Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Creative Transcendence: Memoir Writing for Transformation and Empowerment

Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Creative Transcendence: Memoir Writing for Transformation and Empowerment

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Inspired by the researcher's experiences as a memoir writer, this qualitative narrative inquiry research study examined the transformative and empowering dynamics of writing a memoir in connection with transcendent/pivotal experiences. The study was informed by Maslow's theory of creativity and metamotivation. The five participants were esteemed writers with at least one fulllength memoir. The study offered a comprehensive profile of each participant showing the relevance of writing as a transpersonal practice. Data collection included memoir excerpts, interviews, lectures, and observations. Data analysis was done using thematic analysis. The findings contribute to the ongoing knowledge of writing as a transpersonal practice. The results illustrate the transformative and empowering dynamics of writing a full-length memoir. The writing experience offered the participants a chance to review their lives, find resolution and redemption, find inner peace, and establish the clarity of mind to move forward in their lives.

KEYWORDS: memoir, transformative writing, empowerment, creative transcendence, transcendent experiences, Abraham Maslow, B- (being) creativity, D- (deficiency) creativity, metamotivation.

When I was 10 years old, my grandmother committed suicide in the room next to mine. More than four decades later, after my first cancer diagnosis, I realized what a transformative event that had been. This awareness set me on a path to discover the reason my grandmother took her life and resulted in two published memoirs, Regina s Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal and Healing With Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey that helped me understand, grow, and become empowered. This study examined the transcendent or pivotal experiences that inspire memoir writing for transformation and empowerment in esteemed writers. Many memoir writers choose this genre as a way to find or reclaim their voice, share a family secret, or tell a story. The act or experience of writing brings a sense of awareness, a transformed identity, and a deeper understanding of the individual writer's place in the world (Krippner, 2002; Yagelski, 2009).

In his discussion of creativity, Csikszentmihalyi (1996) said, "The real work begins when the emotion or idea that sprang from the uncharted regions of the psyche is held up to the light of reason ... it is here that craft comes into play'' (p. 263). The decision to write a memoir is dependent upon both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that are illuminated by pivotal or transcendent experiences. The intrinsic factors may relate to the individual's emotions, and the extrinsic factors may pertain to what occurs in his or her world. Writing about certain experiences helps provide an understanding of one's unique self, as well as one's relationship with others and the world-at-large.

Maslow's (1971) theory of motivation informed this study in that in writing a memoir an individual might be motivated by higher means or higher truths. "They are dedicated people, devoted to some task 'outside themselves,' some vocation, or duty, or beloved job'' (Maslow, 1971, p. 291). This metamotivation may be connected to a calling, daimon, mission, or life purpose or what inspires the self-actualized individual. This metamotivation may be connected to what Maslow calls B- (being) creativity or creativity that arises from being motivated by a higher level of growth. The other type of creativity coined by Maslow is called D- (deficiency) creativity and is a type of creativity that arises from an individual needing to fill a gap due to an unmet primary need or the need for affirmation, acceptance and/or love.

In lieu of presenting a problem, this study presented an opportunity to examine the transcendent or pivotal experiences that encourage individuals to choose memoir writing to transform, grow, and become empowered. The transcendent event may be seen as a unique experience that can confirm or affirm an individual's identity. …

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