Episode 56: Autoethnography for Personal Growth

Chris Wells and Emma Nicholson

In episode 56, Chris and Emma discussed autoethnography as a research method, and powerful tool for autopsychotherapy and transformation. Chris described autoethnography as a method for delving into one's life (usually through writing about it), not as an isolated individual but within the broader context of social and cultural influences. This method allows you to understand yourself within systems, considering factors like race, gender, class, privilege, oppression, and trauma.

Emma and Chris emphasized the value of gaining insights into your past experiences and behaviors. You can identify turning points and epiphanies, leading to a deeper understanding of yourself. By reflecting on personal history, you uncover patterns, traumas, and societal influences that have shaped your identity. This method also allows you to view your life through the lens of positive disintegration, and identify dynamisms, overexcitabilities and moments of disintegration.

Chris shared this quote from Christopher Poulos’s Essentials of Autoethnography:

“The deep emotional introspection associated with this form of academic writing comes with inherent vulnerability and exposure to the judgment of others, along with the possibility of opening up old trauma, stirring up painful memories, digging into taboo subjects, or sparking grief or other deep emotions.”

We discussed our different approaches to this work because the method can be tailored to suit individual preferences and comfort levels. While Chris delves deep into coding journal entries and conducting in-depth research, Emma mentions more accessible approaches like writing about past experiences, talking to others, or reviewing your past social media posts.

By utilizing different mediums for self-expression (like art, or video recordings), you can explore personal narratives in diverse ways, uncovering hidden emotions, patterns, and perspectives that may not be apparent through traditional writing alone. Emma shared how she found watching herself in a video discussing her feelings to be enlightening, and that seeing facial expressions and body language helped her understand her emotions better.

Chris mentioned the importance of being prepared for the emotional impact of autoethnography. They discussed the need for space, time, and self-care to process the unearthed traumas and painful memories. The process may involve re-traumatizing yourself to some extent, but it can also lead to healing and self-compassion.

This multi-dimensional approach allows for a more comprehensive exploration of identity, experiences, and relationships, ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world.

Resources from this episode

The Primary Importance of the Inner Experience of Giftedness, a paper Chris wrote based on the work they described from 2014.

Interesting Quotes, Vol. 10 on autoethnography

Essentials of Autoethnography by Christopher N. Poulos