A narrative analysis of new mothers' experiences of not-understanding

Simmons, Elizabeth Louise (2019) A narrative analysis of new mothers' experiences of not-understanding. DCPsych thesis, Middlesex University / New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling. [Thesis]

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As Counselling Psychologists, we often help clients engage with experiences which feel significant but unresolved. What is this like for people, and how do they respond? This study explores peoples’ narrative engagement with this psychological situation, termed ‘not-understanding’, as they arose during the transition to motherhood. The secondary aim was to interrogate the role of narrative in such experiences.

Existing models articulate automatic responses to meaning discrepancies, orders of meanings made, and measurements associated with the presence or absence of meaning in life. Less is understood about the phenomenology of living with an unresolved experience. Transition to motherhood has been associated with uncertainty and discrepancies between expectations and experience, however, the psychological implications of this aspect of transition are not well understood. An experiential narrative analysis was conducted to explore experiences of not-understanding, including participants’ narrative engagement with such experiences. Semi-structured interviews with eight first time mothers at six-twelve months postpartum were analysed using an interpretative perspective-taking framework adapted from Critical Narrative Analysis (Langdridge, 2007)., interrogating both what was said and how it was said.

Experiences, including infant feeding decisions and childbirth, were explored where they had remained, for a time, not-understood. Engagement with not-understanding was directed, for example, towards the need to avoid feared phenomena, bear witness, negotiate a decision’s meaning, or re-establish connection with others. Not-understanding was therefore an active, valuable psychological space in its own right, shaped by context and appraisals of vulnerability. Narration was found to be the means of both expressing and negotiating potential interpretations of the meaning of the not-understood experiences.

The findings challenge those psychological models and maternal discourses which view unresolvedness primarily as a sign of a pathology, incompetence, or meaning discrepancy. Exploring, valuing and nurturing people’s capacity for standing in not-understanding, may help them to engage more authentically with values and choices.

Item Type: Thesis (DCPsych)
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC)
Item ID: 27943
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2019 21:00
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 18:56
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/27943

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