Title page for ETD etd-10092010-135248

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Freeth, John S
Email jillyandjohn@intermail.co.za
URN etd-10092010-135248
Document Title The experience of insight : an existential-phenomenological study
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Dr R J Alapack Co-Supervisor
Dr A A Gildenhuys Supervisor
  • intersubjective
  • interpreting
  • metaphor
  • affective
  • creative
  • gestalt
  • existential
  • phenomenology
  • experience
  • intuition
  • impact
  • spirituality
  • insight
  • cognitive
  • body-mind-spirit
  • behavioural
Date 2010-09-03
Availability unrestricted
In the last fifteen to twenty years there has been increasing agreement about the phenomenon of insight, but a clear mechanism for insight is not yet understood.

The present study examines nine different approaches to the experience of insight: the holistic approach of gestalt psychology; the existential approach of phenomenological psychology; the puzzle-problem approach of cognitive psychology; the creative approach of genius, dreams, design and invention; the representational approach of models; the case-study approach of great minds; the metaphors-of-mind approach; the intersubjective approach of psychotherapy, and the body-mind-spirit continuum approach of spirituality to insight.

The distinctive value of this qualitative research lies in the opportunity to interview the research participants to get rich descriptions, not only about their experiences of significant insight and the conditions under which they occurred, but also to investigate the results of their insights. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s insight, in prayer before the Soweto Uprising, resulted in him writing a historic letter of warning to the Prime Minister. Debbie Brown had a series of insights in therapy and while listening to music, about responding to her husband’s long-term infidelity; the results were totally unexpected and expressed in a contemporaneous e-mail. Sir Roger Penrose’s experience of insight was subliminal as he crossed a road and needed to be re-membered later from a lingering feeling of elation; it resulted in a scientific proof about black holes. Tony Grogan’s insights and associations occurred while scanning the news and were expressed in a socio-political cartoon form for the Cape Times newspaper.

The particular findings include the necessity for awareness and disposition of openness, the importance of confronting and containing the problematic raw material, and the significance of the moments of ‘impact’ and ‘interpreting’. Insight is seen as crucial to the quality of understanding, transcending the usual or dominant way of seeing things, as key to a self-actualising process and as self-authenticating yet tested in the public realm. At each occurrence of insight understanding develops and action is enabled. The relationship between insight and sight, foresight and humour, is discussed. The qualitative research findings are considered in relation to recent neurobiological research.

© 2010 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Freeth, JS 2010, The experience of insight : an existential-phenomenological study, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-10092010-135248/ >


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