professional objectivity

in the post about the 10 paradoxes of creative people, there was an interesting question by osmium/fuzzy logic: does my preference for hanging out with people who are on the same wavelength as i obstruct my professional need for objectivity?

how about i answer with the conclusion of a paper i wrote some time ago, entitled research at the edge of awareness: the person of the researcher and nonrational aspects of qualitative research. what i say about researchers here applies to psychotherapists as well. (for more on this – i’ve also written a paper on the therapist as a person, here).

what have we learned about the researcher being at the edge of awareness? the researcher can misunderstand, be forgetful, intellectual, playful, stupid, inquisitive, creative, confident, intuitive, blind to her own paradigms, can pay attention to some things but not others, sift all her perceptions through her very personal cognitive filters, and can have unconscious assumptions.

she has a personal history and context (e.g. childhood experiences, gender, socioeconomic status), and her own unique psychological development pattern.

she has values, and preferences for certain stances in life – e.g. self-denying asceticism / narcissistic indulgence, creativity / rationality, subjectivity / objectivity.

she has multiple roles, for example artist and researcher, community member and researcher, parent and researcher.

she can experience many emotions in the research process: she can be excited, afraid, anxious, apprehensive, guilty, elated, overwhelmed, doubtful, confused, conflicted, disoriented, disquieted, compassionate.

she takes a stance on how to interact with the other: empathic or removed, emotionally involved or distant.

sometimes she wants others to see her in a certain light, wants them to emulate her values, wants them to hear her own emotional story; sometimes she has high, sometimes low ego strength, sometimes she is tempted to take on others’ values and views, is afraid of rejection, ambivalent about her level of involvement with the groups she studies; sometimes she experiences stressful role changes and role conflicts and has to deal with the power dynamics of the group she is part of.

all these aspects interact with each other and influence the researcher’s activities.

is that all there is? is the researcher just a bundle of semi conscious emotions, a helpless victim of her genetics, history and environment?

of course not. training, reading, reflection, accumulating research experience, interaction with mentors and researcher peers and the exercise of the researcher’s rational mind are aspects not at the edge of but squarely within awareness, and balance out the nonrational aspects.

the task is not to set the rational off against the nonrational but to know that the “rational animal” will always work with a blend of the two.

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