Guidelines/Queries For Discerning and Creating Depth Psychologically Oriented Community/Ecological Fieldwork

1)  Discerning one's fieldwork:

You are asked to listen actively to the kinds of cultural, community,  or ecological issues that have and do call you, through news and newspapers, images, active imagination and dreams, your own experiences, work, wounds, and symptoms.  You are also asked to visit some community groups that address the issues you feel called by and to listen in to the ongoing work there. Does the fieldwork you are proposing arise from both listening for your own calling and listening to the others in the community you are addressing and being addressed by; i.e., is the project deeply dialogical?  Freire asks us to clarify if a project is our dream or the dream of the community we are working with.

Does the work you are proposing have the flexibility to change its goals and products as it more deeply listens to and responds to the community you are engaged with? Will you allow your own pre-understandings to be challenged and changed? This does not mean that you should not initially have images and goals for your work, that you should not imagine where it will take you, and what the work will consist of.  Rather, we are asking you to both conceive your work and to hold this conception lightly as you allow yourself to be more deeply informed through your witnessing participation.

2)   Choosing a site:

The fieldwork gives you the opportunity to work in a context you might not otherwise find yourself in. Often we tend to choose work alongside those whom we imagine as similar to us, as it feels more comfortable, less disorienting.  We may share similarities that arise from similar cultural, ethnic, racial, economic, gender, religious background.  We may share a similar key life experience. Unfortunately, the learning available to us in such a setting is often not as challenging to and demanding of us as it would be to participate in a setting where there are profound differences present.  The spirit of the fieldwork asks you to choose a setting that pulls you out of your comfort zone, a setting in which you can profoundly learn from the differences present. Please specify in your fieldwork proposal how the setting you have chosen satisfies this spirit of personal challenge. For some of us, it is easier to create a fieldwork setting in which we are in charge and have others enter into our field than it is for us to enter into an established fieldwork context where we will need to learn about the community's processes and concerns, and how these occasion a response.

When addressing a theme we are interested in, it is easiest for us to ask people into the conversation who are most like us.  Again, the spirit of what you are being asked to do is to place yourself in a situation where your learning can be maximized.  This is at the same time a place where you are likely to experience greater vulnerability and uncertainty.  In your proposal please examine your choice of site with this in mind.

In some situations, a group you are already part of or deeply familiar with may be an appropriate choice for your fieldwork.  For instance, if the group you are thinking of is part of a subculture whose work is underrepresented in depth psychology and/or within the larger culture, there may be value in listening into and articulating the voices in that field.  Perhaps, the group you are thinking of is a mainstream group, but the approaches from depth psychology you are interested in sharing would enrich the work of this group.  Before choosing the familiar, however, please read the following carefully.

Some of you are already working in the field you are called to, and may be tempted to present as fieldwork activities what you are already doing, and even in some cases, being paid for.  We want you to use the opportunity of the fieldwork to go in a direction you might not otherwise.  Ask yourself if there are other places where the issue that is calling you could be more deeply experienced and confronted? Within the familiar setting are there approaches that you have not yet engaged in that could stretch and deepen your work?

If you chose to create your own site you will need to present cogent reasons as to why this is preferable from a learning point of view to joining forces with an established group. Further, when you create your own site you will need to address how your work and findings will enter into dialogue with others concerned about the issue you have chosen. When you do not involve yourself with a constituted group, and are not a part of their addressing their concerns, how can your fieldwork or research be of potential use? What steps will you take in your work to assure that it is of mutual benefit or potential service and not only serving your own development and academic progress?

3) Depth psychological approaches to cultural work:

Depth psychology attunes us in particular ways to cultural work. In not splitting action and image, action and reflection, it asks us to listen for the images and metaphors through which cultural and ecological work occurs.  What is the group's imagination about the work it is pursuing and the changes it desires, if any?  How would you describe the symbolic landscape being created by the group participants, and how does this change or defend itself over time? A depth psychological approach asks us to listen to what is at the margins, to voices that are hard to hear.  It encourages us to establish dialogue, particularly at sites where this is usually silenced or is difficult. At your site what are the voices that are being hosted?  Which are being marginalized? How will you establish dialogue to create a better understanding of the complexity of the field? We are trying to listen into the relationship between inward multiplicity and dialogue and dialogue among actual others in the culture.  How will your proposed work hold these two domains together, mitigating against the split between "inner" and "outer," personal and cultural, the "subjective" and the "objective"?  How does your proposed work express a sensitivity toward the interdependence of the self with culture or nature? Can you articulate other aspects of a depth psychological approach that your project embodies?

4)  Asking questions:

It is important to design your fieldwork so that you do not control the outcome by narrowing the subject matter or the questions you ask in such a way that the input of your conversation partners is limited or closed in advance. The best fieldwork invites collaboration from all participants in shaping the course of the dialogue and reporting on its outcome. Hopefully, the conversations involved serve the interests of all participants and ask all to be reflective about the results. Most importantly, no one should decide in advance of the fieldwork, what themes will emerge from it. The question to decide in advance is: who will I be in dialogue with that might allow new perspectives to emerge?

Depth psychological fieldwork, as does clinical work, requires an odd combination of "beginner’s mind" and critical consciousness. We need to be able to go into fieldwork with open-ended questions. We have to be aware that we often give subtle hints about the kinds of data we expect to find by the way we ask questions.  "How was that experience for you?" is a more open-ended approach than "How did your divorce (or abortion, or illness) make you feel bad, or cause suffering, or affect your relationships negatively?"

Sometimes even directly asking questions is too much in the beginning and we need to tolerate silence and ambiguity as we place ourselves in a new environment and watch what happens, what witnessing calls out from us and from others. Even asking people to repeat their names, or spell them, or to explain what they are doing can position them as Other and the self as norm. From the point of view of "beginner’s mind" we hope to open spaces where a kind of expectant waiting and emptiness invites the new, the other, and the unknown to appear. From the point of view of critical consciousness, we want to try to understand it without disturbing it too much, or forcing it onto terrain where we already feel comfortable. How can you bring to your fieldwork site a questioning attitude ready to be transformed and affected by those you encounter in ways you never could have imagined?

Where is there space and invitation for you and others to express what is marginalized in a particular context, such as ambivalence, fear, negativity, and refusal? Where are there spaces for lack of narrative closure, for not understanding, being confused and disoriented by what appears?

Are you aware of any power and privilege aspects of your presence in the community that might silence others? Are you being seen as an authority figure doing "scientific research" in an old paradigm of elite knowledge or a dialogue partner with whom the subjects of your fieldwork can interact with some equality? Have you set up a situation that reproduces inequality because you will be seen as an "expert" others will defer to?

En’owkin, an Okanagan word, according to Derrick Jensen, means:

I challenge you to give me the opposite perspective to mine so that I can understand how best to change my thinking and thus accommodate your concerns and problems.

5) Developing sensitivity to the place dimensions of psyche and community.
Too often psychological theory has talked as though humans were not always implaced, effected by the particular place they reside and having many effects on their environment. Even if your primary focus is on a particular human community and on human-human interactions, how can you expand your deep exploration to also include the physical place, the built environment, the bioregion, and the other-than-human life forms that are the context for your fieldwork?  In your ecopsychology courses you will explore how to listen in to the ecological voices at your particular location. What is the human and more-than-human history of this geographical location – the ancestors to your fieldwork?  You may want to include both land and ancestors in your dialogue and watch for them in your dreams. Myths and stories that have arisen from this particular place over time may also be of interest.
6)  Service and its shadow:

From your beginning to spend time in your fieldwork site and talking to people there, does your fieldwork have the potential of being of some value to those you are interacting with? Or, put in another way, is there clearly the possibility that not only you will benefit from the work you will do, but the broader community with whom you are participating? Sometimes in our desire to be helpful, we are blind to the harm we might inadvertently do.  Can you begin to discern any negative consequences from the work you are proposing?  What might its shadow be?  How will you access feedback to mitigate against this possibility?  How might you come to understand whether or not your participation and possible intervention were experienced in the ways you had hoped for or not? In many sites whole-hearted participation over time is necessary before undertaking an intervention. Your participation is central to the first summer's project. If you are proposing an intervention of some kind, have you ensured through dialogue that your proposed work is desired, appropriate, and useful?  How will you check in with those you are working with to evaluate the impact of what you are doing on those with whom you are working and on the site itself?

If you have come here to help me then you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
Unidentified Australian Aboriginal woman,
Quoted in Morales, 1998, p. 17

7) Witnessing participation:

If your fieldwork contains a research aspect, will you bring to it a capacity to witness the situation and the issue you are involved in? Will you patiently seek to unearth what those in the community you are partaking in already know about the issue you are studying?  Does your fieldwork or research address an area of mutual concern? What are the steps you plan to take to invite others in the community into the research process with you, helping to pose questions, review interviews, listen for themes and communicate findings?

8) Distinguishing transformative from ameliorative cultural work:

Critical psychologists distinguish between cultural work that is ameliorative and work that is transformative, that works on the level of institutional and social structures that give rise to various forms of individual and social suffering.  A summer is usually far too short a period in which to see this kind of change.  Nevertheless, as you engage with the community you have chosen, reflect on what kinds of transformational work you and they may see as necessary. How might it be accomplished?




 “The Environmental Crisis is a Crisis of Consciousness: Bringing the Psychological Dimension Into the Discussion,” a Nov 2007 lecture to Sonoma State University (California) Students by Craig Chalquist, Ph.D. Contains some excellent advice.; “Climate on the Couch: Unconscious “Processes in Relation to our Environmental Crisis,” a Nov 2007 lecture to the UK Guild of Psychotherapists by Jungian analyst Mary-Jayne Rust,