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Exploring the existential dimension in narrative futuring

Velthuis, G. (2014) Exploring the existential dimension in narrative futuring.

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Abstract:In this study the relation between narrative futuring (imagining the future and making it explicit in a narrative way) and the existential dimension is under study. Both a narrative approach and the existential dimension are associated with the process of finding meaning in life. Meaning-making is negatively associated with several psychological diseases, and positively associated with benefit-finding and emotional wellbeing. Therefore it is important to examine how a narrative working mode can help to make existential themes discussable, and how this process can attribute to finding meaning in life. In the first study a working model is developed to assess the presence of four existential concerns (Yalom, 1980) in ‘letters from the future’. These letters were collected in the Life-story Lab, an online lab in which participants are asked to write a letter from a fictive, personal future, and thus to engage in narrative futuring. Any visitor of the website could donate a letter. The first one hundred letters were selected from the total pool of letters, because this way the largest variety of letters was obtained. The sample consisted of mostly female students ranging from 16-25 years old. The letters were analysed using qualitative analysing methods. Six letter categories and two criteria were found that associate with the presence of existential concerns in the letters. Through the model traces of existential struggles can be found. These findings indicate that narrative futuring is a promising instrument to explore the existential dimension. The aim of the second study is twofold: to test the construct- and ecological validity of the developed working model, and to find out whether the writing process induced existential reflection and action. From the personal network of the researcher twelve new participants were recruited. The sample mainly consisted of Christian women between 26 and 35 years old. The participants were interviewed regarding the content of their future letter and regarding the writing process. The results from the interviews substantiate the construct- and ecological validity of the previously developed working model, and thus confirm that narrative futuring can be used as an instrument to explore the existential dimension. Furthermore, the writing process in itself elicits no confrontation with an existential concern. This finding indicates that solely writing a future letter does not help to deal with existential themes, and thus to find existential meaning.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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