Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Transpersonal Approaches to Autoethnographic Research and Writing

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Transpersonal Approaches to Autoethnographic Research and Writing

Article excerpt

During my life as a professional writer, I have always been intrigued by the power of the personal story as a way of healing and transformation. As an avid reader and writer of biographies and memoir, it seems appropriate for me to pursue my doctorate through a qualitative study using the autoethnographical research method, because this research method utilizes autobiographical writing in that it examines the personal experience of the researcher and participants. My impetus for writing this paper is to provide an overview of how to do an autoethnographical study, with the hope that my literature review will help facilitate a successful research journey.

Thus, this paper consists of an examination and review of the recent literature regarding the general aspects and mechanics of doing an autoethnographic study. The paper examines the various components of this type of study, including the characteristics of an autoethnographical researcher, identifying an autoethnographical study, approaches to research and writing, transpersonal relevance, and a brief discussion of the pitfalls and ethical issues associated with this method of study. This paper also highlights the transpersonal relevance of doing an autoethnographical study.

The argument presented in this paper builds on Ellis' (2004) suggestion that autoethnographical research is expanding outside the realm of anthropology, and merging into other disciplines, such as psychology and sociology. Further, the paper examines the need for more accessible qualitative research studies, such as autoethnography, as ways for the researcher and reader to connect regarding a particular lived experience. Examples are provided of how this method of research may offer a better understanding of the self in the lived experience, while weaving the stories of other participants into that of the researcher's lived experience.

Finally, the paper is used to demonstrate that like other methods of research, the autoethnographical research method has pitfalls and issues, of which the researcher should be mindful in order to maximize its acceptance within the research community. Additionally, this paper offers examples of ethnographic studies which might be relevant to the transpersonal psychologist.

Transpersonal Psychology and Autoethnography

The focus of my doctorate program is in transpersonal psychology. Transpersonal refers to going beyond the personal in order to encompass a wider sense of consciousness. Some transpersonal qualities might include compassion, wisdom, intuition, mindfulness, creativity, self-awareness, and empathy. Transpersonal psychology is the newest or fifth branch of psychology, which emerged in the 1960s as an offshoot of humanistic psychology, spear-headed by Abraham Maslow. Transpersonal psychology has been considered a positive psychology that encompasses all the branches of psychology, with its main concern being the achievement of optimal health, well-being, and a higher state of consciousness. In contrast to traditional psychoanalysis, less emphasis is placed on past experiences, and more emphasis placed on the present and future possibilities. Thus, transpersonal psychology encompasses the positive effects of transpersonal experiences or the self, moving beyond the individual to encompass various aspects of humankind, life, psyche and cosmos. These transpersonal experiences, which usually occur during an altered state of consciousness, lead to increased awareness, self-discovery, and ultimately transformation. Some examples of transpersonal experiences that could lead to transcendence include, but are not limited to, peak experiences, dream experiences, intuitive experiences, clairvoyance, revelations, life review, direct knowing, creative inspiration, drug-induced, out-of-body-experiences, and/or near-death experiences (Grof, 1996, 2000; Walsh & Vaughan, 1996).

Autoethnography is defined as a form of autobiographical writing and an approach to research that describes and analyzes personal experience as a way to understand cultural experiences. …

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