subjectivity carefully adjusted, in respect to  ethics and deontology, with negotiated confidentiality, listening to others, paying carefull attention to the relational dimension.)  Furthermore, in addition to each of the points discussed in this paper, many technical details allowing their implementation are not discussed here and require the reading of my book, and most of all, a true experiential training.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]As opposed to the sole expression, that is to say, the body language, singing, poetic, comic, which must, sooner or later, be re-translated in words in order to be used in research.

[2] In the field of Work Psychology, we distinguish the task analysis or analysis of what is required to properly perform the task, from the activity analysis, which is the description generated by the observation and / or the interview about what is actually done by a subject.

[3]The term « changes of position » contains two non-exclusive options which we exprienced: 1 / change of posture, 2 / switch places, in a physical way or by imagination.

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