Researcher of self – a journey into the unknown

On a fundamental level, scientific research requires that the researcher move from the known into the unknown. Dr Uri Alon, believes that scientific research is an emotionally taxing process due to the necessity of this movement.

However, it is interesting that this emotional component of the research process is not usually discussed, revealed and/or acknowledged in the final published research article. In fact, the published article usually presents a rather cold, detached perspective of the process. This belies the intensely personal and emotional dimension of the research journey.

By its nature, research needs to reveal what has not yet been discovered. Present understanding (and knowledge) of any phenomenon is based on what is already known. However, what is already known offers no security to the researcher as the research process moves into the unknown. That is the paradox of the process: ‘knowing what exists, does not offer any comfort for what needs to be discovered’.

While the researcher will have a hypothesis (research question) that will guide the investigation in the beginning, it cannot be relied on to offer emotional support to the researcher when he/she is confronted with messy data and information that may not make any logical sense based on existing knowledge. Given this, researchers need support and encouragement at a time when they are most confused in the process; since it is in this confusion that the seeds of new insights and discoveries exist.

I consider the ‘unknown’ to be a vast undiscovered, undifferentiated world of complexity and paradox. While the scientist may enter this world with a hypothesis, he/she actually needs a huge amount of courage and persistence to deal with the complexity of the unknown. Feelings of confusion, doubt and uncertainty will reign supreme as the researcher steps into this world. In addition the ‘unknown’ is a master at blocking the movement of the researcher, often causing immobilization and despair.

But paradoxically, the ‘block’ in the research process is actually the most significant feedback loop to the researcher. It tells the researcher that (a) a new way of thinking is required, (b) existing assumptions need to be examined, (c) new information or considerations need to included, and/or (d) the direction of the inquiry may need to change.

Skyline drive, Virginia
Skyline drive, Virginia

As a clinician, I believe that each of us is an unique, evolutionary unfolding of integrated energy and information. Our uniqueness is expressed in how we reveal our energy to others; as well as, how our worldview (deepest beliefs and assumptions of ourselves, others and life) influences our thinking and interaction patterns, which in turn determines how our life unfolds.

A healthy energetic and informational system expands in a balanced, creative way, moving towards more diversity and complexity. In addition, at the core of the system, there is a dynamic balance of opposites that co-exist.

There are times, however, when you may feel blocked, stuck and see no possibilities/potentialities ahead. Feeling blocked is life’s feedback message that says: ‘you cannot continue with your old ways or old path’. A new way forward, which still needs to be discovered, is required.

On a general level, you may feel stuck over time if you do not:

  • consider all the relevant complexity of the situation that you are dealing with,
  • examine some of your tacit assumptions that may unknowingly be causing the self-defeating and destructive behaviours,
  • acknowledge your own part in creating the problem,
  • step back to reflect on the process, instead of repeatedly trying to force your perspective onto the situation that you are encountering,
  • loosen the rigid perspective that you may have and instead consider the exact opposite of what you believe,
  • have the courage to become the researcher of self.

As the researcher of self, you will be challenged to examine your thinking and interaction patterns in a reflective way. Just as in the scientific research process, you will be required to expand your knowledge of self, and move into the yet to be discovered, unknown parts of yourself. These aspects or dynamics of yourself may appear to be confusing or unacceptable, thus making it difficult to acknowledge. This will be an emotionally challenging process that requires courage and persistence as you explore parts of yourself that may not make logical sense initially. But as the reflective process unfolds and you gain deeper insights into the dynamics of self (which were previously unknown and undiscovered), a new understanding and respect of self starts unfolding. And with this, new potentialities to move forward come to the fore.

Ongoing journey
Ongoing journey
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