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Experiential Psychology: a Descriptive Protocol and a Reflection

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The experiactional stream of a person can be seen to be organized. It takes place in situation as a "situated event." Events have a duration through time; they could be called: Time-Gestalten. Events (such as giving a public lecture) first tend to appear in the stream of experience in imaginary anticipation usually as a result of a social invitation or as a self-initiated project. In anticipatory experience projected events are developed, worked-on, thought about on repeated occasions. The event takes shape in experience as an anticipation (what I thought the lecture to be like) before it takes place (what it turns out to be in actuality). This has consequences and is important because strategy-decisions are made which actually create the future event. During the recorded experience I actually decided what I was going to do for the lecture. (Needless to say you can make mistakes and proceed from an inadequate anticipatory image. I imagined myself to be speaking to interested psychology students and the audience later turned out to be senior citizens in retirement in Florida who like to hear a lecture at the college on any topic. They were very kind to me.) The meaning of this anticipated event which has personal (what shall I do) as well as social-professional horizons (what is expected of an Existential-Phenomenological psychologist and of a lecturer in a college setting, generally) sets limits to what is allowed into the imaginary anticipation or the projecting. They could be said to act as "charges" upon my experiaction here and now. It seems that the event in anticipatory elaboration is richer and allows more play in experience. As we approach the actualization proper (actually giving the lecture) the range of possibilities narrows. Anticipation has to become embodied: it springs into action and enters the domain of public and shared social reality. We witness the event. Any component of the experiactional stream-particularly in the anticipating phases of event-structures-is built up in complex ways. This may be described as "interwovenness." Whatever we focus on (for example, the United States Steel Building in Pittsburgh, Pa. 1971) can be seen to arise on a string of previous encounters reaching back into one's at bottom indeterminate biographical stock of experiaction. This stock hovers horizonally around the theme-what I pay attention to at the moment-and codetermines its meaning. This makes for idiosyncratic meanings. But our past experience is also in a good measure shared (social) because it is based on experiences of communication to which I had access through language or images. To some extent, therefore, there is also a public and shared meaning to a perceived theme. Components of the experiactional stream are also gathered up and connected through a higher and unifying intention, the project. We take many steps to actualize a project, and we also seem to have more than one project going on at any one time. This tends to "mix-up" our stream of experiaction in surprising and complex ways. In this study I have taken a small step (20 minutes of continuous experiaction: sitting down and recording what occurs to me) which turned out to be connected to the larger sequence of being involved in giving a lecture. This event as an over-arching project casts its shadow ahead of itself and colored my anticipatory experience in clearly definable ways. The general structural features uncovered here through reflection were present and at work during my experiaction although I was not explicitly aware of them at the time, while living them out. Nevertheless, my pre-reflective experiaction turned out to have been structured and organized. In what I thought was an unique-private experience there were revealed and operative general-universal structures. The personal-existential and the general-phenomenological components are inextricably intertwined and collaborative in the creation of human experience in a particular situation. They constitute a tension inherent in the flow of experiaction. In living we constantly move between these levels and as researchers in this field we always try to bridge this "gap" that arises in understanding which dichotomizes "lived immediacy" and "theoretical understanding." Either extreme-"just living" or "just thinking"-if emphasized unduly is an aberration. The human way is to experiact and to make sense of it so that mere living-out is humanized into living-with-awareness. This can never be fully accomplished but is always in process, ongoing. Everyone has to unfold his own awareness and understanding, recognizing that the depth or ground of living eludes objectification and final conceptual grasp. We can only tune-in.


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