Field Notes

About Theory

March 05, 2017 - 0 Comments

Theorizing is an attempt to make sense of one’s experience in the world, and do so in a way of “map-making”: that is, systematically, and with a view to share the results with others. When theorizing is approached in this way, we others are invited to map their own experiences onto the one that is being offered. Thus the process generates engagement and dialogue amongst people. But, unlike regular maps, theories exhibit core values as well as core views. The core values are based on personal experience and, moreover and most importantly, ongoing interpretation of experience. There is nothing straightforward and set-in-stones about this, though. Such is the fluid nature of interpretation of experience. For example, if a person comes from a very wounding background, the view and value held may be that people such as he or she are victims, and therefore not responsible, and that they need to be looked after perpetually. But it’s also possible that another, very different, view and value may surface; namely, that people still have, no matter how oppressed and damaged they may be, a degree of personal freedom and responsibility-taking available, and that they are committed to relationality and personal growth. How such individual differences may arise would depend on all the dynamics that an individual experiences from being part of (or not being part of) family culture, peer groups, schooling, religious institutions, etc. The great thing about theorizing, then, is that people with different sets of experiences and attendant core views and values can compare notes on their theories (that are based on their experiences and interpretations of those experiences), and begin to shift their values and views, to embrace more generative, comprehensive, and generous ways of being in the world and with each other. Or, of course, people may fight over their theories, too, insisting on the validity of their own theory and denouncing others.’ At that point, theorizing can lose its value as positions harden.

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