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Personal problem-solving experiences: an exploratory study Ayers, Stephen Michael 1996

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PERSONAL PROBLEM-SOLVING EXPERIENCES: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY by STEPHEN MICHAEL AYERS B . A . , The Univers i ty of V i c t o r i a , 1985 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Counsel l ing Psychology) We accept t h i s thes i s as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA November 1995 © Stephen Michael Ayers, 1995 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department Of ( W ' S l t t ^ l ?$-j6W°11 The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date A / Q O . ZD, <7iS DE-6 (2/88) 1 1 Abstract This study explored the nature of personal problem-s o l v i n g experiences. These were defined as experiences which reso lved personal problems i n people's l i v e s , and which occurred outside of a formal helping r e l a t i o n s h i p . The data was c o l l e c t e d with the help of f i ve co-researchers , us ing a semi-structured interview method. A c r i t i c a l events ana lys i s was employed to determine i f a paradigmatic model of a problem-solving experience could be constructed. The v a r i e t y of the experiences reported precluded construct ing a model. However, a number of common elements emerged. S i g n i f i c a n t elements included (a) problem awareness, (b) d i s t r e s s about the problem, (c) s p i r i t u a l i t y , (d) openness, (e) prayer , (f) interdependence, (g) awareness of mor ta l i t y , (h) symbolism, (i) coincidence or synchronic i ty , and (j) change i n view of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e - w o r l d . The t h e o r e t i c a l and counse l l ing impl i ca t ions of the s i g n i f i c a n t elements were discussed. Support was found for the t h e o r e t i c a l work of C a r l Jung and George K e l l y . Also supported was W i l l a r d F r i c k ' s work on the Symbolic Growth Experience. i i i Table of Contents T i t l e Page i Abstrac t i i Table of Contents i i i L i s t of Tables v L i s t of Figures v i Chapter 1: Introduct ion 1 Chapter 2: L i t e r a t u r e Review 4 Symbolic Growth Experience 4 Peak Experience 6 Synchronic i ty 8 Discuss ion 11 Chapter 3: Method 15 Co-researchers 15 Data C o l l e c t i o n 16 Data Analys i s 18 P r e - e x i s t i n g Assumptions 19 Chapter 4: The Stor ies 20 J u l i e ' s Experience . .2 0 John's Experience 4 2 Mark's Experience 51 Paul ' s Experience 59 Theresa's Experience 77 Chapter 5: Discussion 90 Common Elements Between Stor ies 90 T h e o r e t i c a l Implications 91 i v Counse l l ing Implications 97 Speculat ion About Problem-solving Experiences 103 L imi ta t ions 106 Recommendations for Future Research 106 Summary 107 References 109 Appendix A 119 Appendix B 121 Appendix C 12 3 V L i s t of Tables Table 1. S i g n i f i c a n t Elements i n J u l i e ' s Experience 41 Table 2. S i g n i f i c a n t Elements i n John's Experience 50 Table 3. S i g n i f i c a n t Elements i n Mark's Experience 58 Table 4. S i g n i f i c a n t Elements i n Paul ' s Experience 7 6 Table 5. S i g n i f i c a n t Elements i n Theresa's Experience 89 Table 6. Common Elements Between Experiences 91 v i L i s t of Figures Figure 1. A Conceptual Map of J u l i e ' s Experience 3 3 Figure 2. A Conceptual Map of John's Experience 47 Figure 3. A Conceptual Map of Mark's Experience 55 Figure 4. A Conceptual Map of Paul ' s Experience 7 0 Figure 5. A Conceptual Map of Theresa's Experience 84 1 Chapter 1: Introduction The purpose of t h i s study was to explore the mechanics of experiences which have turned around people's l i v e s . During our l i v e s we sometimes encounter d i f f i c u l t i e s that br ing us to a developmental or e x i s t e n t i a l h a l t . To get out of t h i s ru t can be a c e n t r a l challenge i n our l i v e s that demands most of our energy and resources. Sometimes we can make our way back to a place that fee ls more on track with a c e r t a i n amount of e f f o r t . Other times we may completely re-evaluate ourselves and our p r i o r i t i e s , and move on by approaching l i f e i n a new way. We might a lso turn to counse l l ing i n an attempt to bet ter understand what i s happening, and to f i n d a way out of the r u t that we are i n . Sometimes however, the s o l u t i o n i s dramatic . For some of us the impasse i s resolved through an event or a s er i e s of events. The experience can be qui te s t a r t l i n g and magical , and can have a profound ef fect on our l i v e s ( F r i c k , 1990; Jung, 1960). I decided to study these experiences because the magical aspect of them held an i n t r i n s i c appeal for me, and because i l l u m i n a t i n g something of t h e i r nature would be worthwhile. Researching extraordinary experience may be considered valuable because i t informs us as to what i s pos s ib l e . The more we understand about l i f e and i t s p o s s i b i l i t i e s , the freer we are to l i v e a l i f e f i l l e d with personal meaning. On another l e v e l , I hoped that researching natura l experiences that resolved s i g n i f i c a n t problems i n 2 people 's l i v e s would y i e l d useful information for counse l l or s . We often hope that our sessions w i l l be jus t such an experience for our c l i e n t s . My l i t e r a t u r e review turned up almost no research about the personal problem-solving aspect of extraordinary experiences. Given t h i s , I decided that exploratory research into the subject would be the most b e n e f i c i a l course to take. I looked at those instances when people have overcome s i g n i f i c a n t personal problems through a c r i t i c a l l i f e experience, as opposed to working through i t c o g n i t i v e l y , or seeking help from a formal helping r e l a t i o n s h i p ( e . g . , counse l lor , min i s ter , parent, e t c . ) . Since I wanted a r i c h descr ip t ion of a l i v e d experience, I used interviewing as the data c o l l e c t i o n method (Gorman, 1993; van Manen, 1990; Weiss, 1994; Y i n , 1984). In p a r t i c u l a r , I used a semi-structured interview method because i t allows the co-researcher to recount the experience i n depth, while ensuring that centra l questions are addressed (Weiss, 1994; Y i n , 1984). What I was interested in d iscovering from the data (aside from a general in teres t in increas ing awareness of l i f e ' s p o s s i b i l i t i e s ) was whether or not there were e s s e n t i a l , u n i v e r s a l elements that could be i d e n t i f i e d wi th in t h i s k ind of experience. To that end, I used a c r i t i c a l inc idents method of ana lys i s (Flanagan, 1954; Woolsey, 1986) . I hoped that t h i s would allow me to construct a paradigmatic model of 3 a 'working' experience. What I found was that although each experience was too unique to permit b u i l d i n g t h i s paradigmatic model, there were some common elements between experiences. I t was hoped that the information from t h i s study would enable counse l lors and lay people to better understand personal problem-solving experiences. As I a l luded to above, there was nothing i n the l i t e r a t u r e s p e c i f i c a l l y about the personal problem-solving aspect of extraordinary experiences. However, there were d iscuss ions of various types of extraordinary experience, and these d iscuss ions sometimes included examples of problems being overcome v i a the experience discussed. Three of these areas of the l i t e r a t u r e w i l l be introduced next. 4 Chapter 2: L i t e r a t u r e Review This sec t ion w i l l introduce three types of experience that have a personal problem-solving component. These are: (a) the Symbolic Growth Experience (Fr ick , 1990), (b) Peak Experience (Maslow, 1970), and (c) Synchronic i ty (Jung, 1960a). The Symbolic Growth Experience W i l l a r d F r i c k has writ ten a ser ies of a r t i c l e s on what he c a l l s the Symbolic Growth Experience (SGE). This i s "the conscious, symbolic in t erpre ta t ion of immediate experience leading to heightened awareness and personal growth" (1983, p. 109). That i s , when a person becomes aware that what they are experiencing "c lear ly stands for something 'beyond i t s e l f " (p. I l l ) , the " 'object ive ' s tructure and content [of the experience] are transcended" (p. I l l ) , opening the p o s s i b i l i t y of "new awareness. . . ins ight that holds immense s i g n i f i c a n c e for the person at that prec ise moment i n h i s or her l i f e " (p. 112). For F r i c k , an experience which has symbolic p o t e n t i a l for an i n d i v i d u a l has the "power to transform" (p. I l l ) , i f i t i s opened up to and experienced deeply. However, there are po tent ia l problems with F r i c k ' s method of data c o l l e c t i o n . F r i c k formulated h is ideas with information gathered from discuss ions , l i t e r a r y works, and " s o l i c i t e d personal accounts" (1990, p. 67), as part of an " h e u r i s t i c inquiry into the phenomenon of the SGE" (1990, p. 78). He does not l i s t these sources, or how the information 5 was gathered. His conclusions come across as a fait accompli that the reader must more or less take on f a i t h . In h i s defence, F r i c k (1990) does make an attempt to e s t a b l i s h the trustworthiness of h i s conclusions by prov id ing information about the nature of h i s h e u r i s t i c i n q u i r y . F r i c k a l so provides examples from h i s data to i l l u s t r a t e h i s p o i n t s . I t i s poss ib le however, that h i s data c o l l e c t i o n methods had an e f f ec t on the information he rece ived. For example, F r i c k (1987) stated that the example he gives of a SGE was obtained during a SGE workshop. This being the case, the very t i t l e of the workshop may have 'framed' the way t h i s woman re la ted her story (she stated that she saw a shattered Christmas tree as symbolic of her l i f e ) . As the symbolic i s the key element i n F r i c k ' s theory, there i s the p o s s i b i l i t y that h i s conclusions about how the experience 'works' - the i n d i v i d u a l in terprets an experience symbol ica l ly - are s e r i o u s l y confounded. F r i c k f e l t that the SGE "is a natura l hea l ing and growth-enhancing agency with in the persona l i ty system" (1990, p. 77), and that i t "emerges n a t u r a l l y and spontaneously as an authentic expression of the developmental trends and current needs of the personal i ty" (1983, p. 112). He stated that the r e l a t i o n s h i p between these developmental trends and needs, and the outer event, bears a strong resemblance to C a r l Jung's concept of synchronic i ty (Fr ick , 1983). F r i c k (1990) also wrote that the SGE "establishes both 6 i n t e g r a t i o n and s t a b i l i t y and promotes change and growth wi th in a s ing le experience. Depending on the needs of the p e r s o n a l i t y . . . one of these dynamics may appear to be more f o r c e f u l and dominant than the other" (pp. 71-72). He l i s t e d the in tegra t ive functions as fol lows: (a) " integrat ion of the preconceptual , unart icu la ted growth forces and the more cogni t ive and conceptual powers of consciousness" (p. 72); (b) " integrat ion of l i f e ' s time dimensions" (p. 72); and (c) i n t e g r a t i o n of the person and the environment (transcending subject -object dualism). In i t s correc t ive aspect the SGE " i n i t i a t e s a re so lu t ion to emotional or developmental stalemates and provides an e s sent ia l c o r r e c t i v e experience when one's l i f e i s of f course, immobilized by c o n f l i c t , or when, for any reason, the i n t e g r i t y of the p e r s o n a l i t y system i s threatened" (p. 74). F r i c k (1990) proposed that a powerful process for personal growth and for deal ing with emotional or developmental stalemates i s a natural part of our ' p e r s o n a l i t y system.' Peak Experience Abraham Maslow (1968) based h i s wri t ings about peak experience on information gathered from interviews, l e t t e r s , l i t e r a t u r e , a survey of 190 col lege students, and personal experience. Maslow (1970) wrote that during a peak experience the "whole universe i s perceived as an integrated and u n i f i e d whole . . .one has [one's] place i n i t - one i s part of i t , belongs i n i t - [ this] can be so profound and shaking an 7 experience that i t can change the person's character and [her or h i s ] Weltanschauung1 forever after" (p. 59). Maslow (1970) stated that t h i s experience i s often accompanied by surpr i se or "aesthetic shock" (p. xv) due to the sheer (and p o t e n t i a l l y overwhelming) enormity of i t . He f e l t i t to be a "perfect ly natural" (p. 20) occurrence, and that i t included reve lat ions and myst ical i l l u m i n a t i o n . The fo l lowing d e f i n i t i o n by Davis, Lockwood and Wright (1991) s u c c i n c t l y summarizes much of what Maslow wrote about peak experiences: Peak experiences have been defined as the best , happiest , most wonderful moments of one's l i f e . A peak experience has some (but usual ly not a l l ) of the fo l lowing c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s : an almost overwhelming sense of p leasure , euphoria, or joy, a deep sense of peacefulness or t r a n q u i l l i t y , f e e l i n g i n tune, i n harmony, or at one with the universe, a sense of wonder or awe, a l t e r e d perceptions of time and/or space, such as expansion, a f ee l ing of deeper knowing or profound understanding, a deep f e e l i n g of love (for yourse l f , another, or a l l people) , a greater awareness of beauty or apprec ia t ion , a sense that i t would be d i f f i c u l t or impossible to describe adequately i n words (p. 88). Maslow (1970) stated that in t h i s experience we learn that l i f e can be worthwhile, b e a u t i f u l , and va luable . Because 'A German word meaning o u t l o o k on l i f e , o r p h i l o s o p h y o f l i v i n g . 8 the self i s often understood to be a part of the whole that i s l i f e during the experience, i t too can come to be seen as worthwhile and va luable . Wuthnow (19 78), i n a survey study of a systematic random sample of 1000 res idents of the San Francisco - Oakland area, found that people who reported having peak experiences were more l i k e l y to say l i f e was meaningful and that l i f e had a purpose than people who reported they had not had a peak experience. These 'peakers' also reported being less concerned with mater ia l things and with s o c i a l status when compared to 'non-peakers, ' and more concerned about s o c i a l change and helping others (again when compared to the non-peakers) . Thus, as Maslow (1962) wrote, i t seems that a peak experience can be a "highly therapeutic" (p. 14) event. Synchronic i ty During the course of h i s c l i n i c a l p r a c t i c e and other i n v e s t i g a t i o n s , C a r l Jung "kept on coming across connections" (Jung, 1960a, p. 437) which he could not expla in as mere chance. What he found were coincidences "which were connected so meaningfully that t h e i r 'chance' concurrence would represent a degree of improbabi l i ty that would have to be expressed by an astronomical f igure" (p. 4 37). Through c a r e f u l reasoning, he also ruled out these inc idents being caused by some kind of transmission of psychic energy. Therefore i t was not "a question of cause and e f f ec t , but of a f a l l i n g together i n time, a kind of s imultaneity" (p. 435) . 9 Jung thus picked the term ' synchron ic i ty ' "to designate a hypothe t i ca l fac tor equal i n rank to c a u s a l i t y as a p r i n c i p l e of explanation" (p. 435). Jung grouped synchronis t i c phenomena in to three categor ies : (a) the "coincidence of a psychic s tate i n the observer with a simultaneous object ive external event that corresponds to the psychic state or content ( e . g . , the scarab [see example below: author]) , where there i s no evidence of a causal connection between the [two];" (b) knowledge of an event(s) outside one's f i e l d of percept ion; and (c) knowledge of future events (1960b, p. 526). As an example of synchron ic i ty , Jung (1960b) offered the fo l lowing: My example concerns a young woman pat ient who, i n s p i t e of e f f o r t s made on both s ides , proved to be psycho log i ca l ly inaccess ib le . The d i f f i c u l t y lay i n the fac t that she always knew better about everything . Her exce l lent education had provided her with a weapon i d e a l l y su i ted to t h i s purpose, namely a h igh ly po l i shed Cartes ian rat iona l i sm with an impeccably "geometrical" idea of r e a l i t y . Af ter several f r u i t l e s s attempts to sweeten her ra t iona l i sm with a somewhat more human understanding, I had to confine myself to the hope that something unexpected and i r r a t i o n a l would turn up, something that would burst the i n t e l l e c t u a l r e t o r t into which she had sealed h e r s e l f . Wel l , I was s i t t i n g opposite her one day, with my back to the window, l i s t e n i n g to her flow of r h e t o r i c . She had had an impressive dream the night before, i n which someone had given her a golden scarab - a cos t ly piece of j ewel lery . While she was t e l l i n g me t h i s dream, I heard something behind me gently tapping on the window. I turned round and saw that i t was a f a i r l y large f l y i n g insect that was knocking against the window-pane from outside i n the obvious e f for t to get into the dark room. This seemed to me very strange. I opened the window immediately and caught the insect i n the a i r as i t flew i n . I t was a scarabaeid beet le , or common rose -chafer (Cetonia aurata), whose gold-green colour most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab. I handed the beet le to my pat ient with the words, "Here i s your scarab." This experience punctured the des ired hole i n her ra t iona l i sm and broke the ice of her i n t e l l e c t u a l re s i s tance . The treatment could now be continued with s a t i s f a c t o r y r e s u l t s (pp. 525-526). Jung (1960a) defined synchronic i ty as "the simultaneous occurrence of a c e r t a i n psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful p a r a l l e l s to the momentary subject ive state - and i n c e r t a i n cases v i ce versa" (p. 441). He elaborated (as was noted above), that the inner s tate and external event are "causally unrelated" (p. 441). The ' v i c e v e r s a ' , a psychic state appearing as a meaningful p a r a l l e l to an external event, s trongly suggests F r i c k ' s SGE. 11 Discuss ion The SGE, peak experience, and synchronic i ty are a l l experiences that can be ' therapeut ic ' ( F r i c k , 1990; Maslow, 1962; Jung, 1960b), and the authors quoted above a l l f e l t these experiences to be a part of everyday l i f e . Indeed, Wuthnow (1978; c i t e d above) found that 88% of h i s respondents reported having experienced at least one of the types of peak experience l i s t e d on the survey. Why then do we not hear more frequent ly about t h i s kind of occurrence? Several reasons have been given. F r i c k (1990) and Jung (1967) f a u l t current s o c i e t a l conventions, while Maslow (1970) f a u l t s the i n d i v i d u a l s who abide by these conventions. Two studies to be introduced below c i t e embarrassment (Lask i , 1961), and the personal nature of the experience (Davis, Lockwood, & Wright, 1991) as p o s s i b i l i t i e s . F r i c k (1990) explained that our soc iety has "discouraged the development of our symbolic, i n t u i t i v e , and imaginative resources" (p. 78). He wrote that we engage i n a " s o c i a l i z a t i o n process that l i m i t s our v i s i o n and e f f e c t i v e l y diminishes our capacity to explore and contact the var ious ' r e a l i t i e s ' poss ib le within our experience and existence" (p. 78) . Maslow (1970) f e l t the reason was that people with a r a t i o n a l , m a t e r i a l i s t i c , or mechanistic world view or "character s tructure" (p. 22), suppress or deny peak experiences. He f e l t that for t h i s kind of person the 12 experience i s insane, out of c o n t r o l , or overwhelming. They tend to be fr ightened and "fight them off" (p. 22), or do t h e i r best to forget about them. Jung stated that i t was d i f f i c u l t to estimate the "regular i ty" (1960a, p. 511) of synchronis t i c events because "one i s as much impressed by the disharmony of things as one i s surpr i sed by t h e i r occasional harmony" (p. 511). He d i d however write that , "our cu l ture , however, has ne i ther eyes nor heart for these th ings . Anything that comes out of the psyche i s regarded with suspic ion at the best of t imes, and i f i t does not immediately prove i t s mater ia l value i t goes for nothing" (1967, p. 310). Marghanita Laski (1961) conducted a survey study of ecstasy. She defined ecstasy as "a range of experiences character ized by being j o y f u l , t r a n s i t o r y , unexpected, r a r e , valued, and extraordinary to the point of often seeming as i f der ived from a preternatura l source" (p. 5). Lask i s tated that i n the i n i t i a l stages of the interviews for the study she and the respondent often f e l t some embarrassment. The reasons she gave were: "many amateurs interested i n subjects which go by names such as t h i s hold views which are widely regarded as e c c e n t r i c or s i l l y " (p. 8), and "people would l i k e to be able to be l ieve without being forced to defend" (p. 8) . F i n a l l y , a study by John Davis, Linda Lockwood, and Charles Wright (1991) invest igated the issue of people not t e l l i n g others about t h e i r extraordinary experiences. The ir 13 study was based on the re su l t s of two separate surveys, with a t o t a l of 246 co l lege students p a r t i c i p a t i n g . The surveys asked students i f they had experienced a peak experience, us ing the d e f i n i t i o n given above. I f so, they were in s t ruc ted to wri te down a descr ip t ion of the event. The students then answered the fo l lowing questions: (a) "What was i t l i k e ? " (b) "What e f fec t d id i t have on you?" (c) "How many people have you openly discussed i t with?" and (d) "Why have you not t o l d more people?" The students were also given a c h e c k l i s t of poss ib le reasons for not t e l l i n g people, and asked to ind ica te whether a given reason was a major fac tor , a minor f a c t o r , or not app l i cab le i n terms of not d iscuss ing t h e i r experience with others . A f u l l 79% of the students reported having had a peak experience. On average they t o l d f ive to seven people about i t , however h a l f the students had t o l d two or fewer people. The main reasons given for not t e l l i n g more people were: (a) I t was a very s p e c i a l , int imate, and personal experience which I wanted to keep for myself; (b) I f e l t that others would not appreciate or value the experience as much as I d i d or that they might put i t down; (c) I d id not f ee l I could descr ibe i t i n words. In summary, these authors considered extraordinary experience to be an everyday occurrence. However, they concluded that people i n western society are e i t h e r r e l u c t a n t to discuss i t openly with others (Davis, Lockwood, & Wright, 14 1991; L a s k i , 1961), or re luctant to explore 'unusual ' experience i n general (Fr ick , 1990; Jung, 1967; Maslow, 1970). These authors gave many examples of the p o t e n t i a l benef i t s of extraordinary types of experience. Therefore, i t was hoped that t h i s study would encourage the explorat ion of extraordinary experience by making i t seem less ' u n u s u a l , ' and more acces s ib l e . 15 Chapter 3 : Method Co-researchers The co-researchers for t h i s study were f i v e i n d i v i d u a l s from Vancouver Is land and the Lower Mainland i n B r i t i s h Columbia, three of whom were known to me. Two i n d i v i d u a l s were r e c r u i t e d through an advertisement placed i n the Georgia Straight magazine, and three acquaintances expressed an i n t e r e s t i n p a r t i c i p a t i n g af ter hearing me describe the research. A l l p o t e n t i a l co-researchers went through a screening interview by telephone or in person. The fo l lowing s e l e c t i o n c r i t e r i a were used: (a) that there was an experience (or s e r i e s of experiences) that could be remembered and communicated c l e a r l y ; (b) that the person had a reasonably s i g n i f i c a n t personal problem p r i o r to the experience ( in a common sense way, most people hearing the problem described would f i n d i t reasonably s i g n i f i c a n t ) ; (c) that there was a p o s i t i v e change i n act ions , thoughts, and/or f ee l ings that occurred a f ter the experience and could be communicated; (d) that the experience d id not occur within the s ix months p r i o r to the interview (a period of time longer than s ix months was deemed necessary to allow time for in tegrat ion of the experience) . People were excluded from the study i f they were: (a) seeing a p s y c h i a t r i s t ; (b) taking psychotropic medication; (c) a minor; and (d) unable to give informed consent for reasons of language, mental condi t ion , or other reasons. 16 I rece ived approximately s ix phone c a l l s i n response to the advertisement (which I ran twice) , and s ix i n q u i r i e s about p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the study from acquaintances. F ive i n d i v i d u a l s met the c r i t e r i a for p a r t i c i p a t i o n (as explained above) and agreed to take part in the study. Data C o l l e c t i o n The phenomenon was studied through two semi-s tructured interviews (for a l i s t of topics covered during the interview see Appendix A ) . In four of the f ive cases the f i r s t interview was conducted i n the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s home and took about one and a h a l f hours. The exception to t h i s was Mark's f i r s t interview (his s tory i s presented below) which was a b r i e f conversat ion. Mark's schedule d id not permit a lengthy in-person interview. Therefore most of the information for h i s s tory was taken during a second interview by phone of approximately 25 minutes. During the second b r i e f interview which was conducted by telephone or mail approximately two weeks l a t e r , I gave the co-researchers an opportunity to add new information or c l a r i f y d e t a i l s . F i n a l l y , I provided them with a d r a f t copy of t h e i r interview and my analys is of i t i n order for them to check for errors in e i ther t h e i r story or i t s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . Any necessary changes were then made. The interview framework was tested i n two informal p i l o t interviews with acquaintances. These proved invaluable i n he lp ing me re f ine the interview so that i t would grasp the 17 essence of the experience (van Manen, 1990). This process of r e f i n i n g continued on a smaller scale between the ac tua l research interviews as w e l l . The interviews were intended to begin with a d i scuss ion of the experience i t s e l f . This was because L o r i Truant (1991) found that co-researchers may have "less energy to f u l l y re la te" (p. 62) the experience i f the interview begins with some kind of h i s t o r y taking for example. However, t h i s proved unnatural , and the co-researchers seemed to prefer launching into t h e i r s t o r i e s from t h e i r own point of departure. No detr imental e f fects on the qua l i ty of information obtained were noted. The data c o l l e c t i o n methods described above were used to help ensure that the data gathered was ' trustworthy' (Kre f t ing , 1991). A l l the steps helped to make the data more trustworthy by safeguarding against l y i n g (although outr ight l y i n g i s considered r a r e l y to be a problem), shading/omit t ing , and/or forge t t ing on the part of the p a r t i c i p a n t (Weiss, 1994). The trustworthiness or robustness of the study was a lso addressed by e s tab l i sh ing a good interviewing partnersh ip , and asking for concrete d e t a i l s where poss ib le (Weiss, 1994). I a l so t r i e d to develop an interview framework that I hope was unbiased, and t r i e d to avoid such problems as leading questions during the interview, and an overly encouraging a t t i t u d e toward responses that supported presupposi t ions 18 (Weiss, 1994). As was wri t ten above, I chose interviewing as the method for gathering information about problem-solving experiences (Gorman, 1993; van Manen, 1990; Weiss, 1994; Y i n , 1984). David Gorman (1993) compared interviews to c h e c k l i s t s and concluded that interviewing i s "sensit ive to the s u b t l e t i e s of l i f e events and should be the preferred method when data of any p r e c i s i o n and accuracy are required i n an e m p i r i c a l study" (p. 66). The semi-structured interview i n p a r t i c u l a r allows space for r i c h d e s c r i p t i o n of the event, while ensuring that c e n t r a l issues are addressed (Weiss, 1994; Y i n , 1984). Data Ana lys i s Data ana lys i s was a c r i t i c a l events ana lys i s (Flanagan, 1954; Woolsey, 1986), and was done in part d i r e c t l y from the audiotapes because "the add i t iona l non-verbal cues provided by the voice sometimes make the inc ident c learer" (Woolsey, 1986, p. 248) . Each experience was d iv ided into a s er i e s of elements where appropriate , and these elements were analyzed for the presence of a " l o g i c a l structure" (Tesch, 1990, p. 88) i n which the elements could be placed. I t was hoped that by crea t ing a chart of the elements within an experience, a ' t y p i c a l ' experience would emerge. Ongoing with t h i s was an ana lys i s of the events leading up to and fo l lowing the experience, i n an attempt "to e f fect a more d i r e c t contact with the experience as l ived" (van Manen, 1990, p .78) . The c r i t i c a l events analys is took place wi th in a mult ip le -case study design as the r e p l i c a t i o n of r e s u l t s across cases would provide further support for any f indings (Yin, 1984). P r e - e x i s t i n g Assumptions I examined my assumptions before and during the i n i t i a l stages of the study. I r e a l i z e d that: (a) I was expecting to f i n d that co-researchers became more open to experience i n general before the p o s i t i v e change occurred; (b) I f e l t that changes to the i n d i v i d u a l ' s values arid b e l i e f s would be necessary for there to be any l a s t i n g (long-term) e f fec t s from t h e i r experience; (c) I expected to f i n d an i d e n t i f i a b l e sequence of p r e c i p i t a t i n g circumstances, experience, and change wi th in the experiences; and (d) I thought there would be an 'aha moment' within the experience. 20 Chapter 4: The Stor ies What follows are the co-researcher's s t o r i e s . Each of the s t o r i e s w i l l be presented i n turn with an accompanying a n a l y s i s . In the analys i s the s i g n i f i c a n t events of the s tory w i l l be explored i n more d e t a i l . Each ana lys i s w i l l a l so contain a d i scuss ion of the elements which made up the s tory . The elements were d iv ided into background (pre-experience) and experience (during experience) elements. The s t o r i e s w i l l be looked at as a group i n the discuss ion sect ion of the paper. Author's notes are inserted into the text of the s t o r i e s wi th in hard brackets . J u l i e ' s Experience 1 "I drank my way through un ivers i ty [as a theatre major] and years subsequent to u n i v e r s i t y . I qu i t i n my fourth year on a coke h i g h . . . I r e a l l y messed things up there and i n my home town to the extent that I f e l t i t necessary to move away. 1 1 2 J u l i e was a 29 year -o ld woman i n good p h y s i c a l hea l th working as an actress , s inger/songwriter , and occas iona l ly as a w r i t e r . She was born and ra i sed in Canada. Her father worked as the v ice -pres ident of an o i l company, and her mother worked as a nurse. J u l i e was the middle c h i l d of f i v e (one o lder brother and s i s t e r , and one younger brother and s i s t e r ) . When she was a c h i l d she and the family had attended a Ukrain ian Catho l i c church. 3 J u l i e sa id that p r i o r to her experience she had been aware she was abusing drugs and a l coho l , and that she had f e l t she should change. Before her experience she had taken some t en ta t ive steps towards sobrie ty , but she had not been success fu l at g iv ing up a lcohol or drugs. 4 Just before her experience she met a man who was earning a decent l i v i n g , and who was into dr ink ing and drugs i n h i s spare time - "just what I wanted i n a boyfr iend ." J u l i e s tar ted to spend a f a i r amount of time at h i s p lace . Her boyfr iend would leave her some marijuana or money for a l coho l while he was at work. He became quite serious about her and s tar ted asking her to move i n with him. 5 About t h i s time J u l i e qu i t her job (weekend night attendant i n a group home) af ter rece iv ing "a few weird phone c a l l s " at work, and f ee l ing that someone was watching the group home. She sa id that she had s tarted to dr ink at work, so she d i d not know how r e a l t h i s threat a c t u a l l y was. The r e s u l t however was that she was now "completely dependent on t h i s guy to feed my habit etc ." 6 J u l i e sa id that she had been i n a crea t ive vacuum for qui te some time. She was f ee l ing her self-esteem dwindling and her l i f e c lo s ing i n . Then her boyfriend proposed. She responded that she d i d n ' t know him wel l enough and they fought. What follows i s her s tory . 7 "He sa id something i n the conversation which kind of blew my mind. He sa id that you know you're l i k e a b i r d i n the house. You keep banging against windows and w a l l s . . . a n d you 22 jus t don't know how to break out. The words jus t reverberated i n my head [ J u l i e remembered from somewhere that a b i r d coming i s the symbol of death, therefore 'you're jus t l i k e a b i r d i n the house' meant to her that she, herse l f , was the symbol for death] . I t jus t spoke to that place ins ide me that always f e l t l i k e I was gonna die soon, that was constant ly fr ightened . . .because every day I was k i l l i n g myself a l i t t l e b i t . The death wasn't jus t p h y s i c a l , i t was the slow dying of my crea t ive l i f e . The older I got i t seemed l i k e I was slowly weaning people out of my l i f e . I had no r e a l c lose f r i ends except for t h i s one . . . there was the death of that , there was the death of a l l my dreams. . . everything was dying. I got up and I went into another room and I brought my g u i t a r with me. I shut the door and locked i t , and I sat down and I wrote a song c a l l e d Bird in the House. I t took about 10 minutes. There was no scratching out of words, there was no p lay ing with r h y m e s . . . i t jus t went [out of me and onto paper - t h i s was a gesture with her hands]. Then I picked up my gu i tar and played i t . 8 Then I t o l d him to take me home, and I was jus t so pleased and g r a t e f u l that I ' d been able to write a song. I paced my f l o o r and I thought about what had become of my l i f e . I was j o b l e s s . . . I r e a l l y d i d n ' t have much. . .here I was, golden opportunity , marry someone who can give me anything I want. A l l the booze, a l l the d r u g s . . . a n d he sa id he was support ive of anything I wanted to do musical ly etc . e tc . And I d i d n ' t want i t , and I was going l i k e what am I going to do with my l i f e , what am I supposed to be doing? I know I have to q u i t booze and I know I have to qu i t drugs but I jus t c a n ' t . I paced my f l o o r , I paced t h i s carpet . I paced and I c r i e d and paced and c r i e d and I t r i e d not to dr ink that n ight . I wasn't able to . I went and got myself a s ix pack and drank about two of them and i t just made me f ee l s i c k . I paced and c r i e d some more and f i n a l l y I just f e l l down on my knees and s tar ted pray ing . I sa id , 'God I know I have to change my l i f e . I can' t do t h i s myself. I just cannot do t h i s myself. There's nothing I can do. I can' t qu i t booze. You're going to have to make me qui t booze. I can' t qu i t drugs. You're going to have to make me qui t drugs. I can not do i t . ' And you know I'm l y i n g there, l i t e r a l l y I'm pros trate on the f l o o r . . . w e e p i n g , weeping, weeping. A l l of a sudden I ju s t got t h i s r e a l l y weird f ee l ing l i k e , l i k e there was something i n the room. And i t was l i k e not just i n the room i t was i n myself, i t was everywhere, and a l l by despair jus t washed away l i k e that - boom. I t was gone from despair to peace i n a s p l i t second. I couldn' t have done i t . I don't know where i t came from. And I jus t had t h i s f ee l ing that everything was going to be a l r i g h t . I d i d n ' t know how. I s t i l l d i d n ' t th ink I was going to be able to qu i t dr ink ing , but I jus t had t h i s f e e l i n g l i k e everything i s going to be a l r i g h t . The next morning I woke up and I s t i l l had four of those c i d e r s l e f t . A l l day long I kept t e l l i n g myself, 'you're not going to dr ink today' . Then came the la te afternoon when I would usua l ly s t a r t dr ink ing i f I d i d n ' t have to s t a r t d r i n k i n g as soon as I got up. And I s t i l l had those four c i d e r s , and i t was, am I going to s tar t on these or not? And I d i d , I cracked one open and I took a s ip and the phone rang, and i t was [my boyfr iend] . 'Come on o v e r , ' he says. 'Having a b ig barbecue tonight . There's gonna be l o t s of booze, l o t s of drugs. Bring your gu i tar , there's going to be some musicians here. I t ' s gonna be a r e a l l y good p a r t y . ' I'm l i k e 'No, I'm not coming over, I'm changing my l i f e . I'm not gonna d r i n k . I'm not gonna d r u g . ' And here I am s i t t i n g there with t h i s open c ider on the table in front of me. But he kept bugging me. . .and I'm th inking wel l jeez . The more he kept bugging me and complementing me, and 'Oh, I love you, and please come over i t would be so much fun, and don't give me that crap about changing your l i f e . ' I s tar ted to waver. And I'm th ink ing to myself, I'm just about to t e l l him 'yes, ok, come get me.' And th inking to myself that f e e l i n g l a s t night was a l i e . Ta lk ing to him on the phone and looking at the carpet and t h i s l i t t l e grey b i r d walks across the c a r p e t . . . And I'm l i k e 'X [boyfriend's name], there ' s a b i r d i n my house' [Her boyfriend seemed to understand the s i g n i f i c a n c e of t h i s . With very l i t t l e protest he hung u p . ] . I ' d played the song for him and I don't know. Like he wasn't a very s e n s i t i v e person, but I guess he clued i n that he wasn't going to be able to argue with t h i s b i r d . And t h i s l i t t l e b i r d walks across my carpet . . . l o o k e d up at me and I was jus t [awestruck - t h i s was indicated by a f a c i a l express ion] , and walks under t h i s recording equipment. . .and stares up at me l i k e t h i s . And he d i d n ' t appear at a l l perturbed." 12 J u l i e went out to f ind a f r i end who l i v e d i n the same b u i l d i n g to show him the b i r d . He sa id that i t was jus t a coincidence and suggested that she take the b i r d outs ide . She came back i n the room and the b i r d was s i t t i n g on the shoulder of a jacket she had hanging i n the corner. I t was a jacket she had hand painted for a s inger/songwriter showcase, which c o i n c i d e n t a l l y , she had won. 13 The b i r d sat calmly through a number of events which fol lowed, " i t was just too b i z a r r e . " F i n a l l y , her f r i e n d convinced her to use a broom to guide the b i r d out. J u l i e got i t to the top of the s t a i r s leading to the s t ree t , and gave i t a push. She regretted t h i s because the b i r d banged i t s e l f a couple of times f l y i n g down the s ta i rcase . 14 "I thought to myself, why am I chasing t h i s b i r d out of my house. You know? Obviously t h i s b i r d wants to s t a y . . . h e l i k e s me. By t h i s time the b i r d i s already at the bottom of the s t a i r s , and t h i s i s the most amazing and b e a u t i f u l p a r t , i s that me and [her fr iend] are standing at the top of the s t a i r s looking at t h i s b i r d down there, and t h i s b i r d s t a r t s hopping up the s t a i r s . 15 Then one of our buddies who we smoked dope with came i n from the bottom of the s t a i r s and saw t h i s b i r d t h e r e . . . a n d pushes i t out onto the s treet , and the b i r d f l i e s away. That summer that that b i r d came to my house. . . two more b i r d s came i n . A few weeks l a t e r I had t h i s woman over who I got to be my sponsor, and t h i s b i r d flew i n while she was there , and the b i r d landed r i g h t on her head. And then another time t h i s s eagu l l came i n , and the seagul l had a broken wing." Descr ib ing the experience J u l i e sa id , "It was a m i r a c l e . To me i t was l i k e an answer to a prayer. I asked for help and I got i t . " At the time of our interview i t had been two-and-a -ha l f years since the experience, and J u l i e had been clean and sober for a year-and-a-hal f . Ana lys i s I w i l l s t a r t by discuss ing three of the events wi th in J u l i e ' s experience i n more d e t a i l . The f i r s t event i s the statement by her boyfr iend, "You're jus t l i k e a b i r d i n the house" (see paragraph 7 i n J u l i e ' s s t o r y ) . This seemed to p r e c i p i t a t e an experience that had elements of both a peak experience and peak performance (Pr ivet te , 1983). The second event i s her prayer (para. 9) which seemed to p r e c i p i t a t e a peak experience. The t h i r d event i s the b i r d showing up i n her apartment (para. 11) which again seemed to p r e c i p i t a t e a peak experience. I w i l l examine these three ' p r e c i p i t a t i n g ' events i n more depth, then discuss (a) what J u l i e considered to be the most e s s e n t i a l elements of the experience, (b) the short-term e f fec t s of her experience, (c) the long-term e f f e c t s , and (d) 27 the experience as a whole. Symbolic statement: "You're just l i k e a b i r d i n the house." When her boyfriend compared her to a ' b i r d i n the house' J u l i e received a shock (para. 7). She described having goose bumps and wanting to run and hide . She took her gu i tar along with her into the other room "as protect ion" from the i n t e n s i t y of what she was experiencing. She sa id that as she wrote down the words of the song, the knowledge that she was going to break up with her boyfriend and t r y to change her l i f e " s o l i d i f i e d and became stronger." However, at t h i s point she s t i l l had no confidence that changing her l i f e was p o s s i b l e . What follows i s a more de ta i l ed d e s c r i p t i o n of what she was experiencing. "It was the goose bumps. I t was almost l i k e a l l of a sudden I saw things d i f f e r e n t l y . Everything looked d i f f e r e n t . I t was e i ther l i k e somebody had changed a l i g h t bulb and put a d i f f e r e n t colour in or something. And I f e l t calm a c t u a l l y . . . i t was almost l i k e d e s p a i r . . . surrender. I had to be alone and th ink about the res t of my l i f e . " J u l i e sa id that af ter her boyfr iend's statement there was what seemed l i k e a long pause during which she experienced the goose bumps. "They were the truest words that had ever been s a i d . I t f e l t almost l i k e I was hypnotized, everything for the next couple of days was l i k e a dream almost. Everything that I looked at was p a i n f u l . Beaut i fu l things were 10 times more b e a u t i f u l and 10 times more p a i n f u l , and things that were 28 ugly were 10 times u g l i e r and 10 times more p a i n f u l . " J u l i e described a "painful c l a r i t y " of perceptions. J u l i e f e l t that i n some way she was not i n charge of h e r s e l f at t h i s time. "I f e l t almost l i k e I was a robot that had been reprogrammed. I wasn't doing i t . " I asked who was doing i t . J u l i e r e p l i e d , "God?" When I asked whether t h i s was something outside or something that was a part of her she added, "It f e l t l i k e the very rea les t part of me that there was. " Transcending an egocentric view: The prayer . When she got home J u l i e thought to herse l f "If I go back to d r i n k i n g , none of t h i s w i l l mean anything." She s t i l l had the c l a r i t y (everything was "too r e a l " ) , and f e l t l i k e she was hypnotized. Slowly the c l a r i t y began to "crumble," and she despaired because she was unable to maintain i t . She a l ternated cry ing and praying for about an hour, f i n a l l y th ink ing that "I'm jus t an a l c o h o l i c , there i s no r e a l person under here." This led to a " to ta l surrender." J u l i e was face down on the carpet and prayed the "most wholehearted prayer of my l i f e . " She s a i d , "I can ' t do t h i s by myself, you've got to do t h i s for me." Here, the peace washed over her. I t was "sort of l i k e the c l a r i t y , but n i c e r . " She sa id that a f e l t knowledge came into her that "everything i s going to be o k a y . . . l i k e someone e l se i s t e l l i n g me and I bel ieved them" [When I asked i f t h i s meant short-term or long-term she sa id the sense was that things would be okay i n d e f i n i t e l y ] . At t h i s , she "relaxed a l l over." 29 She sa id she could "sense the beauty and the order i n the universe . That beauty and order existed for me. I was a part of i t today, r i g h t here and now, and that t o l d me i t was going to be a l r i g h t . " In the morning, the c l a r i t y , r e l i e f and peace were gone. There were jus t twinges l e f t . She had proof that these f ee l ings had been r e a l in the song that she had w r i t t e n , but wondered, "How i s t h i s going to a f fec t the re s t of my l i f e ? " She sa id that she f e l t g u i l t y about d r i n k i n g , l i k e she was " s h i t t i n g on whoever gave me that g i f t . " That afternoon there was the phone c a l l , and the b i r d s t r o l l e d i n . Synchronic i ty : The b i r d i n the house. At t h i s point I should mention that for the b i r d to come i n to J u l i e ' s s tudio , i t had to enter the bu i ld ing from a busy downtown s t ree t , go up a s t a i r c a s e , across a landing, up another shorter s t a i r c a s e , then down a h a l l and into her p lace . There were no other windows or doors that had been open i n the b u i l d i n g ( J u l i e checked), so t h i s was the only poss ib le route . The b i r d looked l i k e a sparrow only smaller and jus t walked calmly across the carpet , "as i f i t owned the p lace ." J u l i e ' s f i r s t react ion was shock, "my jaw l i t e r a l l y drops ." The goose bumps were back again, and she was could not hear the voice on the phone or speak. This was d i f f e r e n t again from the other experiences. This was "awe." The a lcoho l she had drunk f e l t "disgusting" ins ide , and she remembered wanting i t out of her. There was the c l a r i t y of 30 the day before "times 10," and d i s b e l i e f . She had the r e a l i z a t i o n that "things ins ide of us can a f fec t the e n t i r e universe , and the ent i re universe i t ' s l i k e i t ' s a two-way s t r e e t . I was jus t t h i s t i n y l i t t l e part of an e n t i r e symbiotic th ing that was.. .way, way, bigger than me. I was l i k e humbled by the workings of the world, the universe . I t was l i k e having the most amazing surpr ise jus t for you. The joy was so much bigger than anything tha t ' s e a r t h l y . " The f e e l i n g lasted for a few hours afterwards, and J u l i e sa id that she f e l t , "overwhelmed," "undeserving," and "a b i t manic." She also f e l t t e r r i f i e d "because I knew that my l i f e could never be the same." The sense of joy from the experience remained longer than the other sensations and perceptions ( l a s t ing about two months), and the "rest of the world has slowly seeped back i n . " J u l i e went to her f i r s t A l c o h o l i c s Anonymous meeting the very next day. Most e s sen t ia l part of the experience. "The b i r d showing up. Because i t was tangible and r e a l and i t was outs ide of myself, and yet i t appeared connected to what was going on r i g h t ins ide of me. I t was l i k e the outside world connecting with the ins ide me, and showing that there was some sor t of symbiotic th ing going on there. I wanted to p a r t i c i p a t e , I wanted to do r i g h t by the God that created that mirac le for me. And I was a f r a i d of the resu l t s i f I d i d n ' t . [I thought] t h i s i s your chance to get out of h e l l . . . y o u bet ter take i t . " J u l i e a l so noted that i f t h i s had not been set up by the 31 boyfr i end ' s statement then i t would not have he ld any p a r t i c u l a r meaning. Short-term changes. In the very short-term J u l i e experienced an intense c l a r i t y to her perceptions and a f e e l i n g of interconnect ion, of being a small part of a larger ordered whole. J u l i e also stated that she f e l t joyous and free a f t er her experience. I t seems she was freed of her percept ion of herse l f as someone who had to dr ink everyday, and was now free to explore new p o s s i b i l i t i e s for h e r s e l f and her l i f e . The f ee l ing of joy stayed very tang ib ly with her for about two months, but as she sa id above, "the r e s t of the world has slowly seeped back i n . " That joy has not however-disappeared e n t i r e l y , and seemed to remain as a quiet background to her present l i f e . Other short-term changes besides s t a r t i n g to attend A l c o h o l i c s Anonymous meetings were that she broke of f her r e l a t i o n s h i p , got a job, s tarted w r i t i n g songs, and that she f e l t l i k e there was "a r e a l me." Long-term changes. Since the experience J u l i e has i n p a r t i c u l a r been "trying to f ind the r e a l me." She s a i d : "I'm part of the b ig huge whole. What I do af fects the e n t i r e universe . Now, I know that . And I have to get t h i s p a r t i c u l a r piece of machinery working as wel l as poss ib le for the good of the whole." Previous ly , J u l i e had been concerned mainly with h e r s e l f . Since the experience, she has gradual ly become concerned about a l l th ings . J u l i e sa id that she 32 perceives things i n a d i f f eren t way now, she sees connections and ' co inc idences . ' Everything to her i s connected, b e a u t i f u l , and miraculous. Being able to see i n t h i s way "sustains" her. She sa id that her emotional muddles are now often r e f l e c t e d symbol ical ly i n her environment. Other long-term changes have been an explorat ion of values , r e - exp lora t ion of r e l i g i o n (beginning with Catho l i c i sm) , and becoming employed i n crea t ive f i e l d s (act ing , s ing ing , w r i t i n g ) . Discuss ion . Several elements form a background to J u l i e ' s experience. She had (a) a s i g n i f i c a n t personal problem, (b) a recogni t ion the problem ex is ted , (c) a w i l l ingnes s to attempt to change, (d) an openness to a symbolic dimension i n experiences, (e) a s p i r i t u a l nature, (f) an awareness of her own morta l i ty , and (g) a moderate l e v e l of emotional d i s t r e s s about the problem that increased i n s e v e r i t y as the experience progressed. These background elements seem to have played a ro l e in s e t t ing the stage for her problem-solving experience. For an out l ine of the experience, see Figure 1. As counse l lors , we can recognize the importance of the f i r s t three of these in the overcoming of personal problems. Obviously , i f a person has no problem to begin with they w i l l not need help with i t . A l so , i f the person i s unaware of the problem, or i s not attempting to change, the problem-solving process becomes much more d i f f i c u l t . J u l i e was aware that she 33 had a problem with drugs and a l coho l , and wanted to change. Background elements s i g n i f i c a n t r e c o g n i t i o n o f attempts t o open t o s y m b o l i c problem problem change d i m e n s i o n i n e x p e r i e n c e s p i r i t u a l awareness o f d i s t r e s s about n a t u r e m o r t a l i t y problem 4. 1 Experience J u l i e ' s l i f e and s e l f c l o s i n g i n (no j o b , low s e l f - e s t e e m ) i-s y m b o l i c statement by b o y f r i e n d ; shock ("you're j u s t l i k e a b i r d i n t h e h o u s e " ) * A c o n f u s i o n ( l a t e r by h e r s e l f a t her apartment) I d e s p a i r ( J u l i e paces, c r i e s , and p r a y s ) 1 s u r r e n d e r (she p r a y s her l i f e ' s most h e a r t f e l t p r a y e r ) * * i c o n f u s i o n (next morning; phone c a l l from b o y f r i e n d ) 4. s y n c h r o n i c i t y (the b i r d appears i n J u l i e ' s a p a r t m e n t ) * * A t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o f s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e - w o r l d ( J u l i e sees h e r s e l f as p a r t o f an i n t e r d e p e n d e n t u n i v e r s e ; b e g i n s t o work f o r t h e b e n e f i t o f t h e whole; becomes more aware o f symbolic e x p e r i e n c e s i n her l i f e ) I g r e a t e r happiness w i t h s e l f and l i f e - c i r c u m s t a n c e s (became c l e a n and sober; c r e a t i v e a g a i n ; employed i n f i e l d s o f i n t e r e s t ) * Peak e x p e r i e n c e / P e a k performance ** Peak e x p e r i e n c e Figure 1. A conceptual map of J u l i e ' s experience. 34 This was apparent from the fact that she stated i t as such during the interview. J u l i e had a l so , on two occasions , made choices that helped her avoid easy access to a l coho l and drugs She once chose to spend time on a fire-watchtower with a f r i e n d who d i d n ' t abuse, and she had also turned down a high paying job i n a resor t area. J u l i e stated that even before the experience she had thought often about supers t i t ions and luck, and we can see from her story that she re la ted e a s i l y with the symbolic . This f o r t h background element, an openness to a symbolic dimension i n experience, also re la tes back to what was discussed i n the l i t e r a t u r e review. The authors quoted there f e l t that openness to the extraordinary i n experience played a part i n the occurrence of extraordinary experiences. In two l i t e r a t u r e reviews of process and outcome research with psychotherapy (Orl insky, Grave & Parks, 1994; Or l insky & Howard, 1986), c l i e n t openness (vs. defensiveness) was r e l a t e d to a p o s i t i v e outcome for therapy i n over 80 percent of the studies reviewed, and "was the most cons i s tent ly p o s i t i v e c o r r e l a t e of therapeutic outcome that [was] surveyed" (Orl insky & Howard, 1986, p. 366). Having a s p i r i t u a l nature, the f i f t h element, i s obviously a s i g n i f i c a n t part of J u l i e ' s experience. J u l i e sa id that she used to pray to God on occasion for h e r s e l f and others to t e s t i f prayers "worked." She sa id that sometimes they seemed to , but for the most part her f a i t h was confused because her Catho l i c upbringing had "lef t a bad tas te i n my mouth." Having a s p i r i t u a l nature can mean d i f f e r e n t things depending on one's s p i r i t u a l b e l i e f s . I t may mean that one allows for the p o s s i b i l i t y of d iv ine guidance or i n t e r v e n t i o n , or that one bel ieves that the d iv ine aspect of the whole can manifest i n one's l i f e . I t may also simply mean that one i s more open to d i f f e r e n t p o s s i b i l i t i e s i n experience. While a complete d i scuss ion of s p i r i t u a l i t y i s beyond the scope of t h i s paper, i t i s a s i g n i f i c a n t element i n t h i s experience. The s i x t h element, the awareness of one's own m o r t a l i t y (para. 7) , i s something that often leads an i n d i v i d u a l to be r e f l e c t i v e about themselves and t h e i r l i f e (Yalom, 1980). S e l f - r e f l e c t i o n can set the stage for personal change, and perhaps that was part of what happened for J u l i e . An awareness of morta l i ty i s stressed as e s sen t ia l to 'authent ic being' i n the e x i s t e n t i a l or i enta t ion to counse l l ing (May, 1983; van Deurzen-Smith, 1988; Yalom, 1980). I t a l so plays a s i g n i f i c a n t r o l e in helping students of Buddhism with the process of taming the mind i n order to perceive i t s true nature (Patrul Rinpoche, 1994). The l a s t element, l e v e l of d i s t r e s s , was included because of my f e l t sense that i t played a part i n the occurrence of t h i s experience. J u l i e ' s l e v e l of d i s t re s s seemed to have a r o l e i n overcoming b a r r i e r s to the experience. I t seemed to f a c i l i t a t e the surrender that took place , perhaps by wearing 36 out res i s tance to surrender (see Transcending an egocentric view: The p r a y e r . ) . Some wr i ters f ee l that d i s t re s s plays an important r o l e i n motivat ing a person towards change (Janis & Mann, 1982; M i l l e r & R o l l n i c k , 1991). There are also trends i n the process and outcome research l i t e r a t u r e to f i n d that d i s t r e s s precedes p o s i t i v e change, although these f indings are not conclus ive (Orl insky & Howard, 1986). With these background elements i n p lace , I w i l l turn now to the experience i t s e l f . From J u l i e ' s story i t i s apparent that she f e l t her l i f e and her s e l f ' c l o s i n g i n ' (para. 5-6). Just as her options and freedom were disappearing from her ' e x t e r n a l ' l i f e , so too were her c r e a t i v i t y and self-esteem disappearing from her ' i n n e r ' l i f e . This was a s i t u a t i o n e s p e c i a l l y conducive to s e l f and l i f e examination. Given J u l i e ' s s tate at the time, the marriage proposal was l i k e having the door slammed shut on a cage. This was followed by her boyfr iend's symbolic statement which shocked her, and provided her with a representat ion of herse l f that resonated (para. 7) . Shock i s recognizable as an event that can stop us i n our tracks and cut through the workings of our conscious mind. I t can a lso precede personal t r a n s i t i o n s or growth, perhaps by al lowing space for input from the unconscious, or perhaps by opening us up to d i f f e r e n t p o s s i b i l i t i e s i n some other way. Here, we also see J u l i e r e l a t i n g to the symbolic nature of the statement. As was mentioned in the l i t e r a t u r e review, F r i c k 37 (1990) f e l t that the recogni t ion of a symbolic element i n experience can lead to sudden personal growth. What followed were a l tered sensations and perceptions c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of a peak experience (see Symbolic statement: "You're jus t l i k e a b i r d i n the house."), a sense that she was not h e r s e l f (and yet was the trues t s e l f of a l l ) , and a peak performance of 'automatic' songwriting. Here though, J u l i e was pro tec t ing herse l f from the experience (see Symbolic statement: "You're jus t l i k e a b i r d i n the house."). In part t h i s may have been that she d id not f e e l completely at ease opening to the experience in her boyfr iend's house. I t a l so may have been due to her being overwhelmed by the experience's i n t e n s i t y . This part of her experience seemed to loosen up her concept of s e l f and r e a l i t y , to open up the p o s s i b i l i t y of new paths i n her l i f e , and to pave the way for what was to fo l low. This new way of be ing/perce iv ing faded and J u l i e mourned i t s loss ( in her story t h i s occurs between paragraphs 8 and 9; i t i s described i n Transcending an egocentric view: The p r a y e r . ) . Despair over herse l f , her s i t u a t i o n , and her i n a b i l i t y to change soon followed. Her d i s t r e s s l e v e l rose markedly, and over the course of the evening she became e m o t i o n a l l y / e x i s t e n t i a l l y exhausted. Face down on the carpet she surrendered (para. 9) and prayed her l i f e ' s most wholehearted prayer . Surrender and prayer are of course time-honoured methods 38 of p r e c i p i t a t i n g an experience of the Div ine . Jung (1969) a lso states that an admission that a problem i s beyond one's own resources to solve musters the "helpful powers" (p. 21) of the unconscious. The research l i t e r a t u r e on prayer i s sketchy and somewhat c o n f l i c t i n g , but there seems to be a trend towards f ind ing that having prayer experiences (myst ical - type experiences during prayer) and engaging i n meditat ive or contemplative prayer are re la ted to higher scores on measures of we l l -be ing and purpose i n l i f e ( C a r r o l l , 1993; Finney & Malony, 1985; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Richards , 1991) . Through t h i s time of prayer and surrender, J u l i e somehow transcended an egocentric view and understanding of h e r s e l f and her r e l a t i o n with the world. Transcending an egocentr ic view i s c r u c i a l to an experience of the d iv ine i n a C a t h o l i c s p i r i t u a l path (McBrien, 1981), and c r u c i a l to experiencing the true nature of r e a l i t y i n a Tibetan Buddhist s p i r i t u a l path (Dalai Lama, 1992). What followed t h i s were a sense of peace, a f e l t knowledge, and a f ee l ing of interconnect ion with the beauty and order of a l l things (see Transcending an egocentric view: The p r a y e r . ) . These are a l l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of a s p i r i t u a l or peak experience. J u l i e experienced an interdependence of phenomena, and t h i s i s a bas ic tenet of many r e l i g i o n s and s p i r i t u a l paths. Recent d i scover ies i n a var ie ty of s c i e n t i f i c f i e l d s ( e . g . , phys ic s , chemistry, and genetics) also leads some s c i e n t i s t s to theor ize that "the universe must be fundamentally i n d i v i s i b l e . . . i n which the observer cannot be e s s e n t i a l l y separated out from the observed" (Briggs & Peat, 1989, p. 29). Some psycholog ica l theor i s t s share a s i m i l a r viewpoint . For example George K e l l y (1955a) viewed the universe as ' i n t e g r a l ' and sa id that , "By that we mean i t funct ions as a s i n g l e un i t with a l l i t s imaginable parts having an exact r e l a t i o n s h i p to each other" (p. 6). Jung (1960e) hypothesized that mind and matter may be of the same ult imate nature, d i f f e r e n t aspects of one phenomenon. Sprinkle (1985) speculated the mind may funct ion as a hologram, with each i n d i v i d u a l mind able to r e f l e c t the whole. J u l i e ' s new awareness faded over the next few hours (para. 9-10; Transcending an egocentric view). She was l e f t with the memory of a wonderful experience and a song to prove i t had happened. However, at t h i s point she was s t i l l unable to env i s ion a l i f e without dr ink ing (para. 9-10). Again i t seems that these events loosened and expanded her idea of s e l f and r e a l i t y , but were not s u f f i c i e n t for the growth of a new s e l f and l i f e . An occurrence of synchronic i ty i s what f i n a l l y sets her new awareness f i rmly (see Synchronic i ty: The b i r d i n the house). Her i n t e r n a l state represented symbol ica l ly as a ' b i r d i n the house' manifests i n front of her as a bird in the house. Another peak (or s p i r i t u a l ) experience fo l lows , t h i s one character ized by aesthet ic shock, a l t ered sensations and percept ions , interdependence with a l l th ings , joy , and a f e l t 40 knowledge. J u l i e sa id that she knew her l i f e would be d i f f e r e n t from then on. During the course of her experience J u l i e underwent severa l changes i n her perceptions of herse l f and the external world. The changes i n perception were accompanied by changes i n her act ions and i n her or i en ta t ion towards h e r s e l f and l i v i n g . These have gradual ly t rans la ted into changes i n her circumstances. These changes i n J u l i e ' s view of herse l f and her r e l a t i o n s with her environment are s i m i l a r to a counse l l ing process of having c l i e n t s explore t h e i r construct ions of themselves and the world, helping them a l t e r maladaptive cons truct ions , and f i n a l l y encouraging the development of new ways of i n t e r a c t i n g with t h e i r world based on the new construct ions . The effect iveness of t h i s process has been documented i n the research l i t e r a t u r e (Ke l ly , 1955; M a r t i n , 1992; R ice , 1992; Toukmanian, 1992). For a l i s t of the s i g n i f i c a n t elements of the experience please see Table 1. 41 Table 1 S i g n i f i c a n t Elements in J u l i e ' s Experience 1. S i g n i f i c a n t problem. 2. Recognit ion of problem. 3. Attempts to change. 4. Open to a symbolic dimension i n experience. 5. S p i r i t u a l nature. 6. Awareness of own m o r t a l i t y . 7. D i s tress about problem -moderate to severe. 8. Sense of l i f e c lo s ing i n . 9. Symbolic statement by another. 10. Shock. 11. Surrender. 12. Prayer. 13. Loss of egocentric view. 14. Interdependence of a l l th ings . 15. Synchronic i ty . 16. Peak experience. 17. Peak performance. 18. Change i n view of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e -world. 42 John's Experience 1 John was a r e t i r e d 64 year-o ld man i n exce l l ent heal th who engaged i n volunteer work to improve the l i v e s of others . He was born i n Jamaica and grew up as a member of a poor fami ly . John had a brother and two s i s t e r s and l i v e d with h i s grandmother "and a whole bunch of other ch i ldren" i n a small v i l l a g e u n t i l he was ten. His father was i n the m i l i t a r y and h i s mother l i v e d and worked i n Kingston (at a f a c t o r y ) . John had infrequent contact with h i s mother u n t i l he moved i n with her ( in Kingston) when he was 11, and almost no contact with h i s father u n t i l he was 18. He worked as a p o l i c e o f f i c e r for four years i n Jamaica, then emigrated to the United States when he was 22. 2 During h i s adult l i f e in the United States he became success ful i n business. John sa id that although married at the time he was addicted to "intoxicant sex" and saw nothing wrong with having mistresses , as he f e l t that i t was jus t something that men d i d . He sa id that as a c h i l d and as a young man he saw the women around him taken for granted and viewed as objects of pleasure by the older men, so he too took on that conceptual izat ion of women. Looking back at that time he stated that although he was f i n a n c i a l l y success fu l , he was "dead s p i r i t u a l l y . " 3 John sa id that two years p r i o r to h i s experience h i s best f r i e n d d i ed . This was the ca ta lys t for an examination of how he was l i v i n g . At that time he was having "alcohol trouble" and experiencing numerous health problems, such as high blood pressure , rashes, aches and pains , loose teeth , kidney t r o u b l e , and poor bladder c o n t r o l . He thought that he honestly might not l i v e another year. He d id not however change h i s behaviour. 4 What d i d enable John to change was h i s wife " t e l l i n g me the t r u t h about myself." One night she sa id to John that she was leav ing him, and t o l d him that , "I won't watch you k i l l that c h i l d wi th in you." John reported that the statement t r iggered something, and that from that moment everything was d i f f e r e n t . "I f e l t l i k e I had died , something i n me ceased to e x i s t . " John described that something as an e g o i s t i c , s e l f -centred viewpoint, what he c a l l e d "s in fu l t h i n k i n g . " 5 He s a i d , "I f e l t l i k e a car that i s going towards a wal l at 120 miles per hour, [which] knows that i t i s going to crash but there i s nothing i t can do about i t , [then] crashes and gets put back together again. In a sp l i t - s econd I was a brand new person." John also stated that i n that moment he for the f i r s t time had t r u l y f e l t another person's pa in , and that pain had k i l l e d h i s " s in fu l nature." 6 A f t e r t h i s experience, John sa id that he c r i e d for three months. "I prayed night and d a y . . . I watched my whole l i f e , and my l i f e was a l l l i e s . I sa id to myself I can ' t l i v e l i k e t h i s any more. I went through tremendous se l f -examinat ion . I had to l e a r n , to love, to l i v e . And that sweet l i t t l e boy came to l i f e to be a brother for humanity and accumulating 44 treasures i n heaven." Ana lys i s John's interview was not tape-recorded thus a l l the information comes from notes taken during the interview. His experience centres around the statement by h i s wife and what fol lows i t . Therefore, I w i l l examine the e f fec ts of t h i s statement i n more d e t a i l , followed by (a) the most e s s e n t i a l part of the experience, (b) short-term changes, (c) long-term changes, and (d) a d i scuss ion . Symbolic statement: "I won't watch you k i l l that c h i l d . " In the moments a f ter h i s wife 's statement, John describes a r a p i d transformation. He states that h i s s e l f - c e n t r e d view of the world ' d i e d ' within him, and i n essence a l o t of who he was as a person also died at that time. He sa id that i n the moment a f t er h i s wife 's statement he "tru ly f e l t the pain of another [his w i fe ] ." From then on he was open to others and the pain of others . He sa id that "the next morning the s e t t i n g was f a m i l i a r [By t h i s he meant the same house, furnish ings e t c . ] , but everything seemed strange. I was vu lnerable , I f e l t l i k e a l i t t l e c h i l d . " John stated that everything looked d i f f e r e n t , and f e l t d i f f e r e n t l y ( i . e . , the emotional tone and i n t u i t i v e f e l t sense of h i s surroundings were d i f f e r e n t ) . Most e s sen t ia l part of the experience. John stated that i t was h i s wife t e l l i n g him the t ruth about himself . Short-term changes. The three-month per iod of intense 45 se l f -examinat ion (para. 6 ) . Long-term chancres. As was wri t ten above, r i g h t a f t e r h i s wi fe ' s statement John lo s t h i s egocentric focus and o r i e n t a t i o n towards l i v i n g . Therefore, with the exception of the three-month period of se l f -examination, a l l the changes were long-term changes. He became able to put h i s new o r i e n t a t i o n into words as fol lows; "What can I do to improve myself, and i n the process improve a l l things?" He sa id he learned that our mind creates our experience, and as such we reap what we sow. "Sinful" thought [ i . e . , thought or iented towards s e l f and s e l f - g a i n or protect ion] creates misery for the s e l f and misery i n the world, while "clean and pure" thought [ i . e . , thought oriented towards improving the s e l f and crea t ing happiness for others] leads to happiness for a l l creatures . I t had been over ten years s ince h i s experience at the time of the interview and John was obviously s t i l l working hard to ensure h i s thoughts were clean and pure. John f e l t that l i f e i s never s t a t i c . He sa id that we are moving towards death or l i f e every moment, not i n the sense of a progress ion of time, but as a progression of consciousness. John stated that he no longer feared death. He s a i d , "Death i s n ' t the box, i t i s in our consciousness." However, he d i d lament the fac t that so many of us are e s s e n t i a l l y "walking corpses" with dead consciousnesses, that i s , consiousnesses which have a se l f - centred focus. There were four other long-term changes. One was the 46 improvement of h i s hea l th . John sa id that as he stopped worrying about "worldly things" [he also s tarted l i v i n g i n a healthy way], h i s body regained i t s health completely. A second long-term change was that other people's a t t i tudes towards him changed. John stated that as he became more open to people, people became more f r i e n d l y . A t h i r d change was that , "I cou ldn' t l i e any more, I jus t cou ldn' t do i t . " F i n a l l y , John stated that s ince h i s experience he has witnessed many miracles i n h i s l i f e , the f i r s t of which was a r e c o n c i l i a t i o n with h i s wife. He also t o l d me about an event that had occurred during a f a i r l y recent working v i s i t to Jamaica. He and h i s wife were d r i v i n g over a r i v e r on a narrow wooden bridge with no r a i l s . A truck coming the opposite d i r e c t i o n took the corner onto the bridge too qu ick ly and ended up on t h e i r s ide . A c o l l i s i o n seemed imminent. At that moment John f e l t the s teering of the car "ripped out" of h i s c o n t r o l . Their car ended up on the opposite s ide of the bridge and they passed the truck sa fe ly . John stated that he had come to r e a l i z e that there ex is ts a d iv ine guidance that you can access through your "thought process ." By t h i s he meant that miraculous events can manifest i n one's l i f e , and that guidance i s ava i lab le when one i s t r y i n g to choose a course of ac t i on . Discuss ion . The background elements i n John's experience were (a) a s i g n i f i c a n t problem, (b) recogni t ion of the problem, (c) d i s t r e s s about the problem, (d) a s p i r i t u a l 47 background, and (e) an awareness of h i s own m o r t a l i t y . For an o u t l i n e of the experience see Figure 2. Background elements s i g n i f i c a n t s p i r i t u a l d i s t r e s s abou t p r o b l e m backg round p r o b l e m r e c o g n i t i o n o f awareness o f p r o b l e m m o r t a l i t y 1 I 1 4. Experience b e g i n n i n g o f an e x a m i n a t i o n o f l i f e and s e l f ( a t t h e d e a t h o f h i s f r i e n d ) 4-s y m b o l i c s t a t e m e n t by J o h n ' s w i f e ; shock ; t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o f s e l f ( f e e l i n g h i s w i f e ' s p a i n ; a l t e r e d p e r c e p t i o n s o f s e l f and e n v i r o n m e n t ) e x a m i n a t i o n o f s e l f and l i f e ; i n t e g r a t i o n o f e x p e r i e n c e ( t h e t h r e e month c r y ) 4. c o n t i n u e d deve lopment o f new s e l f (new o r i e n t a t i o n t o ' c l e a n and p u r e ' t h o u g h t s ) Figure 2. A conceptual map of John's experience. A f t e r h i s f r i e n d ' s death, John stated that he became aware of h i s a lcoho l and health problems (elements a & b ) . He a lso became aware of h i s own morta l i ty at that time (element e ) . Although these things were emotionally d i s t r e s s i n g for him (element c ) , he d id not make attempts to change the way he was l i v i n g (para. 3 ) . Element (d), a s p i r i t u a l background, 48 springs from h i s upbringing and childhood i n Jamaica. John's experience and the elements there in defy ready c l a s s i f i c a t i o n . I t does resemble a SGE i n that he in terpre ted h i s wi fe ' s statement symbol ica l ly (that the statement was symbolic for John can be seen in h i s use of the l i t t l e boy image i n paragraph 6 of h i s s tory ) . What i s undeniable i s that John's experience was trans format iona l . The death of h i s f r i end led John to a heightened awareness of some of the problems i n h i s l i f e . He became e s p e c i a l l y aware of h i s health problems, and of h i s own m o r t a l i t y . These are elements which seem to have set the stage for h i s experience. The statement by h i s wife shocked John and brought about an instantaneous change i n h i s view of himself and h i s view of h i s r e l a t i o n to the world. He came to be l i eve i n the interdependence of a l l things (as evidenced by h i s new o r i e n t a t i o n towards l i v i n g ; see Long-term changes). What followed was an intense three month s e l f -examination. John r e a l i z e d that h i s l i f e had been " l i e s . " This was because h i s actions had been based on an inaccurate and harmful egocentric view of himself and the world. His new understanding was that he was a part of the world and a part of humanity. Therefore he wanted to act i n a way that would be of benef i t to the whole. This three month per iod of emotional d i s t r e s s and prayer seems to have been a ' s o r t i n g out' per iod where he processed h i s emotional react ions and integrated what he had r e a l i z e d . 49 His b e l i e f i n the value of t h i s new 'path' was cemented for him by h i s improvement in heal th . He stated that i t was evidence of the power of "clean and pure thought." I t demonstrated the interdependence of thought and externa l events, and mirrored John's inner transformation. Before the experience, John stated that he f e l t l i k e he was "stumbling from c r i s i s to c r i s i s . " He sa id that , "at that time everything I touched was dying ." When I asked him how he thought the change had come about, he sa id that he was not sure. He d i d f ee l that , "It was nothing I d i d . The only th ing I d i d was to give up the thought I was i n contro l" [an act of surrender] . I t was only the thought of being i n c o n t r o l that he gave up because he f e l t that i n a c t u a l i t y "I never was [ in c o n t r o l ] . " He sa id that , "If i t wants to happen i t doesn't take any e f f o r t . The res t i s ju s t my ego maybe." Table 2 shows a l i s t of the s i g n i f i c a n t elements of John's experience. 50 Table 2 S i g n i f i c a n t Elements of John's Experience 1. S i g n i f i c a n t problem. 2. Recognition of problem. 3. D i s tress about problem. 4. S p i r i t u a l background. 5. Awareness of own m o r t a l i t y . 6. Symbolic statement by another. 7. Shock. 7. Loss of egocentr ic view. 8. Change i n view of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e -world. 9. Interdependence. 10. Surrender. 11. Prayer . 12. External corroborat ion of an i n t e r n a l experience. Mark was a 4 4 year -o ld man i n good heal th who was working as a lawyer. His parents immigrated to Canada from eastern Europe a f t er world war I I , and Engl ish was the second language i n h i s house while he was growing up. When asked about h i s s p i r i t u a l b e l i e f s Mark sa id that yes, he had them, but that they were personal . Mark's experience occurred halfway through h i s f i r s t year of law school . P r i o r to returning to u n i v e r s i t y he had been working as a therapi s t s p e c i a l i z i n g in Er iksonian hypnotherapy. Mark had been out of school for 10 years when he s tar ted law school , and he found the f i r s t term very d i f f i c u l t and s t r e s s f u l . He was aware that the program would continue to be d i f f i c u l t , and f e l t daunted by the work he had l e f t to do. Af ter h i s Christmas exams Mark f e l t himself caught i n a powerful i n t e r n a l s truggle . What he termed h i s " r a t i o n a l side" t o l d him that he would be able to f i n i s h the program, and advised him to continue. His "emotional side" however t o l d him that the demands of law school were too much, and that he already had a career so the su f f er ing he was experiencing was unnecessary. This was a l e v e l of i n t e r n a l tens ion that Mark had not experienced i n h i s l i f e . He f e l t l i k e he was being "pulled apart" ins ide , and was unable to re turn to school for "one long week." At one point during t h i s week Mark went to consult a t h e r a p i s t "with no r e s u l t . " He r e a l i z e d that h i s problem was 52 to f i n d a way to integrate "my mind and my f e e l i n g s . " He sa id that f i n a l l y , "I asked for an integrat ing dream, a dream of d i r e c t i o n , and r e l i e d on the subconscious to provide an answer." Mark sa id that as a r e s u l t of h i s t r a i n i n g i n Er ikson ian hypnotherapy, "I knew the resources of the subconscious." 4 That night Mark dreamt that he was i n the dean's o f f i c e tending h i s re s ignat ion . The dean t o l d him, "I never accept these things a f ter Christmas exams in January. I get l o t s of people every January stressed out and th inking they should q u i t . " He then sa id that Mark was "doing f ine" and should "hang i n there ," and that he would not accept the l e t t e r . In the dream the scene then sh i f t ed and Mark found himself standing on a "beauti ful low stone bridge" over a creek. He looked down at the water and saw a "beaut i ful mul t i co lored b u t t e r f l y . " Mark jumped into the water and chased the b u t t e r f l y , swimming af ter i t . He stated that t h i s dream gave him "the impression that I should go [on with schoo l ] ." Mark d i d re turn to law school , and was glad that he had made t h i s choice . Ana lys i s Mark's experience was obviously very potent for him. The major element, the dream, contained both d i r e c t guidance and a number of symbolic elements. Due to the fact that the interview was f a i r l y b r i e f and by telephone, there was not enough information about the dream to write an expanded 53 a n a l y s i s . Therefore I w i l l begin t h i s sect ion with (a) what Mark f e l t to be the most e s sent ia l element of h i s experience, (b) short-term e f fec t s , (c) long-term e f fec t s , and (d) a d i s c u s s i o n . Most e s sen t ia l element of the experience. Mark stated that the part of h i s dream i n which he jumped i n the water a f t er the b u t t e r f l y was the most e s sent ia l part of h i s experience. He commented that "I needed to do i t [swim a f t e r ] . " He sa id that the b u t t e r f l y was a symbol of transformation for him, and also that by swimming a f t e r i t he had f e l t cleansed of h i s troubles . Before the dream Mark had f e l t " t e r r i b l e tens ion and pressure , a ba t t l e between mind and f ee l ings ." I f he l i s t ened to one aspect of himself the other aspect would "rebe l ." He f e l t that he had needed in tegrat ion , "which the dream prov ided ." He stated that asking for help from the subconscious had "resolved the tug of war and provided d i r e c t i o n . The c o n f l i c t d isso lved a f t er that and I succes s fu l ly f in i shed [law school] and i t ' s working out ." Short-term e f fec t s . In the morning af ter the dream Mark f e l t "c l ear ," and thought that the dream had " r e a l l y t o l d me I had to go to law school ." As was writ ten above he had missed about a week of school , but made a l i s t of the things that he needed to do and "just got to i t and r o l l e d up my s leeves ." He sa id that having that "clear d i r e c t i o n " was what he had needed. 54 Loncf-term e f fec t s . Mark stated that he has learned that c o n f l i c t s between "mind and feel ings" can be reso lved by a "sign from inner wisdom," and that t h i s usua l ly happens through dreams. He sa id that he has come to r e l y more on "clear" or " luc id" dreams for these s igns . Mark a lso f e l t that h i s experience "taught me about myself and r e l y i n g on more than mind and f e e l i n g s . I t taught me about commitment...how to s t re tch , how to grow." The experience "brought up parts of myself I needed. I was fac ing the wa l l and was forced to bring up out of myself resources . I t encouraged me to go on and f i n i s h , p r a c t i s i n g law and making a c o n t r i b u t i o n . I r e a l l y grew from the experience of law s c h o o l . . . h a d to reach down deep for the strength and resources to f i n i s h . " Discuss ion . The background elements i n Mark's experience were (a) a s i g n i f i c a n t problem, (b) recogni t ion of the problem, (c) d i s t r e s s about the problem, (d) an attempt to reso lve the dilemma, (e) s p i r i t u a l i t y , (f) an openness to 'o ther ' dimensions of experience ( i . e . , the subconscious) , and (g) an o r i e n t a t i o n to l i v i n g which was r e l a t i v e l y hon-egocentr ic . For an out l ine of the experience see Figure 3. The f i r s t s i x elements (a-f) are apparent i n Mark's s tory (para. 1-3). Element (g), a r e l a t i v e l y non-egocentric o r i e n t a t i o n to l i v i n g , comes from h i s statement to me that he enjoys and fee l s i t important to work for the benef i t of others . This was re f l ec ted in h i s l i f e 'pre-experience' by 55 him donating time and energy to various causes. Background elements r e c o g n i t i o n o f d i s t r e s s about s i g n i f i c a n t problem problem s p i r i t u a l i t y p roblem attempt t o open t o o t h e r r e l a t i v e l y r e s o l v e problem d i m e n s i o n s i n n o n - e g o c e n t r i c e x p e r i e n c e 4- I Experience i n t e r n a l t u g o f war between " r a t i o n a l " and " e m o t i o n a l " s i d e (t o f i n i s h law s c h o o l o r t o q u i t ) 4- •• e m o t i o n a l t u r m o i l and attempts a t r e s o l v i n g dilemma (examined r a t i o n a l s i d e , e m o t i o n a l s i d e ; sought h e l p from t h e r a p i s t ) 4-unable t o r e s o l v e dilemma, s t u c k i n t u r m o i l 1 s u r r e n d e r o f p r o b l e m - s o l v i n g p r o c e s s t o " s u b c o n s c i o u s " (asked f o r a dream which would p r o v i d e i n t e g r a t i o n and d i r e c t i o n ) 4 dream c o n t a i n i n g d i r e c t guidance and sym b o l i c elements ( a c t i v e p a r t i c i p a t i o n w/in dream; symbolic elements most e s s e n t i a l ) 4. r e s o l u t i o n o f i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t ( r e t u r n t o law s c h o o l ) p e r s o n a l t r a n s f o r m a t i o n ( b r i n g i n g f o r t h unused i n n e r r e s o u r c e s ) Figure 3. A conceptual map of Mark's experience. Mark's experience seems to have been p r e c i p i t a t e d by an i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t which generated severe emotional d i s t r e s s 56 wi th in him (para. 2). He t r i e d to work through h i s dilemma c o g n i t i v e l y and by l i s t e n i n g to h i s emotions, however these two aspects of himself were d i r e c t l y opposed (para. 2; Most e s s e n t i a l element of the experience). Mark a lso consulted a pro fe s s iona l without success (para. 3). Mark then asked for help from his own unconscious resources , and i n essence surrendered conscious c o n t r o l of the c o n f l i c t . What followed was a dream which resolved h i s dilemma. Dreams have provided valuable information to i n d i v i d u a l s and soc i e t i e s since ancient times and across c u l t u r e s . Dreams can contain advice for waking l i f e , c lues to sources of phys i ca l i l l n e s s , information about the future , and mater ia l for therapy (Gupta, 1971/ Piotrowski & B i e l e , 1986). Mark's dream contained both p l a i n guidance ( i . e . , the information was not symbolic) and symbolic elements, but he i d e n t i f i e d key symbolic dream elements as the most e s s e n t i a l part of h i s experience. The information provided by the dean i n h i s dream was c e r t a i n l y to the point , but Mark s tated that the symbolic part of the dream led to the in tegra t ion of h i s r a t i o n a l and emotional aspects. This allowed him to move forward with c l a r i t y (see Most e s sent ia l element of the experience) . Mark i d e n t i f i e d the but t er f l y as a symbol of transformation (see Most e s sent ia l element of the experience) and t h i s element of the dream i s presc ient of h i s personal transformation during law school (see Long-term changes). 57 Mark was an ac t ive p a r t i c i p a n t during the symbolic por t ion of h i s dream. Instead of standing and watching from the stone br idge , he jumps i n the water and swims af ter the b u t t e r f l y . I t i s through t h i s act that he fee ls "cleansed" of h i s troubles (see Most e s sent ia l element). Jung (1966c) s tated that ac t ive p a r t i c i p a t i o n with the manifestations of the unconscious i s necessary i n order to take away t h e i r power. Mark's i n t e r n a l dilemma generated emotional turmoi l that seemed to be resolved through surrendering c o n t r o l of the problem-solving process to h i s unconscious. The symbolic aspect of the 'message' from his unconscious (his dream) was what he i d e n t i f i e d as most e s sent ia l to t h i s r e s o l u t i o n . Mark's dream prompted him to return and f i n i s h law school , and he underwent a personal transformation i n the process . He seemed t r u l y gra te fu l for the parts of himself that were "brought up" as a r e s u l t of the experience. Table 3 shows a l i s t of the s i g n i f i c a n t elements of h i s experience. 58 Table 3 S i g n i f i c a n t Elements of Mark's Experience 1. S i g n i f i c a n t problem. 2. Recognition of problem. 3. D i s tres s about the problem. 4. Attempt to resolve dilemma. 5. S p i r i t u a l i t y . 6. Openness to 'other' dimensions of experience. 7. R e l a t i v e l y non-egocentr ic . 8. Surrender. 9. P e t i t i o n for he lp . 10. Dream. 11. Symbolic and non-symbolic message. 12. Integrat ion of r a t i o n a l and emotional aspects of s e l f . 13. Change i n view of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e - w o r l d . 59 Paul ' s experience 1 Paul was a 55 year -o ld mental health pro fe s s iona l who was i n good p h y s i c a l hea l th . He was born and r a i s e d i n the United States , and had one older s i s t e r . His mother was a homemaker, and h i s father an av ia t ion a r c h i t e c t . Paul came to Canada as a young man to pursue an educational opportunity . He stayed when he was offered work, and eventual ly became a n a t u r a l i z e d Canadian c i t i z e n . Paul was married to the woman whose experience fo l lows, had two c h i l d r e n , and was a p r a c t i s i n g Buddhist . 2 Paul ' s experience "wasn't a s ing le po int , i t was a ser ies of events." He stated that what resolved the problems he had been experiencing was a ser ies of decis ions he made i n r e l a t i o n to the events i n h i s l i f e at the time, and the r e s u l t s of those dec i s ions . 3 Pau l ' s problem had both "emotional" and " s p i r i t u a l " aspects to i t . He stated that h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p with h i s wife at the time "had become more and more d i f f i c u l t over the years . P a r a l l e l to that there was a need that I had to be ac t ive s p i r i t u a l l y [Paul f e l t compelled to p r a c t i c e semi-s e c r e t l y because h i s wife d id not approve . ] . Paul s a i d that he had been "working long hours i n a s t r e s s f u l p o s i t i o n with a non-pro f i t soc ie ty ." He had taken on the job of making the soc ie ty f i n a n c i a l l y s table within a years time, and was tense and preoccupied at home as a r e s u l t . He s tated that h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p with h i s wife deter iorated during t h i s t ime. 60 Paul s a i d , "What brought everything to a c r i s i s f or me was the fac t that my wife l e f t . " Paul stated t h i s was a "surprise to me" and the "last straw i n a ser ies of s t r e s s f u l events." He s a i d , "I found myself not able to funct ion anymore. 1 1 The s p i r i t u a l prac t i ce Paul had been doing was a Tibetan Buddhist meditation prac t i ce of Red Tara , "a f e m a l e . . . d e i t y p r a c t i c e . This p a r t i c u l a r embodiment of energy i s a compassionate embodiment of energy." He was "prac t i s ing r e g u l a r l y and had also appl ied to do a Dzogchen r e t r e a t [a more advanced type of pract ice] that winter ." Paul s tated that he had been accepted even though he had not completed the p r e l i m i n a r i e s that are usual ly required . He sa id that t h i s "kind of sets the stage because I was under a l o t of s t r e s s , I was missing my w i f e . . . t h e society was s t i l l not breaking even, and I was p r a c t i s i n g hard i n my s p i r i t u a l p r a c t i c e . " Paul sa id that he devised a plan to have the board of governors of the society lay him of f . This would allow him to do the r e t r e a t and then "come back and do whatever. A l l I needed to br ing the budget up to par . . .was b a s i c a l l y the equivalent of my s a l a r y . " He made a proposal o u t l i n i n g how the organizat ion would be able to funct ion without a d i r e c t o r , and c i t i n g personal problems, asked to be l a i d o f f to be able to c o l l e c t unemployment insurance. The board agreed to t h i s . Paul stated that at "this point the f i r s t of some events happens. I was i n the parking l o t to the condo apartment 61 where I was l i v i n g , and there were these guys next door who were a lso i n the parking l o t i n t h e i r car , and I d i d n ' t r e a l l y know them hardly at a l l . We'd kept d i f f e r e n t schedules, but they were construct ion guys and they were kinda rowdy and very f r i e n d l y and we jus t happened to be parking our cars at the same time. They were saying 'wel l how would you l i k e to go to the bar? ' I thought wel l why not, I ' l l go to the bar. So we a l l went to the bar together i n t h e i r car . W e l l , i t turned out t h i s was a s t r ipper bar. I got i n there and we were having some d r i n k s , and t h i s black s t r i p p e r came on and for some reason she looked to me as i f she were Tara . So a l l of a sudden i t was, I was s i t t i n g i n t h i s bar ge t t ing drunk and here was Tara dancing away, and I d i d n ' t r e a l l y know what to make of t h i s . 7 Somehow that experience i n that bar t rans f igured some s t u f f f or me that then got worked out over the next severa l months. Rather than focussing on going down to that Dzogchen r e t r e a t , which as i t turns out I probably . . .was very much not ready to go to , I instead struck up a r e l a t i o n s h i p with the person who was the secretary of the soc ie ty . . .who was f i l l i n g i n part - t ime for our regular person." Paul sa id that the r e l a t i o n s h i p s tarted get t ing "intense jus t about the time I was supposed to head down for t h i s Dzogchen r e t r e a t , " and he decided not to go. This r e la t i onsh ip "lasted s ix or e ight months." 8 A f t e r t h i s Paul stated that he moved into a group boarding house because he was now on unemployment insurance. There he had time to th ink, and i t was a supportive atmosphere. He f e l t l i k e he was s t a r t i n g to hea l . Then, another "movie I had to go see" takes p lace , and Paul became involved i n another r e l a t i o n s h i p . This one was a lso shor t -term. He sa id that i n both re la t ionsh ips there had been a "kind of fantasy vocabulary and fantasy set of va lues ." In both cases, "I worked hard to foo l myself that t h i s was a good th ing that was happening." A f t e r t h i s second re la t i onsh ip ended Paul agreed to look a f t er an acquaintance's son at her home on one of the Gulf Is lands i n B r i t i s h Columbia, while she t r i e d to s t a r t a business i n Vancouver. He was there for about s ix months. He sa id that there were few demands on him, and a great deal of time to "sort out my s p i r i t u a l s t u f f . . . m y r e l a t i o n s h i p s t u f f . " He began two meditation p r a c t i c e s , one "phys ica l ly demanding" and the other "gentle" and "aff irming." Paul s a i d , "That combination seemed to c l ear me out r e a l good." Paul s tated that through these pract ices he r e a l i z e d that he was s t i l l "holding on" to h i s r e la t i onsh ip with the secretary i n some way. Then, "there came a day when I was r e a l l y c l e a r . . . t h a t I was done with i t , I was l e t t i n g i t go, and that was tha t . "Within a couple of days of having had that e x p e r i e n c e . . . I got a phone c a l l from a buddy l i n i n g me up with a b l i n d date ." The person he met on t h i s date became h i s present wife . Paul sa id that since meeting h is wife, h i s "re la t ionsh ip 63 problems and s p i r i t u a l problems have a l l b a s i c a l l y been taken care of ." He stated that the emotional problem was one of "not f e e l i n g connected with anybody. Meeting [his present w i f e ] , a l l that d i sappeared . . . tha t problem [and the s p i r i t u a l problem] disappeared suddenly." Ana lys i s Paul ' s experience contained several events that can be explored fur ther . These are (a) the co inc identa l meeting and subsequent dec i s ion to go to the bar with h i s neighbours, (b) perce iv ing one of the women i n the bar as a d e i t y , (c) s e l f -exp lorat ion through r e l a t i o n s h i p s , (d) overcoming an emotional problem through r e l a t i o n s h i p , and (e) overcoming a s p i r i t u a l problem through v a l i d a t i o n . Because the time frame of t h i s experience was longer than the experiences reported above, short-term and long-term changes were i n a p p l i c a b l e . Therefore, a f ter an e laborat ion of the above events, the analys i s w i l l conclude with the most e s s e n t i a l element of Paul ' s experience and a d i s c u s s i o n . Open to the unusual: A t r i p to the bar. Paul sa id that i t was "coinc identa l [I used t h i s word i n the question that preceded t h i s statement, Paul ' s use of i t may have been inf luenced by t h i s . ] that these guys were parking t h e i r cars at the same time I w a s . . . I had never met them before. I had been l i v i n g next door to them for a year and I ' d never seen them." Going to a bar was an unusual a c t i v i t y for Pau l . When I asked why he had decided to go, Paul sa id that he had f e l t 64 that he had no choice in the matter of going, "they wouldn't take no for an answer." S h i f t i n percept ion: Meeting Tara . Paul s ta ted , "When t h i s one s t r i p p e r came on I remember get t ing stopped i n my t r a c k s . That whole pattern [ i . e . , d r i n k i n g , j ok ing , watching s t r ippers ] got put on hold , and I was jus t watching with a q u a l i t y of openness I would say." In response to a question Paul s tated, "I don't know how the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n took p lace . . .when I saw her, when she came out, she seemed to be, she seemed to look l i k e Tara . I watched her kind of, I was sort of i n awe somehow. Were i t not for that t r i p to the bar I would not have got involved i n that r e l a t i o n s h i p [with the s ecre tary ] . . .because I was headed for a Dzogchen r e t r e a t . But the s t r i p p e r i n the bar k ind of s a i d , 'wel l you've got r e l a t i o n s h i p n e e d s ' . . . a n d that sort of got me th inking a l i t t l e d i f f e r e n t l y . I wasn't aware of that i n t e l l e c t u a l l y . I was scarce ly aware of that f ee l ing-wise . There might have been ten d i f f e r e n t s t r i p p e r s i n the evening when we went, and nine of them were jus t s t r i p p e r s doing t h e i r th ing , but t h i s one person seemed to me to be some sort of goddess. Something i n me changed that I was recept ive to i t t h e n . . . s o I could f i n d myself being a t trac ted to t h i s secre tary . At the time I d i d n ' t have a c lue [Paul meant that t h i s awareness had come from looking back at events, i t was not awareness he had at the t i m e . ] . I was perce iv ing 65 d i f f e r e n t l y , my needs had sh i f t ed , my p r i o r i t i e s had s h i f t e d [from a r e t r e a t to a r e l a t i o n s h i p ] . I wasn't e s p e c i a l l y aware of that s h i f t at a l l , but I was act ing out of i t . Looking back on i t i t s l i k e . . . t h e r e was a part I had to go p lay i n a p l a y . I wasn't ready for a Dzogchen re t rea t u n t i l I d i d tha t ." S e l f - e x p l o r a t i o n through r e l a t i o n s h i p s . According to Paul there were "some things that I needed to t r y . " He stated that i t was necessary to have an experience to unlearn things "I had learned at a r e a l l y basic l e v e l . " Paul ta lked about having "sold to myself" as a young man s o c i e t a l conventions and other ideas about what i s important i n a r e l a t i o n s h i p ( i . e . , the way your partner looks or behaves). What he was unlearning was "fantasies about myself" having these kinds of r e l a t i o n s h i p s . Paul sa id that before and during the r e l a t i o n s h i p s he had a personal "investment i n a way of seeing that was i n part dishonest . I had wanted those t r i p s to work and the wanting was b l i n d i n g . The impulse to kinda get c lean and c l e a r about i t was at some l e v e l recognizing that I had been dishonest ." I t involved a recogni t ion that "I want to know what's going on with myself, with myself in r e l a t i o n to the world. I want to see i f for what i t i s . " Again, he stated that t h i s was not a conscious understanding, i t was "a h int of wanting to get c l e a r . I t was l i k e honesty i t s e l f s tarted to get some momentum with me and honesty was asking for more honesty." In 66 response to a question Paul agreed that , " i t was wanting to be something that I was not" that had caused the problems. He a lso sa id that h i s wanting to get c l ear was a des i re to f i n d out who he i n fact was. In t h i s context, Paul also ta lked about the North American a t t i tude that " i f you t r y hard enough you win." He sa id that what we do not learn i s that , " i f i t a i n ' t working, screw i t . " He f e l t the l a t t e r superseded the former. Paul sa id that ge t t ing "caught up" i n events causes us problems, and that h i s two re la t ionsh ips helped him to break the pat tern of th ink ing he had to succeed by t r y i n g harder. He f e l t that i t was a l r i g h t to l e t things go when they were not working out. Overcoming an emotional problem through r e l a t i o n s h i p . Paul sa id that h i s present wife and he are "coming from a j o i n t place and not perce iv ing separateness p a r t i c u l a r l y . " I asked i f the sense was that he had transcended an egocentric view of himself , and he sa id that was not i t . They were jus t "being there together." It was "simple," and there was a "qual i ty of r e a l deep acceptance involved i n that ." I t f e l t "quite organic ." Since meeting h is present wife , the "instant s o l u t i o n [to the emotional problem] continued to grow and be what i t i s . " Overcoming a s p i r i t u a l problem through v a l i d a t i o n . Paul s a i d that the s p i r i t u a l problem "in a d i f f e r e n t way was solved from the b e g i n n i n g . . . i n that before I met [his present wife] I 67 was f e e l i n g l i k e I was working i n a vacuum with unsure r e s u l t s . " He stated that they both f e l t t h e i r s p i r i t u a l needs were "completely understood" and "validated" by each other . From t h i s sprang a "feeing of r e a l confidence" that things would work out, "and that ' s how i t ' s turned out." Paul s tated that "even though a s p i r i t u a l path i s a long th ing and you j u s t keep taking steps on i t , i t has continued to f e e l that way . . . confidence was a key ingredient for us ." Most e s sen t ia l element of the experience. Paul sa id i t was, "The motivation to t r a v e l a s p i r i t u a l path. I th ink t h a t ' s what b a s i c a l l y i s get t ing worked out i n a l l of th i s" [ e . g . , the experience i n the bar, the two r e l a t i o n s h i p s , and experiences s i n c e ] . Paul further defined t h i s motivat ion as a "sincere des ire to do something s p i r i t u a l l y , s incere des i re to connect with people who are s p i r i t u a l teachers and p a r t i c i p a t e i n that energy. As I look at those events, those were o f f the wal l events, and I f ee l l i k e I was get t ing a l o t of help even though I d i d n ' t know i t at the time. I t seems to me that somebody with the a b i l i t y to see the b ig p i c t u r e was he lp ing out qui te a b i t . " I asked who that might have been. Paul answered, "I had made a connection already with several teachers. I had connected with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, with His Hol iness Karmapa." I next asked how that help would manifest . Paul r e p l i e d , "It manifested i n a ser ies of events which were, each event had the same character i n the sense that i t presented a 68 break i n my rout ine that was also an opportunity to make a d e c i s i o n to do something d i f f e r e n t . So i t ' s l i k e saying here I was the r a t headed for the Skinner bar on the 5,000,000th t r i a l you know. And something comes along you know, somebody's hand reaches i n and smashes the r a t as he's headed for the Skinner bar, and throws him into the s ide wa l l you know. And at t h i s point the ra t has an opportunity to choose to do something other than press that Skinner bar . So then you go and you do something completely d i f f e r e n t and that evolves into something, and you process one of your t r i p s . And you know the b ig hand comes down and whaps you in to the wa l l again and then you can say, 'oh, I don't have to be on t h i s t r i p , I could do something completely d i f f e r e n t , ' and so you go into another one of your t r i p s r ight? I t ' s l i k e that ." Paul f e l t these events were guidance intervent ions from h i s teachers . "You don't necessar i ly know who your teachers are , but t h a t ' s why I was saying that a person's motivat ion i s the most important th ing , because tha t ' s what connects you with whatever teachers you may have whether you've met them or not. I f we're fortunate enough to have at some l e v e l a motive that i s r e a l basic or r e a l true or r e a l h e l p f u l to other people, then that motive connects up with how things are and we experience events that help us. Our motive i n t e r a c t s with the world around us and gets re f l ec ted i n our environment. In t h i s whole process things can be r e a l l y qui te hopeful because i t doesn't matter how often you [mess] up you keep ge t t ing 69 chances. 1 1 Discuss ion . The background elements i n Pau l ' s experience were (a) a s i g n i f i c a n t problem, (b) recogni t ion of a problem, (c) d i s t r e s s about the problem, (d) s p i r i t u a l i t y , and (e) shock over h i s ex-wife leaving . These elements are a l l apparent from Paul ' s story (para. 3). For an o u t l i n e of the experience see Figure 4. The f i r s t s i g n i f i c a n t event within Paul ' s experience was the c o i n c i d e n t a l meeting with h i s neighbours, and the subsequent dec i s ion to go to the bar with them (para. 6; Open to the unusual: A t r i p to the bar) . Being open to 'unusual ' aspects of experience was discussed in the ana lys i s of J u l i e ' s s tory . Coincidence, that i s , coincidence which i s not synchron ic i ty , has not yet been discussed. This element appeared twice i n Paul ' s s tory . The f i r s t time was of course h i s meeting h i s neighbours. The second time was when he was asked to p a r t i c i p a t e i n the b l i n d date (para. 9) . A l b e r t Bandura (1986) wrote, "there i s a f or tu i tous element i n some of the events [people] may encounter i n t h e i r d a i l y l i v e s . . . i t i s such fortu i tous encounters that often play a prominent r o l e i n shaping the course of l i ve s" (p. 30). We can a l l perhaps recognize the ro l e of coincidence i n our own l i v e s , e s p e c i a l l y in how some of our s i g n i f i c a n t r e l a t i o n s h i p s or in teres t s came about. The coincidences i n Pau l ' s experience occur as i f he and h is environment were interdependent. These kinds of coincidences have throughout 70 h i s t o r y led people to wonder about the existence of God or a power greater than themselves. They have a lso been seen as evidence that r e a l i t y i s non-dua l i s t i c and interdependent. Background elements r e c o g n i t i o n o f s p i r i t u a l i t y problem d i s t r e s s about shock problem 1 I Experience c o i n c i d e n t a l meeting; engaging i n an un u s u a l a c t i v i t y (meeting and g o i n g t o bar w i t h n e i g h b o u r s ) 4. v i s i o n a r y e x p e r i e n c e ; i n t e r n a l s h i f t i n v a l u e s and p e r c e p t i o n s ( s e e i n g T a r a , s t a r t s making d i f f e r e n t c h o i c e s ) i moving through o l d c o n d i t i o n i n g ( b r i e f r e l a t i o n s h i p s ) 4 c u t t i n g t h r o u g h o l d c o n d i t i o n i n g ; emergence o f 'honest' way o f b e i n g ( m e d i t a t i o n ; l e t t i n g go o f o l d r e l a t i o n s h i p ) 4 c o i n c i d e n c e ; m a n i f e s t a t i o n of s o l u t i o n t o problem ( b l i n d date) 4 r e s o l u t i o n o f problem ( e x p e r i e n c e o f new r e l a t i o n s h i p ) Figure 4. A conceptual map of Paul ' s experience. s i g n i f i c a n t problem Another p a r a l l e l to coincidence i s found i n Harold Kelman's w r i t i n g on the Greek concept of ' K a i r o s . ' According to Kelman (1960) the ancient Greeks had two concepts of t ime. 71 One i s the l i n e a r concept that we are f a m i l i a r wi th . The other, K a i r o s , i s a 'window' that appears i n time, i n which "something unique can happen or be accomplished" (p. 233) . Kelman wrote that Kairos i s a concept equal ly a p p l i c a b l e to current t imes. He stated that i t "refers to a s p i r i t u a l event i n the l i f e h i s t o r y of an i l l n e s s be i t p h y s i c a l , p s y c h o l o g i c a l , moral, or involve confronting a whole way of having l i ved" (p. 2 67). Paul 's meeting with h i s neighbours could be seen as the fortu i tous encounter Bandura describes or as K a i r o s . At the bar, a woman appeared to Paul to be Tara , a Buddhist de i ty (para. 6; Sh i f t i n percept ion: Meeting T a r a ) . One could ascr ibe t h i s occurrence to a v i s i o n a r y experience, a p r o j e c t i o n of the anima (Jung, 1960e), or the e f fec t s of a l c o h o l . However, i rregard less of to what one ascr ibes i t , the event had a tremendous impact. Paul described something being "transfigured" within him (para. 7; S h i f t i n percept ion: Meeting T a r a ) . His p r i o r i t i e s and way of perce iv ing the world s h i f t e d i n a way he was not conscious of at the time, and r e s u l t e d i n a s i g n i f i c a n t s h i f t in the type of choices he was making ( e . g . , choosing a re la t i onsh ip over going to a r e t r e a t ) . Paul next re la ted that two re la t ionsh ips s tar ted a process which enabled him to break through some o ld patterns (para. 7-8/ Se l f - exp lora t ion through r e l a t i o n s h i p s ) . These patterns involved o ld constructions of what a d e s i r a b l e 72 r e l a t i o n s h i p was, and fantasies about himself i n t h i s k ind of r e l a t i o n s h i p . The f i n a l breakthrough was achieved during a per iod of intens ive r e f l e c t i o n and meditation i n an environment with few d i s t r a c t i o n s (para. 9) . Meditat ion i s a new element, and i s an a c t i v i t y that many people p a r t i c i p a t e i n worldwide for a v a r i e t y of reasons that range from stress reduction to s p i r i t u a l awakening. However, i t i s f i r s t and foremost a method for p r a c t i t i o n e r s to deepen t h e i r understanding of t h e i r s p i r i t u a l path (Sasaki , 1992) . Research into the ef fects of meditation has found that i t has p o s i t i v e e f fec ts on psychological wel l -being ( C o l l i n s , 1989; S a k a i r i , 1992; Sasaki , 1992). These e f fects inc lude (a) reduct ion of anxiety and neuroticism (b) increased s e l f -acceptance and personal agency, (c) increased emotional s t a b i l i t y , and (d) increased at tent ion span and c l e a r e r t h i n k i n g ( S a k a i r i , 1992; Sasaki , 1992). S a k a i r i and Sasaki emphasize that c l i n i c a l research on meditation i s sparse, therefore any f indings should be taken as p r e l i m i n a r y . Once Paul was able to break through these o ld patterns and l e t go of h i s emotional t i e s to h i s o ld r e l a t i o n s h i p , another remarkable event occurred almost immediately (para. 9) . As was wri t ten above, Paul ' s environment responded as i f he and i t were interdependent, and he was i n v i t e d by a f r i e n d to p a r t i c i p a t e i n a b l i n d date. Paul recounts that through t h i s date he met h i s present wife, and both the emotional and s p i r i t u a l aspects to h i s problem were solved (para. 9-10; 73 Overcoming an emotional problem through r e l a t i o n s h i p ; Overcoming a s p i r i t u a l problem through v a l i d a t i o n ) . The s p i r i t u a l aspect of Paul ' s problem was overcome at l eas t i n part by v a l i d a t i o n . This i s a new element, and i t a l so was a part of h i s s e l f - a f f i r m i n g meditation (para. 9) . Through mutual v a l i d a t i o n of t h e i r s p i r i t u a l needs, a "rea l confidence" dawns i n Paul and h is wife that things w i l l work out for them s p i r i t u a l l y . He states that t h i s confidence has been a "key ingredient" for them. F . Ishu Ishiyama has done extensive work on the concept of v a l i d a t i o n . He has a l so researched the e f fects of loss or lack of v a l i d a t i o n of d i f f e r e n t aspects of s e l f ( e .g . , phys ica l s e l f , transpersonal se l f ) on the l i v e s of i n d i v i d u a l s . Ishiyama's model of s e l f -v a l i d a t i o n "provides a conceptual framework for understanding and he lp ing i n d i v i d u a l s who are going through personal t r a n s i t i o n s " ( in press , p. 3). The model has been shown to be b e n e f i c i a l i n a var i e ty of contexts (Ishiyama, i n press , 1994, 1989; Ishiyama & Westwood, 1992). The emotional aspect to Paul ' s problem was overcome through r e l a t i o n s h i p . What Paul was experiencing before he met h i s present wife (para. 10) resembles what I rv ing Yalom c a l l e d e x i s t e n t i a l i s o l a t i o n . Yalom (1980) defined t h i s as, "a fundamental i s o l a t i o n . . . a separation between the i n d i v i d u a l and the world" (p. 355). Yalom and other e x i s t e n t i a l wr i t er s that he quotes f e l t e x i s t e n t i a l i s o l a t i o n to be an aspect of the way things are i n r e a l i t y , and something that one must 74 l earn to l i v e i n sp i te of . Through the r e l a t i o n s h i p with h i s wife , however, Paul overcomes t h i s i s o l a t i o n . By undoing the ' condi t ion ing ' of the values and ideas he had ' s o l d h i m s e l f as a young man, Paul was able to understand himself i n a more genuine way. He then became able to r e l a t e with himself and the world in a way that was "honest," and f i n a l l y , to connect with another person i n a way that ended h i s experience of i s o l a t i o n (see S e l f - e x p l o r a t i o n through r e l a t i o n s h i p s ; Overcoming an emotional problem through r e l a t i o n s h i p ) . Yalom (1980) re ferred to the type of r e l a t i o n s h i p Paul experienced with h i s wife as fus ion , and f e l t i t to be a negative th ing . He stated, "Fusion with another i n d i v i d u a l , with group or cause, with nature or with the universe always involves a loss of s e l f : i t i s a pact with Satan and eventuates i n e x i s t e n t i a l g u i l t - that g u i l t g r i e f which laments the unl ived l i f e i n each of us" (p. 381). Undoubtably ' f u s i o n ' can be a way of avoiding fear or i n s e c u r i t y by taking on the b e l i e f s and values of another i n d i v i d u a l or group. Paul ' s r e l a t i o n s h i p however, d i f f e r e d from t h i s . He described i t as a "simple", "organic" r e l a t i o n s h i p with "a q u a l i t y of r e a l deep acceptance." Through t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p Paul ' s sense of i s o l a t i o n "disappeared." Therefore, i t s t r i k e s me that Yalom has seen only h a l f the t r u t h here. Perhaps r e l a t i v e l y speaking we are i s o l a t e d i n d i v i d u a l s , but Yalom dismisses the p o s s i b i l i t y of there 75 being a t r u t h greater than i n d i v i d u a l t r u t h . Myst i c s , inc lud ing C h r i s t i a n mystics, write of a oneness with ul t imate r e a l i t y (which may be re ferred to as God or suchness or something e l s e ) , not an authentic s e l f who contemplates or contacts a being separate from themselves (Lask i , 1961). Yalom, by i m p l i c a t i o n , also dismisses the v a l i d i t y of cu l tures that emphasize the group over the i n d i v i d u a l , or cu l tures that be l i eve i n the interdependence of a l l th ings . F i n a l l y , Yalom's view seems to run counter to the experiences of the co-researchers i n t h i s paper, and they i n no way appear to be lamenting un l ived l i v e s . Table 4 gives a l i s t of the s i g n i f i c a n t elements i n Paul ' s experience. 76 Table 4 S i g n i f i c a n t Elements of Paul ' s Experience 1. S i g n i f i c a n t problem. 2. Recognit ion of problem. 3. D i s tres s about problem. 4. S p i r i t u a l i t y . 5. Shock. 6. Coincidence. 7. Open to an unusual a c t i v i t y . 8. V i s ionary experience. 9. S h i f t i n p r i o r i t i e s , percept ions . 10. Gaining knowledge of s e l f through r e l a t i o n s h i p s . 11. Medi ta t ion . 12. Change i n view of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e -world. 13. Interdependence. 14. Connecting with another. 15. V a l i d a t i o n . 77 Theresa's experience 1 Theresa was a 44 year -o ld woman i n good heal th who worked as an accountant. She was born and ra i sed i n Canada, and had one o lder brother . Her mother had been a homemaker, and her father had been a partner i n an o i l explorat ion company, and a co l l ege professor (teaching e l e c t r o n i c s ) . She had two c h i l d r e n and was a p r a c t i s i n g Buddhist. 2 Theresa's story began at a point i n her l i f e when she was married to her f i r s t husband. She stated that from the time her husband s tarted graduate school , they "didn't have much of a r e l a t i o n s h i p . " He f i r s t became engrossed i n h i s s tudies , then i n h i s career . Theresa sa id that , "we had a hard time for a long time. We t r i e d r e a l l y hard, but i t jus t cou ldn ' t happen. I wanted a r e a l r e l a t i o n s h i p and I wanted a family and a r e a l home l i f e . " She found l i f e i n the "academic scene" chaot i c , u n f u l f i l l i n g and shallow. "I f e l t l i k e I ' d been locked i n a black c lose t for y e a r s . . . i t was devoid of honest human connecting. I bel ieved i n something more than a l l these human constructs , I guess p a r t l y because I almost d ied when I was 17 and I knew damn wel l that there was a h e l l of a l o t more out there than what everybody's w i l l i n g to t a l k about because I experienced i t . Like a consciousness that i s so much more than what we experience i n our ordinary day to day s t u f f . That whole period of my l i f e [her f i r s t marriage] I was completely alone i n the s p i r i t u a l end of th ings ." 3 F i n a l l y , Theresa's husband t o l d her that he wanted to 78 t r a v e l alone on a h o l i d a y they had planned t o take together. He a l s o s t a t e d t h a t he wanted to have a t r i a l s e p a r a t i o n . Theresa s a i d t h a t , "I couldn't b e l i e v e i t . . . t h a t same n i g h t I decided t o move west. I was i n shock, I went t o stay w i t h a f r i e n d who d i d n ' t know my ex-husband and I chain smoked c i g a r e t t e s and I f i g u r e d out, i t j u s t came t o me l i k e t h a t . On the one hand t h i s was about the s h i t t i e s t t h i n g I could imagine happening, but on the other hand i t could be a s t a r t of a new l i f e . 4 The t h i n g t h a t s e t t l e d on me a f t e r the d e c i s i o n t o move west was t h i s i n c r e d i b l e s t a t e of grace. I don't know how, any other way t o e x p l a i n or describe i t except t h a t . And every time I got r e a l l y down what I focussed on was the b l e s s i n g s t h a t I had r a t h e r than what was not t h e r e . " Theresa s a i d t h a t members of her f a m i l y were l i v i n g i n western Canada, and " i t had always been r e a l l y h e a l i n g t o be near the ocean and the mountains." 5 She continued, " I t was r e a l l y q u i t e i n c r e d i b l e , I went t o my boss and I s a i d , 'I want a t r a n s f e r . ' They hadn't had anything [ f o r a few years] because of the r e c e s s i o n out west...[but] i t turned out j u s t t h a t week there was an opening...so they arranged t h a t . " Theresa s a i d t h a t w h i l e her ex-husband was away on h o l i d a y , "I put the house up f o r s a l e and s o l d i t , and packed up and moved out west. The focus r e a l l y s h i f t e d i n my l i f e . I was r e a l l y , r e a l l y t i r e d of a l l t h a t empty crap. I s t a r t e d to have a s p i r i t u a l growth t h a t 79 was r e a l l y s i g n i f i c a n t , l i k e and i t was almost l i k e you have to have your whole l i f e blown to s h i t before everything i s open enough for a l l that to happen. You know l i k e there was no number l e f t [Theresa emphasised the no h e a v i l y ] . You know in order to be protected from other people you construct a persona? That was a l l gone...and I didn't want to resurrect i t e i t h e r because a l l i t resulted i n was these dumb, there was no r e a l connecting, so I didn't r e a l l y want any of that any more. 6 I was r e a l careful about not i s o l a t i n g myself...but I was r e a l l y c a r e f u l about who I spent time with l i k e outside of work. My cousins were a l l r e a l l y supportive...and I was workin' on being r e a l happy just by myself. That longing f o r family was s t i l l very much there and l i k e my mom, my aunt, and my aunt I . were a l l praying r e a l l y hard for l i k e a r e a l l y wonderful thing to happen i n my l i f e , and boy I t e l l you i f you ever want anything done you get those ladies workin' for ya. I was r e a l l y actually at a point i n my l i f e where I was f e e l i n g r e a l l y okay about s t u f f , l i k e I r e a l l y f e l t pretty s o l i d on my own. 7 I guess I was doing some kind of meditation. I would walk a l o t , I moved to a place where I could be i n nature very e a s i l y . So I spent almost a l l of my spare time hiking up i n the mountains. So I'd hike and I'd f i n d a r e a l l y nice spot and I'd s i t . What I was t r y i n g to do was almost fuse myself with everything...and that was r e a l l y healing. So I was 80 f e e l i n g l i k e I was going to be okay being on my own the r e s t of my l i f e , and that a l l of that des ire to have k ids and a l l of that was, I l e t i t go. I thought what I would do instead was work on helping other people, and that would be how I would . . .have that nurturing connection." Theresa began volunteer work, "and tha t ' s when the b l ind-date th ing happened. Af ter that a l l my wishes came t r u e . " A n a l y s i s Theresa's experience had an element that can be explored i n more d e t a i l , the state of grace. For her experience as w e l l , short and long-term changes were inapp l i cab le so the exp lorat ion of t h i s element w i l l be followed by the most e s s e n t i a l element of the experience and a d i s c u s s i o n . Reconnecting: A state of grace. Theresa s a i d , "That same night that my husband l a i d the bombshell on me, l i k e my l i f e was completely blown apart . For the l a s t f i ve years of my m a r r i a g e . . . I ' d r e a l l y been exploring fo l lowing one's heart so I was r e a l l y t r y i n g to open up to what my heart was saying . And l i k e that n ight , s ince everything e lse was blown apart i t was l i k e that allowed that to become very c l ear for me. So I was s i t t i n g there completely numb. . . in shock, when a l l of a sudden t h i s very c l ear thing came through that was a knowing. And what i t was was 'go west. ' And not only was i t go west but t h i s was the s t a r t of something completely n e w . . . t h i s was a r e b i r t h . So my f ee l ing i s l i k e I've had two l i v e s i n one l i f e t i m e . That understanding [to go west and that i t was a 81 new beginning] was there at that moment. I f e l t not alone, l i k e I was r e a l l y not alone i n a r e a l l y profound way. When I almost died when I was 17 I was i n a co lour less p lace , co lour le s s and formless but I f e l t completely comfor ted . . . completely at comfort and a part of something much greater than myself . So I knew that there was t h i s v a s t . . . existence beyond our ordinary existence. I knew that , and i t was a c t u a l l y harder for me to come back from that and l i v e here, l i k e I wanted to go. But that consciousness sa id to me 'you're not f in i shed there you have s tu f f you have to do so you have to go back. ' After you've f e l t that connected, the f e e l i n g of aloneness when you come back i s almost unbearable. I was working on that for years, t r y i n g to f i n d . . . a way to be here and be okay and r e a l l y he lp fu l at the same time. At any r a t e , that night when a l l of that other s t u f f was gone i t was l i k e a l l the things that had d iver ted my at tent ion from that were a l l gone too, so i t was poss ib le for me to be completely open to that again, and I f e l t r e a l l y connected up again, and that I was being looked a f ter , and I was [spoken emphasis], I was completely and t o t a l l y looked a f ter from that moment. Like the kindness of the people who dea l t with me, l i k e a l l that d id was re in force to me that that kindness was reaching me from everything around me, and i t had always been that way, but I couldn' t see i t u n t i l that time. But the expression of the ult imate consciousness i s a l l around us a l l the time, communicating to us i f we perceive i t that way. So 8 2 t h a t ' s why i f I got caught up in how hurt I was, how I p u l l e d myself out of that was being, remembering a l l the kindness around me a l l the time, and tha t ' s what I mean by remembering a l l the b less ings that are there a l l the time. So that for me was the s tate of g r a c e . . . being r e a l l y looked a f t e r . So i t might f e e l bad, but i t was preparing me for something r e a l l y good. I t was change, and change i s p a i n f u l , but i t was for the be t t er ." Theresa sa id that af ter reconnecting with the s tate of grace she f e l t "calm," "determined," and "knew where I was going." Before t h i s she had been "struggl ing , confused and hurt a l l the time." She sa id she had not been experiencing the s tate of grace because she had been caught up i n day to day th ings , e s p e c i a l l y career. At present, career for her i s not "an a l l consuming th ing , i t ' s jus t something you do." When I asked her how long the state of Grace was with her she sa id that i t "has been with me ever since that day, and i t ' s only ge t t ing bet ter . I f you ask for s p i r i t u a l help you're going to get i t . I f you ask for mater ia l things maybe you won't, but i f you ask for help on your s p i r i t u a l path i t ' l l be there . I t ' s whatever you really [spoken emphasis] need i s what you get. I t ' s that f a i t h that you're get t ing what you r e a l l y need that helps to see you through. Like so maybe you're not ge t t ing that job opportunity or whatever because what you r e a l l y need i s what you're get t ing . And i t must be that that 8 3 job opportunity wasn't what you r e a l l y needed. Whatever you r e a l l y need for developing your s p i r i t u a l path i s what you get. From my point of view that ' s a l l there i s to do, t h a t ' s the only reason I'm here." Most e s sen t ia l element of the experience. Theresa s a i d , "To some extent i f I d i d n ' t have that experience of almost dying when I was 17, because af ter that point I was r e a l l y focussed i n many ways on my s p i r i t u a l l i f e . I t was that experience of being r e a l l y , almost dying. That does shake you up, that does make you wonder what i t ' s a l l about, why am I here?" She continued, "[I was] l i v i n g with an understanding of impermanence... because I knew that I wouldn't be here, but the other th ing I knew was that dying wasn't bad e i t h e r . That understanding about l i f e i s pret ty fundamental." Discuss ion . The background elements i n Theresa's experience are (a) a s i g n i f i c a n t problem, (b) a recogn i t ion of the problem, (c) d i s t re s s about the problem, (d) attempts to reso lve the problem, (e) a near-death experience, (f) s p i r i t u a l i t y , and (g) openness. For an out l ine of the experience see Figure 5. Elements (a), (b), (c), (e), and (f) are obvious from her s tory (para. 2; Reconnecting: A state of grace) . Element (d), attempts to resolve the problem, came from Theresa's statement during the interview that she and her ex-husband had attended marriage counse l l ing during the l a s t few years of t h e i r marriage. Element (g), openness, came from Theresa's 84 statement that she had been "exploring fo l lowing Background elements s i g n i f i c a n t r e c o g n i t i o n o f d i s t r e s s about problem problem problem attempts t o near-death s p i r i t u a l i t y r e s o l v e problem e x p e r i e n c e openness 1 I Experience shock; c o l l a p s e o f persona (statement from ex-husband) i s t a t e o f g r a c e ; f e l t knowledge; t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o f e m o t i o n a l s t a t e ( e x p e r i e n c e a t f r i e n d ' s house l a t e r ) 4-open t o new d i r e c t i o n ; c o i n c i d e n c e (move west; j o b opening) 4. i n t e g r a t i o n and c o n t i n u e d growth ( h e a l i n g a c t i v i t i e s ) 4. s u r r e n d e r ; r e s o l u t i o n o f problem ( l e t t i n g go o f h a v i n g k i d s ; f e e l i n g " p r e t t y s o l i d " ) 4. new d i r e c t i o n ( b l i n d - d a t e ) Figure 5. A conceptual map of Theresa's experience. one's heart" (see Reconnecting: A state of grace) . This meant that she was t r y i n g to be open to information from her 'hear t ' and open to taking new d i rec t ions i n her l i f e . Of these background elements, Near-death experience (NDE) i s the only element that has not already been discussed. 85 Although there i s some confusion about the exact d e f i n i t i o n of a NDE, Theresa's experience would c l e a r l y be considered one (para. 2; Reconnecting: A state of grace; Most e s s e n t i a l element of the experience). This i s because she was c lose to p h y s i c a l death (from a kidney disease) , and experienced h e r s e l f funct ioning out of body (Rogo, 1989). NDE's have been recorded i n western c i v i l i z a t i o n from at l east the time of P la to (Rogo, 1989). The NDE's of d i f f e r e n t i n d i v i d u a l s show both common elements and elements unique to the c u l t u r e of the i n d i v i d u a l . D. Scott Rogo states that some researchers dismiss the NDE as a h a l l u c i n a t i o n or some other psycho log ica l phenomenon. Rogo (1989) however, a f ter reviewing severa l s tudies of NDE's, concluded that the "research p r i m a r i l y demonstrates that the NDE i s an important and (at least) s u b j e c t i v e l y r e a l experience" (pp. 98-99). Whatever the r e a l i t y of the NDE, Theresa's near-death experience changed her or i enta t ion to l i v i n g . She became "focussed i n many ways on my s p i r i t u a l l i f e . " Therefore , Theresa f e l t t h i s to be the e s sent ia l element i n her problem-s o l v i n g experience. The "bombshell" from Theresa's ex-husband d e l i v e r e d qui te a shock (para. 3; Reconnecting: A state of grace) . This shock seemed to cut through the workings of her conscious mind, and re su l t ed i n her reconnecting with a greater consciousness. Theresa had experienced t h i s state of consciousness before, during her near-death experience (see Reconnecting: A s tate of 86 grace) . Through t h i s came a 'knowing' of a new d i r e c t i o n she should take, and a knowledge that she was "being looked after" (para. 3; Reconnecting: A state of grace) . Through reconnecting with the state of grace Theresa a lso experienced: (a) a c o l l a p s i n g of her "persona;" (b) a transformation of her emotional s tate (she was now "calm," "determined," and had a sense of d i r e c t i o n ) ; and (c) s i g n i f i c a n t " s p i r i t u a l growth" (para. 5; Reconnecting: A state of grace) . Theresa now bel ieves that "the expression of the ult imate consciousness i s a l l around us a l l the time, communicating to us i f we perceive i t that way" (see Reconnecting: A state of grace) . F e l t knowledge and connection with something greater are common elements of a peak experience, as was discussed i n the l i t e r a t u r e review. The col lapse of the persona i s a new element, and i s a lso perhaps p a r t l y what John was r e f e r r i n g to when he sa id that he "couldn't l i e anymore" (see Long-term changes i n John's experience), and what Paul meant by "honesty" (see Se l f - exp lorat ion through r e l a t i o n s h i p s i n Pau l ' s experience) . In Jung's words the "persona i s a c e r t a i n complicated system of behaviour which i s p a r t i a l l y d i c ta ted by soc ie ty and p a r t i a l l y d i c ta ted by the expectations or the wishes one nurses oneself" (Evans, 1981, p. 79). The persona i s l i k e a face one puts forward to others and sometimes to oneself for var ious reasons. Two simple examples would be (a) a counse l lor ac t ing d i f f e r e n t l y at work to meet with s o c i e t a l 87 expectations of profess ional behaviour, and (b) put t ing 'one's best face forward' to avoid facing some pr iva te p a i n . Theresa s tated that she was t i r e d of the shallow r e l a t i o n s h i p s that r e s u l t from using a persona. She was g r a t e f u l for i t s co l lapse as that opened up the p o s s i b i l i t y of connecting with others i n a genuine way (para. 2, 5). The r e s u l t i n g move to western Canada was aided by a coincidence when a trans fer opportunity became a v a i l a b l e . This was contrary to previous trends i n Theresa's company (para. 5) . Af ter moving, Theresa continued her hea l ing and personal growth, and integrated the r e s u l t s of her new d i r e c t i o n . Through supportive s o c i a l contact , h i k i n g , spending time i n nature, and meditation, she reached a place where she was at peace with herse l f and her future . She surrendered her des ire for marriage and c h i l d r e n , and decided to engage i n volunteer work to f u l f i l her des ire for a "nurturing connection" (para. 6-7) . The benef i ts of meditation have been discussed. However, the elements s o c i a l support, exercise , and being i n nature are new. S o c i a l support i s important to i n d i v i d u a l and c o l l e c t i v e we l l -be ing . A l s o , counsel lors are urged consider t h e i r c l i e n t ' s s o c i a l support network when making in tervent ions . A lack of s o c i a l support can hamper an i n d i v i d u a l ' s attempts to make p o s i t i v e change in t h e i r l i v e s , and an unsupportive s o c i a l network can sabotage e f for t s at change (Got t l i eb , 1988) . 88 Research on the e f fects of exercise shows that i t tends to be r e l a t e d to: (a) increased wel l -be ing; (b) improvements i n mood; and (c) improvements i n se l f -concept , se l f -esteem, and se l f -assurance (Lei th & Tay lor , 1990; Plante & Rodin, 1990). However, L e i t h and Taylor (1990), as we l l as Plante and Rodin (1990) warn that some of the past research on exerc ise was methodologically unsound, therefore the f indings from t h i s research may be i n f l a t e d . They s tress the need for further study to confirm the re su l t s found to date. The benef i ts of being i n nature are something most of us seem to seek out i n s t i n c t i v e l y , and I think we can a l l recognize the heal ing ef fects of natural surroundings. In Theresa's case she s p e c i f i c a l l y t r i e d to "fuse" h e r s e l f with the natura l surroundings as a heal ing meditation (para. 7) . Theresa had accepted and was comfortable with her new d i r e c t i o n i n l i f e . I t was at t h i s time however, that she was i n v i t e d to p a r t i c i p a t e i n the b l i n d date. The r e s u l t of the date was another s h i f t of d i r e c t i o n that has led to even greater happiness for her. Table 5 contains the s i g n i f i c a n t elements i n Theresa's experience. 89 Table 5 s i g n i f i c a n t Elements of Theresa's Experience 1. S i g n i f i c a n t problem. 2. Recognit ion of problem. 3. D i s tress about problem. 4. Attempts to resolve problem. 5. Near-death experience. 6. S p i r i t u a l i t y . 7. Openness. 8. Shock. 9. Col lapse of persona. 10. Interdependence. 11. Connection with a greater consciousness. 12. F e l t knowledge. 13. Transformation of emotions. 14. Coincidence. 15. S o c i a l support . 16. Exerc i se . 17. Nature. 18. Medi ta t ion . 19. Surrender. 20. Change i n view of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e -world. 21. Prayer. 90 Chapter 5: Discussion This sec t ion w i l l begin by l i s t i n g the elements that the s t o r i e s held i n common. This w i l l be followed by (a) the t h e o r e t i c a l impl icat ions of these elements, (b) t h e i r counse l l ing impl i ca t ions , (c) speculat ion about the nature of problem-solving experiences, (d) the l i m i t a t i o n s of t h i s study, (e) recommendations for future research, and (f) the summary. Common Elements Between Stories As was stated i n the in troduct ion , because of the v a r i a b i l i t y of the experiences co l l ec t ed here, cons truct ing a paradigmatic model was not poss ib le . There were however elements which appeared in most, or a l l of the experiences. Therefore i t was poss ib le to 'colour i n ' the phenomenon 'problem-solving experiences . ' Table 6 contains a l i s t of elements common to three or more experiences. Appearing i n a l l the s tor ie s were the elements (a) s i g n i f i c a n t problem, (b) recogni t ion of problem, (c) d i s t r e s s about problem, (d) s p i r i t u a l i t y , and (e) change i n view of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e - w o r l d . The f i r s t four of these elements formed part of the background of each experience, while element (e) was involved in the experiences themselves. The elements that appeared i n four of the f i v e experiences were (a) openness, (b) shock, (c) surrender, (d) p r a y e r / p e t i t i o n for help, and (e) interdependence. Element (a), openness, appeared as both a background and experience 91 e l ement . The r e s t were e x p e r i e n c e e l ements . The e lements t h a t appeared i n t h r e e o f the f i v e e x p e r i e n c e s were (a) awareness o f m o r t a l i t y , (b) l o s s o f / r e l a t i v e l a c k o f an e g o c e n t r i c v iew, (c) s y m b o l i c s ta tement /message , and (d) c o i n c i d e n c e / s y n c h r o n i c i t y . Element (a) and r e l a t i v e l a c k o f an e g o c e n t r i c view were background e l ement s , t h e o t h e r s were e x p e r i e n c e e l ements . T a b l e 6 Common Elements Between E x p e r i e n c e s 5 o f 5 4 o f 5 3 o f 5 S i g n i f i c a n t problem.* R e c o g n i t i o n o f problem.* D i s t r e s s about problem.* S p i r i t u a l i t y . * Change i n view o f s e l f and s e l f -i n - t h e - w o r l d . 6. Openness. 7. Shock. 8. S u r r e n d e r . 9. P r a y e r / p e t i t i o n . 10. Interdependence. 11. Awareness o f m o r t a l i t y . * 12. L o s s / l a c k o f e g o c e n t r i c view.** 13. Symbolic statement o r message. 14. C o i n c i d e n c e o r s y n c h r o n i c i t y . * P r e - e x p e r i e n c e background elements. "Background and e x p e r i e n c e elements. T h e o r e t i c a l i m p l i c a t i o n s The f i r s t i m p l i c a t i o n o f these e x p e r i e n c e s i s t h a t c o u n s e l l i n g t h e o r i e s s h o u l d be open t o s p i r i t u a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s o f r e a l i t y . T h i s i s how f o u r o f the f i v e c o -92 researchers interpreted events, and s p i r i t u a l i t y was a background element in a l l f ive experiences. To not be open to a s p i r i t u a l view l i m i t s the scope of our theor ies , and renders them unable to account for a l l of human experience. The b e l i e f s held by many s p i r i t u a l t r a d i t i o n s could expla in the events re la ted by these co-researchers . For example, a Catho l i c framework would probably hold that these experiences are examples of d iv ine intervent ion i n the l i v e s of i n d i v i d u a l s , or examples of ind iv idua l s becoming open to God's guidance (McBrien, 1981; Merton, 1976). The three co-researchers who interpreted events i n a way that does not accord with Catho l i c doctr ine would be perceived as mistaken about the source of the guidance or help they rece ived . Another example i s a Tibetan Buddhist perspect ive . From t h i s point of view the events would poss ib ly be explained as (a) examples of interdependence, (b) manifestations of karma, and (c) i n d i v i d u a l s progressing along the path to r e a l i z a t i o n (Dalai Lama, 1992; Das, 1992). A complete explorat ion of s p i r i t u a l teachings which could account for the events re la ted by the co-researchers i s beyond the scope of t h i s paper. However, i t seems that examining s p i r i t u a l explanations of events would be a f r u i t f u l avenue for future research. From a mundane perspect ive , the way events occurred i n the experiences f i t s with a var ie ty of t h e o r e t i c a l p o s i t i o n s i n psychology. Perhaps the most complete f i t i s found i n 93 Jung's conception of the workings of the psyche. B r i e f l y , Jung (1960d) wrote that the psyche included the persona and the ego i n the conscious mind, and the personal unconscious and c o l l e c t i v e unconscious i n the unconscious mind. The persona was introduced above, and i s e s s e n t i a l l y a s o c i a l s e l f that we present to the world i n response to s o c i e t a l expectations and our own des ires . Jung described the ego as the cen tra l reference po int of consciousness and our sense of an I, while the s e l f was the sum t o t a l of conscious and unconscious. The personal unconscious was seen as being derived from personal experience, but was mater ia l not current ly conscious. "The personal unconscious consis ts f i r s t l y of a l l those contents that became unconscious e i ther because they l o s t t h e i r i n t e n s i t y and were forgotten or because consciousness was withdrawn from them (repression) , and secondly of contents, some of them sense-impressions, which never had s u f f i c i e n t i n t e n s i t y to reach consciousness but have somehow entered the psyche" (1960d, p. 151-152). Some childhood experiences for example, may not be immediately access ible to the conscious mind, but can be r e c a l l e d with e f f o r t or i n c e r t a i n contexts . The c o l l e c t i v e unconscious i s " i d e n t i c a l i n a l l [people] and thus const i tutes a common psychic substrate of a suprapersonal nature which i s present i n every one of us" (1969, p. 4) . Jung speculated that the deepest ' l e v e l s ' of the unconscious would comprise "a psychic a c t i v i t y which goes 94 on independently of the conscious mind and i s not dependent even on the upper layers of the unconscious [that part of the unconscious more r e a d i l y access ible to consciousness] , untouched - and perhaps untouchable - by personal experience" (1960c, p. 148). Jung (1960c, 1967, 1969) stated that the unconscious communicated to the conscious mind through symbols. Jung's wri t ings are vast , however many of h i s essays d o v e t a i l with the way events occurred i n these experiences. For example Jung's (1969) writ ings on the anima f i t with Pau l ' s experience, and h i s (1960a) wri t ings on synchron ic i ty f i t with J u l i e ' s . Consider a lso the fo l lowing quote from Jung (1969): In the end one has to admit that there are problems which one simply cannot solve on one's own resources . Such an admission has the advantage of being honest, t r u t h f u l , and i n accord with r e a l i t y , and t h i s prepares the ground for a compensatory react ion from the c o l l e c t i v e unconscious: you are now more i n c l i n e d to give heed to a h e l p f u l idea or i n t u i t i o n , or to not ice thoughts which had not been allowed to voice themselves before. Perhaps you w i l l pay attent ions to the dreams that v i s i t you at such moments, or w i l l r e f l e c t on c e r t a i n inner and outer occurrences that take place jus t at t h i s time. I f you have a a t t i tude of t h i s k i n d , then the he lp fu l powers slumbering i n the deeper 95 s t r a t a of [our] nature can come awake and intervene (p. 21) . Jung (1969) describes t h i s experience as n o n - d u a l i s t i c , i n f i n i t e , and a "true experience of the world" (p. 21). Reading t h i s passage one can see many of the s i g n i f i c a n t elements that have appeared in the experiences above. Jung's w r i t i n g can not be explored here in i t s e n t i r e t y . However, the data from t h i s study supported h i s conceptual izat ions of the workings of the human psyche. Another t h e o r i s t whose work was supported by the f indings i s George K e l l y . As was mentioned above, K e l l y be l ieved the universe functioned i n an interdependent fash ion . His psycho log ica l theory was based on the idea that we e s s e n t i a l l y ' cons truc t ' our own r e a l i t y by the way we i n t e r p r e t events. K e l l y (1955) wrote that , "[One] looks at [one's] world through transparent patterns or templets which [one] creates and then attempts to f i t over the r e a l i t i e s of which the world i s composed. The f i t i s not always very good" (pp. 8-9) . K e l l y c a l l e d these templets constructs . When there i s a poor ' f i t ' between our constructs and r e a l i t y , we experience problems. K e l l y a lso wrote that we can have d i f f i c u l t i e s when our personal investment in a "larger [superordinate construct] system, or [our] personal dependence upon i t , i s so great that [we] w i l l forego the adoption of a more prec i se construct i n the substructure . I t may take a major act of psychotherapy or experience to get [us] to adjust [our] construct ion system to 96 the point where the new and more prec ise construct can be incorporated" (p. 9). As was evident from t h e i r s t o r i e s , the co-researchers adopted new constructs v i a t h e i r experiences. I would argue that these new constructs were also more prec i se construct ions of r e a l i t y . This can be seen from the outcome of t h e i r use. I t i s d i f f i c u l t to imagine the use of a less prec i se construct having long-term b e n e f i c i a l e f fec t s . There could however, be p o t e n t i a l short-term benefits from using less prec i se cons tructs . For example, i n order to prevent oneself from being overwhelmed by emotionally charged memories, one might use a defense mechanism l i k e repress ion . This would be a less prec i se way of construing events that could have short- term benef i t s . However, the use of less prec ise constructs becomes counter-product ive i n the long-term. The new constructs used by the co-researchers had long-term p o s i t i v e e f f ec t s on t h e i r l i v e s and wel l -be ing . This was evidence that an experience can, as K e l l y wrote, make i t poss ible for us to adopt more p r e c i s e construct ions of r e a l i t y . F i n a l l y , F r i c k ' s (1990) concept of the SGE was a l so supported by t h i s study. J u l i e , John and Mark's experiences were examples of people reso lv ing problems through r e l a t i n g to symbolic elements of what they were experiencing. This led to sudden personal growth i n two of these three cases. I t a lso led to the re so lu t ion of i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t s i n two of the three cases. F r i c k (1990) wrote that sudden personal growth 97 and the r e s o l u t i o n of i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t s were both c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of a SGE. Counse l l ing impl icat ions This study focussed on a natural process of personal problem r e s o l u t i o n . Therefore, the r e s u l t s have impl i ca t ions for counse l l ing , which i s also a process of personal problem r e s o l u t i o n . A l l f i ve co-researchers were aware and d i s t re s sed about a personal problem before t h e i r experience (elements 1-3 i n Table 6; Elements w i l l be followed by t h e i r Table 6 reference number in brackets as they are in t roduced . ) . This supports the idea that counsel lors should take time to ensure that t h e i r c l i e n t s have a good grasp of what t h e i r concern i s , and what i s at stake i f the s i t u a t i o n remains the same (Egan, 1994; Jan i s & Mann, 1982; M i l l e r & R o l l n i c k , 1991). C l i e n t s who are not experiencing some l e v e l of d i s t r e s s about t h e i r problem, or who are unable to connect with t h e i r d i s t r e s s , may have d i f f i c u l t y making progress (Janis & Mann, 1982; M i l l e r & R o l l n i c k , 1991). The elements s p i r i t u a l i t y (4) and prayer (9) suggest that counse l lors should be open to s p i r i t u a l explanations of r e a l i t y . We should also be open to d i scuss ing s p i r i t u a l i t y and the c l i e n t ' s s p i r i t u a l b e l i e f s in sess ion. C e r t a i n l y i t would be wise to re fer a c l i e n t elsewhere i f they present a s p i r i t u a l problem that i s beyond one's expert i se . However, there may be instances when a helper who i s not tak ing the perspect ive of a p a r t i c u l a r s p i r i t u a l t r a d i t i o n i s the one who 98 i s best able to help . The element change in view.of s e l f and s e l f - i n - t h e - w o r l d (5) i s i n d i c a t i v e of the counsel l ing endeavour as a whole. Whether a therap i s t employs r e f l e c t i o n , n a r r a t i v e , reframing, or artwork, the aim i s to help the c l i e n t view themselves and t h e i r world i n ways that are more adaptive. Element number (6), openness, implies that i t i s important that c l i e n t s are able to be open to the counse l l ing process . They would also benefit from being open to events i n t h e i r l i v e s , and open to new experiences i n general . Therefore intervent ions which promote c l i e n t openness become important. These include (a) or ient ing new c l i e n t s to what goes on i n counse l l ing , (b) using immediacy to explore any obstacles to openness that do a r i s e , and (c) encouraging c l i e n t s to experiment with new behaviours in - se s s ion and as homework. Next are the elements interdependence (10), and co inc idence / synchronic i ty (14). The impl icat ions of these elements are extensive. Western thought i s based p r i m a r i l y on a d u a l i s t i c conceptual izat ion of r e a l i t y , therefore adopting the concept of interdependence would e n t a i l a fundamental r e s t r u c t u r i n g of our own constructs . For example, i f the universe i s composed of interdependent parts c o l l e c t e d wi th in an i n d i v i s i b l e whole, then working for the benef i t of others and the world around us would be as, or more important than, focuss ing on ourselves . This i s not to say that working on 99 se l f -growth or improving one's own l i f e would not be a meaningful th ing to do, simply that to work solely for one's own benef i t would ac tua l ly be estranging oneself from r e a l i t y . A l s o , to act i n a se l f - centred way, or engage i n act ions that harm others or the environment would i r o n i c a l l y not be i n our own best i n t e r e s t s . I f r e a l i t y i s interdependent, the r e s u l t s of our act ions inf luence the ent ire system we are a part of and eventual ly come back f u l l c i r c l e upon us. The counse l l ing impl icat ions of interdependence are d i f f i c u l t to imagine p r e c i s e l y . However, i t i s c l e a r that a fundamental s h i f t in the way we view counse l l ing would be necessary. For example, the therapeutic r e l a t i o n s h i p has been found to be a h igh ly s i g n i f i c a n t element i n p o s i t i v e outcomes for counse l l ing (Orlinsky et a l . , 1994; Or l insky & Howard, 1986; Whiston & Sexton, 1993). Exact ly why i t i s important i s unknown. Perhaps the reason i s that i f one i s able to connect i n a genuine way with a therap i s t , then one i s bet ter able to make genuine connections i n general , which better reflects the way things are in reality. At the very least these two elements (10 & 14) suggest that we be open to counse l l ing approaches that incorporate them. Examples of these approaches include the work of K e l l y (1955) and Jung (1960a, 1960e, 1966c, 1969). Another example i s Mori ta therapy, which was developed in Japan p r i m a r i l y for working with people suf fer ing from neurosis ( F u j i t a , 1986; Ishiyama, 1986). F i n a l l y , c er ta in s p i r i t u a l t r a d i t i o n s could 100 a lso be inc luded, as they have a therapeutic funct ion as w e l l . Buddhism for example, i s viewed as a science of the mind as we l l as a r e l i g i o n (Dalai Lama, Benson, Thurman, Gardner, & Goleman, 1991). Elements (10) and (14) a lso imply that c l i e n t s should be aware that meaningful or h e l p f u i events may happen outside of the therapy sess ion. The above therapeutic systems also incorporate the elements surrender (8) and l o s s / l a c k of egocentric view (12). Mori ta therapy for example, encourages 'going with the way things are ' and not f i gh t ing against ' inconvenient ' emotions. Mori ta therap i s t s encourage c l i e n t s not to focus t i g h t l y on themselves and t h e i r anxiety, but instead to focus on being involved i n t h e i r a c t i v i t i e s . Emotions are viewed as a na tura l part of the whole person. They are not seen as something to c o n t r o l , but something to accept and act i n sp i te of (Ishiyama, 1986). Jung's thoughts concerning these two elements (8 & 12) are c l e a r from the passage quoted above (Jung, 1969, p. 21). He f e l t that they were necessary components of a ' t rue experience of the w o r l d . ' In K e l l y ' s theory they f i t i n with having to give up constructions that are not i n accord with r e a l i t y . I f a person has a large investment i n t h e i r cons truct ions , making progress i n counse l l ing i s much more d i f f i c u l t . F i n a l l y , s p i r i t u a l paths also frequently emphasize elements of surrender, and loss of ego (Dalai Lama, 1992; 101 McBrien, 1981). In Buddhism for example, surrendering one's c l i n g i n g to the concept of an inherent ly e x i s t i n g s e l f i s viewed as e s s e n t i a l i n order to experience the true nature of one's mind, which i s the same as the true nature of r e a l i t y (Dalai Lama, 1992). The r e s u l t s of t h i s study also supported working with symbol (13) i n counse l l ing . Jung (1960c), as was s tated above, f e l t that the unconscious communicated to the conscious mind through symbols. Since the "integrat ion of unconscious c o n t e n t s . . . i s the main endeavour of a n a l y t i c a l psychology" (1960e, p. 217), being able to work with symbols i s e s s e n t i a l f or counse l lors who employ h is methods. See Jung 1966b and 1966c for examples of how he worked with symbolic manifestat ions i n sessions. Another way of working with symbol i n counse l l ing i s through metaphor. "Metaphors, because they allow c l i e n t s to perceive a d i f f e r e n t r e a l i t y around t h e i r problems while s t i l l remaining i n touch with t h e i r problems, also enable c l i e n t s to 'see' d i f f e r e n t so lut ions and/or 'see' d i f f e r e n t ways of viewing t h e i r problems" (Atwood & Levine, 1991, p. 202) . Dolan (1986) wrote, "The metaphor e l i c i t s an unconscious search for an appropriate and adaptive so lu t ion to the problem. The prec ise meaning that a c l i e n t attaches to a metaphor i s derived from the c l i e n t ' s own inner r e s o u r c e s . . . [ t ]herefor , the r e s u l t i n g app l i ca t ion f i t s the c l i e n t ' s needs exact ly " (pp. 1-2). 102 However, as Briggs and Peat (1989) caution i t i s important not to use a dead metaphor ( i . e . , one that has l o s t the tens ion between i t s terms). They write that "for metaphor to e l i c i t nuance i t must be fresh , not dead; i t must shock the mind into wonder by opening up a gap between i t s terms and then bridge the gap with an e l e c t r i c i t y of nuance. Overuse c loses up the gap between the terras of a metaphor because we come to th ink we "know" what the metaphor means" (p. 197) . Comparing l i f e to a sea voyage i s an example they give of a dead metaphor. Also of note i s that symbols may be a powerful way to help i n d i v i d u a l s overcome substance-abuse problems. Symbolic statements were involved i n the problem-solving experiences of the two co-researchers who had problems with a l c o h o l . By chance, I a lso found a t h i r d example of t h i s i n a newspaper a r t i c l e while I was working on t h i s t h e s i s . The fo l lowing passage from that a r t i c l e describes the experience of an add ic t . He ran away from an abusive home at t h i r t e e n and ended up on the s treets "s t i ck ing a needle into h i s arm every day." He committed armed robbery to support h i s hab i t , and spent 12 years i n B. C. pr i sons . But one day he spotted a man he used to know standing i n the ' food l i n e ' and h i s l i f e turned around. "When I was a k i d I r e a l l y looked up to t h i s guy, even though he wasn't a p o s i t i v e r o l e model. He was my i d o l so to speak and there he 103 was - 2 0 years l a t e r , a broken-down, lonely o ld man l i v i n g o f f the food l i n e , and I sa id , 'Wow, t h i s i s going to be me.'" [After t h i s experience he] got c o u n s e l l i n g , returned to school , volunteered i n treatment centres , and s tar ted the society [for drug and a lcohol treatment] (Gold, 1995). I t would be worth researching symbolic ' i n t e r v e n t i o n s ' to determine i f they can ef fect change in counse l l ing se t t ings as we l l as na tura l se t t ings . The l a s t common elements, awareness of m o r t a l i t y (11), and shock (9) were elaborated on i n the d i scuss ion sec t ion of J u l i e ' s experience. As was mentioned there , awareness of one's mor ta l i t y f a c i l i t a t e s r e f l e c t i o n about oneself and one's l i f e . Despite our aversion to th inking about death i n North American c u l t u r e , i t seems that t h i s could be a valuable a c t i v i t y to engage i n with some of our c l i e n t s . I t i s d i f f i c u l t to recommend using shock i n - s e s s i o n . However, intervent ions such as confrontat ion, paradoxica l i n t e n t i o n , and c e r t a i n types of r e f l e c t i o n can provide a shock, and are b e n e f i c i a l when used appropr ia te ly . Speculat ion about problem-solving experiences Based on the f indings of t h i s study, there appear to be some pre-condi t ions that are necessary for problem-solving experiences to occur (see the f i r s t f i ve elements of Table 6) . These experiences seem to require an awareness that there i s a problem, and at l east a moderate l e v e l of d i s t r e s s about the 104 problem. A l s o , being open to viewing events i n s p i r i t u a l way seems to play a key r o l e . The experience i t s e l f can take a var i e ty of forms, and although a number of elements commonly appear (elements 6-14 i n Table 6), these elements do not seem to be u n i v e r s a l . However, the result of the experience does seem to be u n i v e r s a l i n that i t involves a s h i f t i n percept ions . There i s a change i n how one views oneself, and a change i n how one views oneself i n r e l a t i o n to one's world. The r e s u l t of the experience often went beyond so lv ing the problem that the co-researcher was i n i t i a l l y aware of. For J u l i e , John and Theresa, the experience seemed to include a s p i r i t u a l awakening. In the t h e o r e t i c a l impl icat ions sect ion above, severa l poss ib le explanations of how the experience might 'work' were g iven. These included (a) s p i r i t u a l explanations, (b) Jung's theory of help manifesting from the unconscious, and (c) K e l l y ' s construct theory. Another poss ib le explanation can be drawn from statements made by two of the co-researchers . In reference to seeing connections and "coincidences" i n her environment, J u l i e sa id that , "If I was less attached to day to day concerns, I could see these things more." Theresa stated that the reason she had not been experiencing the "state of grace" was that she had been caught up i n day to day concerns. Perhaps being caught up i n the everyday world and a more mundane way of viewing events, precludes our experiencing 105 another aspect of r e a l i t y . Several of the authors quoted i n the l i t e r a t u r e review expressed t h i s sentiment ( F r i c k , 1990; Jung, 1967; Maslow, 1970). J u l i e s a i d , "If you're not going to twig to the miraculous, you're not going to get i t . " She a lso s tated that she can sometimes see these coincidences happening for other people, "but they don't get i t even when I point i t out ." J u l i e wondered i f i t had something to do with t iming , or about people not being ready to see them. She also wondered what she missed before she "got i t . " Based on these statements and the r e s u l t s of the study, i t i s poss ib le to hypothesize that we are interdependent parts of a greater whole, and further , that what keeps us from perce iv ing t h i s i s being caught up i n mundane concerns, and close-minded or se l f - centred th ink ing . The problem-solving experience may help us to break through our hab i tua l way of p e r c e i v i n g , and help us to open up to the way things a c t u a l l y are . In the case of someone who i s already f a i r l y open to ' r e a l i t y , ' the experience could manifest i n the form of dreams or experiences that can be recognized as he lp . I t may be part of our po tent ia l as human beings to experience l i f e i n a way s i m i l a r to that described i n the above s t o r i e s . The benefi ts for the co-researchers inc luded: (a) increased wel l -being and happiness; (b) f in d in g guidance n a t u r a l l y a v a i l a b l e i n times of confusion; (c) f e e l i n g that they were more ' a u t h e n t i c , ' and capable of connecting with 106 others i n a genuine way; and (d) the p o s s i b i l i t y of s p i r i t u a l r e a l i z a t i o n . L i v i n g i n a se l f - centred way, preoccupied with day to day concerns could wel l run counter to t h i s experience. I f t h i s i s t rue , we should consider changing our p r i o r i t i e s , and our outlook on l i v i n g . F i n a l l y , i t should be noted that although the experiences were depicted i n Figures 1-5 i n a l i n e a r fashion, they were not conceptual ized as a l i n e a r progression of events and elements. The Figures were only intended to be a reference a i d , as the experiences obviously occurred i n a more h o l i s t i c way. L i m i t a t i o n s As three of the co-researchers were acquaintances (Mark, Paul & Theresa) t h i s study may contain a sampling b i a s . A further l i m i t a t i o n was the lack of an independent corroborat ion of the data ana lys i s . Recommendations for Future Research The r e s u l t s of t h i s study suggest several avenues for future research. F i r s t , i t i s necessary to continue research in to problem-solving experiences. This study was an i n i t i a l exp lorat ion of the phenomenon, and the r e s u l t s require conf irmat ion . Other p o s s i b i l i t i e s include: (a) research into the e f f i c a c y of the therapeutic methods of Jung and K e l l y , (b) research on the Symbolic Growth Experience ( F r i c k , 1990), (c) research on the therapeutic funct ion of s p i r i t u a l t r a d i t i o n s , and (d) research on symbolic intervent ions with substance 107 abusers. Summary This study explored the nature of personal problem-so lv ing experiences. Each of the experiences presented here was unique enough to preclude construct ing a paradigmatic model. However, common elements between the experiences d i d emerge, and these were l i s t e d in Table 6 above. There seemed to be several pre-condi t ions necessary for the occurrence of a personal problem-solving experience. These were (a) a s i g n i f i c a n t problem, (b) awareness of the problem, (c) d i s t r e s s about the problem, and (d) s p i r i t u a l i t y . The experiences a lso u n i v e r s a l l y resul ted in a change i n the way the co-researchers viewed themselves, and a change i n the way they viewed themselves i n r e l a t i o n to the world. The study provided support for s p i r i t u a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of r e a l i t y , as wel l as the t h e o r e t i c a l conceptual izat ions of C a r l Jung and George K e l l y . W i l l a r d F r i c k ' s work on the Symbolic Growth Experience was also supported. The counse l l ing impl icat ions of the research included (a) the need to ensure that c l i e n t s have a s u f f i c i e n t degree of problem awareness, (b) the importance of helping c l i e n t s to be open to the counse l l ing process and l i f e -events in general , (c) support for working with symbol in - ses s ion , and (d) the p o s s i b i l i t y that our conceptual izat ion of counse l l ing may need to change i n order to accomodate the interdependence of phenomena. 108 F i n a l l y , the study included speculat ion about how a problem-solving experience might 'work' that was based on the o v e r a l l r e s u l t s of the study, and statements from two of the co-researchers . In b r i e f , i t was hypothesized that the experience helps the i n d i v i d u a l cut through t h e i r h a b i t u a l way of perce iv ing themselves and events, and helps them to open up to a more accurate experience of r e a l i t y . 109 References Atwood, J . D . , & Levine, L . B. 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Profes s iona l Psychology: Research and P r a c t i c e , 24.(1), 43-51. Woolsey, L . K. (1986). The c r i t i c a l inc ident technique: An innovative q u a l i t a t i v e method of research. Canadian Journal of Counse l l ing , 20(4), 242-254. Wuthnow, R. (1978). Peak experiences: Some empir i ca l t e s t s . 118 Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18.(3) , 59-75. Yalom, I . D. (1980). E x i s t e n t i a l psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books. Y i n , R. K. (1984). Appl ied s o c i a l science research methods s e r i e s : V o l . 5. Case study research: Design and methods. Beverly H i l l s : Sage. Appendix A Semi-structured Interview Format 120 1. Descr ip t ion of the event. 2. Relevant thoughts, f ee l ings , act ions , and experiences p r i o r to the event. 3. Short-term and long-term dif ferences a f ter the event. 4. Most e s s e n t i a l element of the experience. 5. How d i d the experience work? Co-researcher's ideas and a check of l i t e r a t u r e generated hypotheses. 121 Appendix B Newspaper Advertisement 122 UBC Masters student researching experiences that transformed people's l i v e s . I f your l i f e had a turn ing po in t , please c a l l Steve at 261-6059. Appendix C Consent Form P a r t i c i p a n t ' s Information and Consent Form 124 Personal Problem-solving Experiences: An exploratory study (Project Supervisor: Dr. Ishu Ishiyama - 822-5329) My name i s Steve Ayers. As part of my Master of A r t s degree i n Counsel l ing Psychology I'm doing a research pro jec t on c r i t i c a l moments or events which solved problems i n people's l i v e s . To help me i n t h i s research I w i l l be interviewing people who have had t h i s kind of experience. The f i r s t interview w i l l probably take about an hour and a ha l f , the second about h a l f an hour, and they w i l l be audiotaped. Parts of the tapes w i l l be t ranscr ibed to use i n my thes i s . When the research i s f i n i s h e d i t would be h e l p f u l to be able to contact you to discuss the r e s u l t s . The information you provide w i l l be kept c o n f i d e n t i a l , and I w i l l not be using names or other i d e n t i f y i n g information i n the t h e s i s . Af ter my thes i s has been accepted the tapes w i l l be erased. There are no f i n a n c i a l benefits from p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n t h i s study, and you are free to withdraw any time you wish. I f you have any questions about the research, or remember a d d i t i o n a l d e t a i l s that you f ee l are important, you can contact me at 261-6059. I hope the opportunity to t a l k about your experience w i l l be a rewarding and enr ich ing one. I , , of l ega l age (19 yrs or over) have read the above c a r e f u l l y , and give my consent to p a r t i c i p a t e i n the above study. I a lso acknowledge r e c e i p t of a copy of t h i s consent form. Please contact me / do not contact me to discuss the r e s u l t s of t h i s study. Signature Date 

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