“Whether in painting, poetry, performance, music, dance, or life, there is an intelligence working in every situation. This force is the primary carrier of creation.
If we trust it and follow its natural movement, it will astound us with its ability to find a way through problems—and even make creative use of our mistakes and failures.
There is a magic to this process that cannot be controlled by the ego. Somehow it always finds the way to the place where you need to be, and a destination you never could have known in advance.
When everything seems as if it is hopeless and going nowhere . . . trust the process.” (McNiff 1998)
“in every learner, in every person, there are creative sources of energy and meaning that are often tacit, hidden, or denied” (Moustakas, 2001).
“Heuristic” is a term for a particular technique of directing attention (focusing) towards discovery. The term is derived from the Greek word, Heureskein, which is also the origin of “Eureka”, the word supposedly exclaimed by Archimedes when he discovered how to determine the purity of the gold in Hiero’s crown.
Hureskein literally means “to find” or “pertaining to finding”. (Beard)
Heuristic inquiry was developed by Clark Moustakas (1990; see also Douglass & Moustakas, 1985), and bears some resemblance to the idea of lived inquiry developed by John Heron (1998), and mindful inquiry developed by Bentz & Shapiro (1998). Heuristic inquiry is an adaptation of phenomenological inquiry but explicitly acknowledges the involvement of the researcher, to the extent that the lived experience of the researcher becomes the main focus of the research. The researcher really needs to feel passionate about the research question (West, 1998a; 1998b). Indeed, what is explicitly the focus of the approach is the transformative effect of the inquiry on the researcher’s own experience. (Hiles,2001)
“. . . From the beginning, and throughout an investigation, heuristic research involves self-search, self-dialogue, and self-discovery; the research question and the methodology flow out of inner awareness, meaning, and inspiration. When I consider an issue, problem, or question, I enter into it fully . . . I may challenge, confront, or even doubt my understanding of a human concern or issue; but when I persist in a disciplined and devoted way I ultimately deepen my knowledge of the phenomenon . . I am personally involved . . I may be entranced by visions, images, and dreams that connect me to my quest. I may come into touch with new regions of myself, and discover revealing connections with others” (Moustakas, 1990)
HOW DO I RESEARCH AN IDEA THAT I’M YET TO HAVE?
My first aim was to identify an experience or theme that I felt strongly enough about to investigate using this method. In the beginning, I had very little understanding about the term “heuristic process of Inquiry”, or what my own inquiry was to be about. In fact, I spent the first five and half hours of “research” staring at the wall, shuffling papers, installing anti procrastination apps on my various digital devices, and Googling the word Heuristic. I felt very out of my depth, overwhelmed and confused by the entire concept, and as the clock tick tick ticked (well, clocks don’t actually tick any more, but the digits on my laptop were becoming rather shouty) I started to suspect that I was on a wild goose chase, some kind of elaborate psych evaluation or endurance test designed to weed out the weakest students …Amazingly, I resisted the urge to shout “BOLLOCKS!” and run, and persisted, plodding through all the suggested exercises in a state of curious resignation. Diligently following instruction, I completed all the suggested activities and pushed through the excruciating discomfort of feeling utterly ignorant and sceptical; no idea what I was doing, where I was heading, or even why
Suddenly, in the final few minutes of my first day of inquiry, I had an “Eureka!” moment. I still didn’t entirely understand what Heuristic meant, but at least I had some idea about what “theme” would like to investigate. What questions I needed to ask myself.
I’ll try to explain.
PREPARATION – Information gathering.
“Becoming fully immersed in the problem, learning about the topic by observation, research, talking with other people.” (Nathan and Mirviss 1998)
Group work: Mirroring
On day one, I started by doing some warm up exercises with a group of eight colleagues. The first of these exercises was called Passing a Gesture, which involves standing in a circle, taking turns to make a face or an expressive gesture towards the person standing next to them. The receiver would then turn to their neighbour and repeat the gesture, passing it around the circle like a parcel. A visual form of Chinese Whispers.
It was surprisingly difficult, initially, to mirror someone else’s body language. The movements were always altered slightly, changing the mood, often rather dramatically. Something was always lost in translation. Or added? Perhaps both.
Throughout the exercise I was extremely careful to be as accurate as possible when reproducing these gestures, and felt very uncomfortable when others didn’t do the same. For example, when one colleague performed a rather somber, serious-looking mime, the receiver burst out laughing and made up her own very comical version of it which, in accordance with the rules of the game, the person next to her was then obliged to mimic. As the gesture was passed around the group, the interpretations became less and less reflective of the original. This seemed extremely disrespectful and insensitive to me, and reminded me of all the times, especially as a child, when I myself had been misunderstood, dismissed, left out, ignored, not taken seriously.
Note to self: My own past experiences are influencing my interpretation and judgement of the behaviour of others. This was an important observation. My first clue.After this warm up, we did another type of mirroring exercise. In pairs, we took turns doing a body sculpt to demonstrate how we were feeling at that particular time while the other person copied our movements.
For my sculpt, I stood with terrible posture, head hanging low, shoulders sagging, arms hanging loosely by my side, knees slightly bent. My eyebrows were raised and my eyes closed. (It was Saturday morning, I’d had a late night studying, and was facing a long day ahead. I would rather be at a photography meet or yoga class, or still in bed…)
When I opened my eyes after a couple of minutes, I saw my colleague standing in front of me with almost identical posture and facial expression. I saw someone who looked just as tired, sleepy, saggy, heavy and “over it” as I did!
It was a moving experience, for many reasons. The fact that she had gone to the effort of recreating my pose so accurately and thoughtfully was touching. I felt respected and understood. Connected. “YES! You get it! That’s how I feel!”
My body seemed to respond to what I was seeing. I felt lighter, as though relieved of a burden, and the situation felt really comfortable, familiar. Even though it was simply a mime, the gesture felt genuine, convincing. I couldn’t stop grinning, and neither could she! We had both been thinking and feeling very similar things that morning, but would never have guessed as we express ourselves so differently.
I returned to my desk to indwell on the experience. I did this by writing automatically, noting everything that came to mind and drawing a small illustration (fig 1)figure 1
I hadn’t realised until seeing my body language reflected back to me, and heard my colleague’s inter subjective response: “exhausted, sleepy, loose, relaxed, droopy” that, although I did feel tired, irritable and grumpy, I was also quite relaxed and loose, neither stressed nor unhappy.
My colleague then performed a gesture while I acted as her mirror, and we repeated the process.
What I came to know:
- that I am able to communicate very effectively using body language and that I also have a very visceral response to the body language of others. This form of communication is occurring constantly at a subconscious level all the time, whether I am actively engaged with a person or simply passing them in the street. This may explain why I have always found shopping centres and other crowded places very overwhelming.
- It is important for me to learn to identify and separate my own feelings from those of others. “Bracket out!” avoid projecting or making assumptions.
The Creative Process
In their book “Therapy Techniques Using the Creative Arts”, Ann Arge Nathan and Suzanne Mirviss described the creative process as a problem solving method, as opposed to an innate talent or gift, and how it is thought to consist of six phases:
fig. 2 The Creative Process
In pairs, we were allocated phases to explore and asked to collaborate on creating both an image and a movement to represent it visually. My colleague and I were assigned Incubation and Insight.
“Incubation and Insight”.
On a large piece of paper, we brainstormed ideas. This exercise felt rather contrived at first, awkward, insincere, confusing. However, as we scribbled loosely and filled the page, both the drawing and conversation between us started to “flow” and feel increasingly natural and comfortable, even fun! I noticed that once I had surrendered to the process I felt less self-conscious and was able let go of expectations. As a result, the activity stopped being stressful and became highly enjoyable and relaxing.
My colleague and I drew a lighthouse, radiating light, surrounded by swirling waters. In the water was a figure, swimming, and a shark fin breaking the surface.
Also in the water were puzzle pieces, grey clouds, question marks, arrows pointing toward the middle. It all just started flowing out onto the page as we discussed ideas and thoughts on what incubation and insight might look like. fig.3 above: “incubation and insight”
While still feeling relaxed and uninhibited, we performed a movement to describe “Incubation and Insight”. Had we tried doing this before warming up with the drawing, I doubt it would have happened as easily. As it was, my partner and I swirled around the middle of the room like a couple of dervishes with our arms spread wide, fingers splayed, completely unselfconscious. Without planning or prompting, I suddenly stopped swirling and started swimming in circles, and my colleague slipped into the role of a shark in hot pursuit! Then, just as suddenly, I stood still and reached my arms above my head in an AHA! gesture, which I quickly followed by miming being a lighthouse, my outstretched arms the beams of light.
To end the body sculpt, I shaped my arms into a circle and Katherine instinctively put her head through the hole, and we stood there, giggling, pretending to be two very funny-looking puzzle pieces fitting together.
This all felt very silly, but extremely liberating and joyful. It also helped me to understand that every phase of the creative process has a beginning middle and an end.
Once each group had completed a movement, we placed the drawings on the ground, in order.(Fig 4) The group drawings representing “Inspiration and Preparation” (top)“Incubation and Insight” (middle) and “Evaluation and Elaboration” (bottom)
Seeing these drawing laid out in sequence, I could clearly see a pattern: Top, middle, bottom: Beginning, Middle, End.
By now I felt exhausted. Although I had some insight into the various stages of the creative process, I still wasn’t sure what Heuristic meant or how all these individual insights fitted together. My head felt extremely heavy, I desperately needed a cup of tea, and the overall point of the exercises continued to elude me.
Next, we were asked to construct a kinetic group body sculpture to represent all six stages. With hindsight, the purpose of the exercise seems obvious, but I remember feeling confused at the time, not sure how this differed from what we had already done. But, once again, I put my trust in the process and as soon as we all stood up to create the movement, it “just happened”.
When we were asked to draw an image of this flow state, showing a beginning, middle and end, I found it relatively easy to picture. (fig.5)fig 5. “The Flow: Beginning, Middle, and End”
Kroestler’s Emergent theory. (Fig.6)
Arthur Koestler studied the processes of discovery, invention, imagination and creativity in humour, science, and the arts, and developed an elaborate general theory of human creativity. From describing and comparing many different examples of invention and discovery, Koestler concluded that they all share a common pattern which he terms “bisociation” – a blending of elements drawn from two previously unrelated schools of thought into a new matrix of meaning via a process involving comparison, abstraction and categorisation, analogies and metaphors. He regards many different mental phenomena based on comparison, such as analogies, metaphors, parables, allegories, jokes, identification, role-playing, acting, personification, anthropomorphism etc, as special cases of “bisociation”. (Koestler, 1964)
I then used Freud’s process of free association to brainstorm the word “Inquiry”.
This method involves quickly writing down every single thing that comes to mind while thinking of a particular word, no matter how unrelated it might at first seem. Make a note of any sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, memories and so on that the word might evoke.
Once I had done this, I broke the list down into key words by highlighting those that stood out, repeated or resonated the most with me. (fig. 6)
The words I was left with were:
QuestioningIdentifying Sensations, Images, Feelings, Thoughts and Memories associated with “inquiry”
I explored each key word by breaking them up into five separate categories: Sensation, images, feelings, thought and memories.
For example, how did the word make me feel physically, what did I visualize? what emotions did it evoke? What did I think about and remember? I repeated this process for all three words, using the same free flowing word association technique as before, and once again noted the key words. (fig.7)
These key words were:
At this stage, I still had no idea what my theme or topic was going to be. It still didn’t click or make any sense. Nearing the end of day two, I had started to panic again. After all this work, so many little and not so little Eureka moments, yet I still didn’t think I was any closer to knowing what it was that I wanted or needed to know more about!
Despairing, I asked myself, the following questions:
Who am I?
What do I want to know?
What is the nature of my curiosity?
What do I know? I can’t know what I don’t know!
And then, all of a sudden, it hit me.
I seek …..
Well of course I seek enlightenment, but why? About what, in particular? What do I want or need to change? What will bring me closer to achieving my key words “Stillness, patience, peace, love, happiness, understanding,” etc etc etc etc?
Finally, after much angst, internal struggle and doubt, I knew what I wanted to explore:
ACCEPTANCE fig.8 EUREKA!!!! – My theme is to be Acceptance!
Mirroring – Inter and Intra subjective responses
With a partner, I performed another mirroring exercise, this time while focusing on my newly decided topic of inquiry, “acceptance”.
What does acceptance look like?
With this in mind, I moved around the room, adopting the attitude of “acceptance” while my partner mirrored me.
Once I’d done this I jotted down three intra subjective words in my journal, noting how I felt during the exercise, and my colleague wrote down three inter subjective words on a piece of paper which she then handed to me.
My three words were Open, Relaxed, Peaceful
My colleague’s words were Open, Non-judgmental, self love.
Statement of knowing
After a few minutes of deep reflection, I came up with a short statement about what I understood the purpose of my inquiry to be:
“I wish to achieve a state of inner peace and tranquility through acceptance”
Using COLLAGE to explore the word acceptance
With this statement in mind, I started looking through magazines to find 20 – 30 images that resonated with me in regards to my topic of inquiry.
I used these images to create a collage on a very large sheet of card. (Fig9)fig. 9 My collage, inspired by the theme Acceptance
Once the collage was completed, I sat with my colleague and described it to her phenomenologically, (form, colours, lines, shapes, positions) while she took dictation. As the transcript below shows, I found phenomenological description rather …. challenging
fig, 10 transcript of my phenomenological description of collage & key words
I took the transcript to my desk sat with it, reading, indwelling, making notes and reducing it to key words using free association (figs 10 & 11)
My key words were as follows:
strange, small, different, water, space, even, religious, intricate, separate, circular, beautiful, colour, icy, stark, repeating, small, hollow, inverted, green, red, blue, orange, yellowFig 11. My notes, written while indwelling on the transcript of my phenomenological description of the collage, the key words and the thoughts, feelings, images, sensations and memories that arose.
Next, I explored the energy of each of the key words thorough movement, noting my intra subjective responses fig.12 exploring key words though movement
I chose one of these movements and repeated it in front of my partner who mirrored it back. The word I enacted was “Repeating”.
I then wrote down three intra subjective words, and she wrote down three inter subjective ones.
My intra subjective words were mechanical, predictable, even.
My partner’s inter subjective words were Robotic, rhythmic, steady.
After all this indwelling and focusing and movement, I was feeling utterly drained, but there was still more investigating to do!
My partner and I sat in front of my collage again. She asked me a series of questions about it and took dictation as I answered.
The questions were:
- What draws your attention the most?
- What comes to mind when you focus on this?
- What else draws your attention?
- Tell me more/something about this?
- Where is the main energy or movement of energy in this representation?
- What do you become aware of when you reflect on this?
- As you look, what are the feelings responses you have? What can you say about this?
- Do you notice anything about colour? What does it suggest to you?
- Do you notice anything about texture? What does it suggest to you?
- Do you notice anything about shapes? What does it suggest to you?
- Do you notice anything about line? What does it suggest to you?fig 13 My answers to Katherine’s questions about my observations of my own collage
Once I had answered these questions I indwelled, using all the information I had gathered, and came up with the following statement and poem:
What I have come to know:
Although I can influence certain things in my life, arrange them into some semblance of order, the fact of the matter is I will never really be able to control or predict anything other than my own choices, thoughts and reactions. I believe that my acceptance of how things are and how they affect me is the only way I will be able to learn how to move forward and make the most of what I do have. Understanding why I see the world the way I do and react to things the way I do may help me find peace.
Blue skies, grey skies, Darkness, light
Straight lines, curved lines, Wrong and right
Inside, outside, upside-down,
Joy and sorrow, smile, frown
Cruelty, kindness, Life & death,
Seeing, blindness, work & rest
Reduction – Phenomenological reduction is a way of removing the layers of interpretation and assumptions that we put between the world, and ourselves in order that we can better see the world for what it actually is, rather than for what we imagine it to be.
Husserl said that by studying the appearance of something, the boundaries of knowledge can be extended in two directions, firstly towards the object, to find out about it, Secondly, towards the subject, to find out about the process of looking – the more I look at things the more I will find out about the me that does the looking.
With this in mind, I sat at my desk with my collage on an easel in front of me and copied it into my journal, but using only the outlines of the main objects and shapes in each picture. Then I filled in each outlined shape with a colour I felt resonated with it. (fig 14)
I numbered each shape and made a list naming all the images. (fig.15)fig 14 reduction of photo collage to A4 outline drawing
I used free association to explore the shapes, noting sensations, images, feelings thoughts and memories that arose for me as I did so.
Indwelling on the information gathered (fig 16), I asked myself what this tells me about my chosen theme, Acceptance.
ACCEPTANCE: Accepting everything as it is, as it happens, and the reasons why. Moving through every experience, moving forward regardless of fear or discomfort.
fig 15 list of descriptions of images in A4 line drawing of photo collage
The Focusing Process –
a therapeutic process developed by contemporary psychotherapist and philosopher Eugene Gendlin.
People engaged in Focusing therapy place their attention inwardly to discover awareness and the meaning of what they have not yet been able to verbalize. The concept of Focusing is based upon Gendlin’s research, which indicated that the client’s internal dynamics were the most critical elements of successful therapy. He found that clients who focused internally were more likely to succeed in therapy.
As part of his Focusing approach, Gendlin coined the term “felt sense.” This refers to a physical sensation of unease that is difficult to clearly articulate. People might feel a sense of emptiness, tension, or heaviness that is related to a previous trauma, for example, but has yet to be recognized consciously. Through Focusing, people detect, observe, and evaluate this felt sense so that they can recognize what they truly feel and move toward a “felt shift.” A felt shift occurs when a person names the felt sense and associates it with a situation or problem in the person’s life, allowing the body to relax. The person may feel relief, elation, energy, or gratitude. (Goodtherapy.org, 2015)
Working with Toni, we sat in front of my collage and she asked me to choose one image that I felt resonated with me most. She asked me a series of questions as shown below. (fig 17)fig 17 Focusing
As I considered and verbally answered her questions, I became acutely aware of my body’s physical responses. Tingles in my back, arms, legs, spreading warm glowing sensations, tensions, discomfort, and so on, and as I became aware of the feelings, they did shift, or moved to other areas of my body. As soon as I was able to identify the source of the greatest discomfort, and verbalised it, I experienced a huge wave or relief and felt tears of joy welled up. I felt an overwhelming sense of understanding, lightness of being and freedom. fig 18. My felt senses and experiencing during focusing process with Toni
I then drew a visual representation of this felt sense and wrote a very short poem to synthesise my knowing fig.19 Depiction of felt sense after focusing process with Toni
Acceptance is key,
Let go and let be.
Transcendental Phenomenology – Edmund Husserl (1859–1938)
Noema – that which is experienced
Noesis – the way in which it is experienced
To gain inspiration, I walked around the room, thinking of the word acceptance, using free association, letting words tumble out spontaneously. I made a note of the key words and amplified them through movement.
After this I sat with my collage and identified 3 images that attracted my attention. I made a paper frame to isolate each image from the rest of the collage fig 21 a fig 21 bFig 21c
First, I described these three images literally (fig 22) then described them again, using felt senses, images, feelings, thoughts and memories. (Fig 23)fig. 22 literal description of imagesfig 23. Describing the 3 images using SIFT (sensations images feelings thoughts etc)
fig 24a. the story – Beginningfig 24b the story – the middlefig 24c The story – the end
Exploring the Story
After writing the story, we got into groups of three.
While I read my story aloud, the two listeners noted key words, which she then gave to me.
Then, one of the listeners read my story to me while I noted key words.
Listeners then gave me their inter subjective responses :
- Katherine used her key words to write another story which amplified mine (fig26)
- Corrine used key words to create an image in response to my story (fig 25)
- I indwelled on my own keywords and incorporated them into a poem
- Both Katherine and Corrine gave me their drawing, story and key words to keep
fig. 25 Corrine’s drawing, notes and my key words produced in response to my story
fig 26 Katherine’s story in response to mine
Continuing to work with Amplification, Re experiencing, and Multi Modal Experiencing
Playing with Plastiscine
To begin, I went for a seven minute walk, indwelling on the word Acceptance, my story, all my experiences thus far, and everything that I was coming to know about my chosen topic.
I then used modeling clay to create a representation of this knowing. (Fig 27a 27b 27c)
I wrote a description of my creation then underlined key words and chose the 3 that resonated the most strongly. I then amplified those 3 words, as shown in fig 28, below.
What is at the core of the responses?
Strength, Resiliance, Acceptance
Group Work: exploring the other
I looked at the clay models of two other students and wrote a one word inter subjective response on a piece of paper which I placed face down next to each model.
They other class members did the same. We had given and received two words each.
I indwelled the two words left on my object and followed the process of inquiry shown below in fig 30 and 31
fig 30 Exploring the inter subjective Reponses of others to my clay model, and the relationship between object brought from home and chosen image on collage
fig 31 Object as interviewer. Noting connections between object brought from home and clay model.
fig 32 Britany’s notes of my answers to her questions regarding the relationship between the object brought from home and my clay model
The phenomenological method comprises three steps: (1) the rule of epoché, (2) the rule of description, and (3) the rule of horizontalization. Applying the rule of epoché involves setting aside one’s initial biases and prejudices in order to suspend expectations and assumptions. Applying the rule of description, involves describing instead of explaining. Applying the rule of horizontalization one treats each item of description as having equal value or significance. (Spinelli)
Cluster analysis or clustering is the task of grouping a set of objects in such a way that objects in the same group (called a cluster) are more similar (in some sense or another) to each other than to those in other groups (clusters). It is a main task of exploratory data mining (the process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information)
I used this process to indwell on all my accrued data, including my collage and discover groups of images that are similar.
fig 33 my Clusters
Letting others in
After completing these clusters, another student sat with them while indwelling on my theme, acceptance. She then rearranged the key words in a way that she felt might be of service to me in my inquiry. I did the same with a different student’s clusters, and it felt like quite an enormous responsibility! I was surprised how difficult I found it to let go of my inhibitions and self doubt and thinking that I had no right to interfere or make suggestions. I was so relieved when Hazel reacted positively to the changes. The process had felt a little like rearranging someone else’s furniture after they had placed it just how they wanted it.
I was even more surprised, however, by my reaction to the way the student had rearranged my clusters. She hadn’t just moved a few key words around, she had written a completely new heading, created a whole new cluster and added some of her own extra key words! (Fig 34) I felt really uncomfortable and upset when I saw this. I couldn’t relate to the new cluster and the words she had added looked so out of place and jarring. Yet I controlled my reactions and did not show disappointment as the student was watching me and smiling broadly, expectantly waiting for me to comment. I felt frozen. I was shocked by the strength of the emotions I was feeling. My body felt prickly and “icky”, and I had to try really hard not to cry. How could I have such a dramatic response to such a simple, seemingly harmless exercise?
I felt totally disconnected from this student. It confused me that she seemed so pleased and assumed that I would be too. And when I smiled at her and thanked her politely, she smiled back and said she knew I would be happy with it, because I am “so unique and different” and that I have my own style. She wasn’t saying anything unkind, quite the opposite, and I genuinely believe she meant well, but for some reason it seemed inappropriate and alienating. I noted that I didn’t enjoy being told what or how or who I am. I need to discover that for myself, in my own way and in my own time. I also noted that I felt very guilty and ashamed for feeling so upset, and ungrateful.
As soon as she wasn’t looking, I rearranged my clusters and removed the new words that didn’t resonate with me. As I did so, I found myself reducing the number of clusters from 4 to 3. So I understand now that the uncomfortable jolt had been both necessary and productive to my inquiry.
Using the felt sense/intuitive knowing, I explored each cluster, asking myself: Who is in it? What is happening? With whom? Where? Which values? Emotions?
Using the felt sense/intuitive knowing, I explored each cluster, asking myself: Who is in it? What is happening? With whom? Where? Which values? Emotions?
fig 37 Using the felt sense/intuitive knowing, I explored each cluster, asking myself: Who is in it? What is happening? With whom? Where? Which values? Emotions?
Further reduction to a visual representation (fig 38) and Thematic statement
What I came to know
When I allow myself to embrace and accept the differences between myself and others, I am more able to see the similarities and feel accepted in return, part of a tribe.
Humans, and all things, are all connected, even if they appear to be completely unrelated on the surface. I feel hopeful now. I feel I am a part of the world and that in order to achieve a sense of peace, serenity and belonging, I must first learn to accept it as it is, others as they are, and myself as I am.
We are all in this together.
fig 39 drawn after laying out and indwelling upon all my work, data and experiencing accrued during this heuristic process of inquiry
fig 40. Written after laying out and indwelling upon all my work, data and experiencing accrued during this heuristic process of inquiry
fig 41 My little bronze fell off the table and broke, just as I was about to present all my findings. And it was ok. I accepted it as being all part of the process
fig 42 my presentation
fig 43 some of the inter subjective responses given to me by my classmates and teacher following my presentation