Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Poetry heals the wounds reason creates

Transformative Learning and the Journey of
Individuation. ERIC Digest No. 223.
THIS DIGEST WAS CREATED BY ERIC, THE
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION
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Over the last 20 years, transformation theory has
deepened our understanding of what it means to
learn in adulthood. Collectively, the work of Paulo
Freire, Phyllis Cunningham, Laurent Daloz, and
Jack Mezirow, among others, addresses the
sociocultural and personal dimensions of
transformative learning. Dominant views of
transformative learning emphasize rational,
cognitive processes related to critical reflection.
An additional perspective on transformation,
however, has emerged, led by Robert Boyd and
his colleagues (Boyd 1989, 1991; Boyd and
Myers 1988). This work focuses on deeper
emotional and spiritual dimensions of learning
that many have suggested are underdeveloped in
dominant conceptions of transformative learning
(Merriam and Caffarella 1999). This Digest
summarizes and expands on Boyd's notion of
transformative learning, discussing the role of
image, symbol, ritual, fantasy, and imagination in
transformation.

BOYD'S VIEW OF TRANSFORMATIVE
EDUCATION
For many years, Boyd's research on the nature of
adult learning in small groups has reflected a
long-standing commitment to understanding the
psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual dimensions
of adult learning. This work is grounded in the
field of depth psychology, which is based on a
fundamental belief in the powerful role that the
dynamic unconscious plays in shaping our
thoughts, feelings, and actions on a day-to-day
basis. In Boyd's view, powerful feelings, emotions,
and affect that arise within our learning
experiences draw attention and energies to
unconscious issues or concerns seeking to gain
voice.

Boyd's earlier work reflected a more Freudian
influence, particularly that of Erik Erikson. It was
his study of Carl Jung, however, which led him to
formulate a view of transformative learning
grounded in Jung's concept of individuation (Boyd
1991; Boyd and Myers 1988). Jung (1921, quoted
in Jacoby 1990) defines individuation as a
"process by which individual beings are being
formed and differentiated...having as its goal the
development of the individual personality" (p. 94).
The forces and dynamics associated with
individuation are largely unconscious and
manifest themselves, independent from the
conscious ego, within the emotional, affective,
and spiritual dimensions of our lives.

We often discover that, despite our best
intentions, our being in the world seems to take
on a life of its own. More accurately, we find that
our lives are actually made up of multiple selves,
each seeming to have its own sense of direction
and purpose. Our conscious will is often quite one
sided, reflecting the influence of our sociocultural
contexts and personal biographies (Clark and
Dirkx 2000). From Jung's perspective of
individuation, however, we understand that the
ego is just one player within the psyche, and not a
very powerful one at that. When we begin to
participate consciously in this process of
individuation, we often discover that our
conscious, ego-based striving to be what we want
to be is not the same as being who we are
(Jacoby 1990). Without conscious participation,
we are much more subject to compulsions,
obsessions, and complexes, which may be the
darker, more unconscious manifestation of the
individuation or transformation process.

Individuation involves differentiating and
becoming aware of the presence of the different
selves operating within the psyche. This requires
an imaginative engagement with the
unconscious, a working dialogue between ego
consciousness and the powerful contents of the
unconscious. According to Boyd, a transformative
education fosters the natural processes of
individuation through imaginative engagement
with these different dimensions of one's
unconscious life. This engagement reflects an
ongoing dialogue between ego consciousness
and one's unconscious.

THE IMPORTANCE OF IMAGES
Boyd's notion of transformative education reflects
a psyche- or soul-centered psychology (Dirkx
1997; Moore 1992; Scott 1997). That is, what
matters most in learning is what matters to the
deep ground of our being, the psyche or soul,
what is "primary, original, basic, and necessary"
(Sells 2000, p. 3). In depth psychology, soul
represents a third way, in addition to mind and
matter, of thinking about human nature. Some
authors have loosely equated soul in education
with "heart." This way of knowing is felt to be
mediated largely through images rather than
directly through concepts or traditional forms of
rationalism. Images convey the ways in which we
invest or withdraw meaning from the social world.
By image, we intend here not mental pictures
derived from perception or memories but more in
the sense of poetic usage, a kind of psychic
representation with no actual correspondence in
an outer reality. For this reason, I refer to this
perspective as the "mytho-poetic" view of
transformative learning (Dirkx 1998). The mytho-
poetic view relies on images and symbols, the
language of poetry. In this sense, this view
complements the idea of perspective
transformation as described by Mezirow (1991)
and Cranton (1994). Perspective transformation
relies primarily on critical reflection, reason, and
rationality. Although Mezirow (1991) mentions the
role of imagination in this process, he does not
fully develop its role in transformative learning.

From the mytho-poetic perspective, transformative
learning leads not back to the life of the mind, as
we might find with reflection and analysis, but to
soul. From this perspective, we focus on images,
which are thought to represent powerful motifs
that represent, at an unconscious level, deep-
seated emotional or spiritual issues and
concerns. They represent our imaginative
engagement with the world, expressing what is
not known or knowable through words alone in
the self-world relationship. They are manifest
through dreams, fantasies, myth, legends, fairy
tales, stories, rituals, poetry, and performing arts,
such as dance. But images may also be evoked
or activated through emotionally laden aspects of
interactions with others or with the text being
studied.

Boyd's work in this area primarily focused on
elaborating the structures and dynamics of
transformation as they were manifest within the
context of small adult learning groups (Boyd
1989, 1991). Within the last 10 years, several
scholars, using depth psychology, have focused
more specifically on the imaginative and spiritual
aspects of transformative learning. For example,
Scott (1997) explores the sense of loss and grief
that can accompany personal transformation. In
positing transformative learning as
autobiography, Nelson (1997) suggests that
learners compose their lives by using imagination
and critical reflection to interpret their life story
within the social context. Clark (1997) relies on
ancient myths as well as more contemporary
Western stories to deepen her understanding of
the interconnections among writing, the
imagination, and dialogue. In some of my own
work, I seek to develop a better understanding of
the role that fantasy and imagination play in
transformative learning (Dirkx 1998, 2000;
Kritskaya and Dirkx 2000) and of nurturing soul as
a means of fostering inner work (Dirkx 1997; Dirkx
and Deems 1996). This research is providing a
foundation for further exploring imaginative and
spiritual dimensions of transformative learning.

WORKING WITH IMAGES
Many learning situations are capable of evoking
potentially powerful emotions and images among
adults. In a transformative pedagogy informed by
the mytho-poetic perspective, these emotions and
images are given voice, expression, and
elaboration. Strategies to foster this form of
learning engage the adult imaginatively with the
content or processes of the learning situation.
Educators working from this perspective will make
substantial use, regardless of the subject matter,
of story, myths, poetry, music, drawing, art,
journaling, dance, rituals, or performance. Such
approaches allow learners to become aware of
and give voice to the images and unconscious
dynamics that may be animating their psychic
lives within the context of the subject matter and
the learning process.

These unconscious aspects of psyches are
almost continuously seeking expression within
our lives, often in unconscious and disruptive
ways. The intent here is to deepen a sense of
wholeness by, paradoxically, differentiating,
naming, and elaborating all the different selves
that make up who we are as persons. Engaging in
dialog with these structures is a way of
consciously participating in the process of
individuation and integrating them more fully
within our conscious lives. Research and theory
in depth psychology provides us with some ideas
about how to work with the images that might
arise within educational contexts (Sells 2000;
Ulanov 1999). This process, referred to as the
"imaginal method," reflects a general collection of
strategies useful in fostering learners' insight into
those aspects of themselves and their worlds that
remain hidden from conscious awareness, yet
serve to influence and shape their sense of self,
interpretations of their external world, and their
day-to-day actions. The specific steps of this
process vary but generally involve: (1) describing
the image as clearly as we can; (2) associating
the image with other aspects of our lives; (3)
amplifying the image through use of stories,
poetry, fairy tales, or myths that present us with
similar images; and (4) animating the image by
allowing it to talk or interact further with us through
additional fantasy, or imaging work. These
processes may be used with writing, drawing,
dialogue, story telling, performance, dance, or
other methods described earlier. In addition,
learners and educators may decide to use all or
only some of these steps, depending on the
particular images presented and the directions for
work they suggest.

CONCLUSION
From the perspective discussed here, we are all
influenced and shaped by the forces of
individuation going on unconsciously within our
lives. Whether or not we are aware of them, these
forces propel us along a journey and certain
courses of action. Transformative learning refers
to processes through which we consciously
participate in this journey of individuation.
Through imaginative engagement with the
images and symbols that characterize this
journey, we can come to a deeper understanding
of ourselves and our relationship with the world
around us. Often through such learning, much to
our surprise, we find that the direction and nature
of this deeper journey do not always reflect the
choices and judgments of our ego-dominated
consciousness. This lack of parallel between our
inner, unconscious life and ego-consciousness is
often reflected in feelings of "swimming upstream"
or "rowing against the current." When we
consciously engage the poetic messages the
unconscious offers to us, we begin to experience
an alignment of our outer lives with the movement
of individuation.

We have much to learn about how these
processes manifest themselves within adult
learning. The work of Boyd and his colleagues
represents only a very modest beginning. Much of
what is published thus far related to this view of
transformative learning represents theoretical
work, grounded in the research of depth
psychology. Research approaches in education,
even into transformative learning, are largely
dominated by rational, logical, ego-based
conceptions of knowing. To begin to "see" the
mytho-poetic manifestations of transformative
learning within adult learning, we need to be
willing to entertain learning and knowing as
imaginative processes. Although the theoretical
and methodological challenges are large, Boyd's
pioneering efforts in this area point to the
possibilities and rewards of such an effort. In
characterizing the powerful role of the imagination
in our lives, Hollis (2000) quotes Novalis, a
Romantic German poet and theorist: "Poetry heals
the wounds reason creates" (p. 35). Boyd's view
of transformative learning invites us to embrace a
more mytho-poetic understanding of education, to
deepen our sense of its emotional and spiritual
depth.

REFERENCES
Boyd, R. D. "Facilitating Personal Transformations
in Small Groups: Part I." SMALL GROUP
BEHAVIOR 20, no. 4 (1989): 459-474.

Boyd, R. D., ed. PERSONAL
TRANSFORMATIONS IN SMALL GROUPS: A
JUNGIAN PERSPECTIVE. London: Routledge,
1991.

Boyd, R.D., and Myers, J. G. "Transformative
Education." INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF
LIFELONG EDUCATION 7, no. 4 (1988): 261-284.

Clark, M.C., and Dirkx, J. M. "Moving Beyond a
Unitary Self: A Reflective Dialogue." In
HANDBOOK OF ADULT AND CONTINUING
EDUCATION, NEW ED., edited by A. L. Wilson
and E. R. Hayes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
2000.

Cranton, P. UNDERSTANDING AND
PROMOTING TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.

Dirkx, J. M. "Nurturing Soul in Adult Learning." In
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR ADULT AND
CONTINUING EDUCATION, no. 74, edited by P.
Cranton, pp. 79-88. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
1997.

Dirkx, J M. "Knowing the Self Through Fantasy:
Toward a Mytho-poetic View of Transformative
Learning." In PROCEEDINGS OF THE 39TH
ANNUAL ADULT EDUCATION RESEARCH
CONFERENCE, comp. by J. C. Kimmel, pp. 137-
142. San Antonio, TX: University of Incarnate
Word and Texas A&M University, 1998. (ED 426
247)

Dirkx, J. M. "After the Burning Bush:
Transformative Learning as Imaginative
Engagement with Everyday Experience." In
PROCEEDINGS OF THE THIRD
INTERNATIONAL TRANSFORMATIVE
LEARNING CONFERENCE, Columbia University,
New York, October 26-28, 2000.

Dirkx, J. M., and Deems, T. A. "Towards an
Ecology of Soul in Work: Implications for HRD." In
ACADEMY OF HUMAN RESOURCE
DEVELOPMENT 1996 CONFERENCE
PROCEEDINGS, edited by E. F. Holton, III. Austin,
TX: Academy of Human Resource Development,
1996. (ED 403 461)

Hollis, J. THE ARCHETYPAL IMAGINATION.
College Station: Texas A&M University Press,
2000.

Jacoby, M. INDIVIDUATION AND NARCISSISM:
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE SELF IN JUNG AND
KOHUT. London: Routledge, 1990.

Kritskaya, O. V., and Dirkx, J. M. "Mediating
Meaning-making: The Process of Symbolic Action
in Transformative Learning." In PROCEEDINGS
OF THE 41ST ANNUAL ADULT EDUCATION
RESEARCH CONFERENCE, edited by T. J. Sork,
V. Chapman, and R. St. Clair, pp. 216-220.
Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 2000.

Merriam, S. B., and Caffarella, R. S. LEARNING IN
ADULTHOOD: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE. 2D
ED. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Mezirow, J. TRANSFORMATIVE DIMENSIONS
OF ADULT LEARNING. San Francisco: Jossey-
Bass, 1991.

Moore, T. CARE OF THE SOUL: A GUIDE FOR
CULTIVATING DEPTH AND SACREDNESS IN
EVERYDAY LIFE. New York: HarperCollins,
1992.

Nelson, A. "Imaging and Critical Reflection in
Autobiography." In PROCEEDINGS OF THE 38TH
ANNUAL ADULT EDUCATION RESEARCH
CONFERENCE, edited by R. E. Nolan and H.
Chelesvig. Stillwater: Oklahoma State University,
1997. (ED 409 460)

Scott, S. M. "The Grieving Soul in the
Transformation Process." In NEW DIRECTIONS
FOR ADULT AND CONTINUING EDUCATION,
no. 74, edited by P. Cranton, pp. 31-50. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.

Sells, B, ed. WORKING WITH IMAGES: THE
THEORETICAL BASE OF ARCHETYPAL
PSYCHOLOGY. Woodstock, CT: Spring
Publications, 2000.

Ulanov, A. B. RELIGION AND THE SPIRITUAL IN
CARL JUNG. New York: Paulist Press, 1999.

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The content of this publication does not
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Title: Transformative Learning and the Journey of
Individuation. ERIC Digest No. 223.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC
Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071);
Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in
Full Text (073);
Available From: For full text: http://
www.ericacve.org/fulltext.asp.
Descriptors: Adult Learning, Andragogy,
Cognitive Processes, Cognitive Structures,
Critical Thinking, Definitions, Educational
Research, Emotional Development, Fantasy,
Imagery, Imagination, Individual Development,
Learning Processes, Learning Theories, Lifelong
Learning, Personal Autonomy, Psychological
Studies, Self Actualization, Symbolism, Theory
Practice Relationship, Transformative Learning
Identifiers: Boyd (Robert D), ERIC Digests,
Individuation, Spiritual Development

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