Title page for ETD etd-10232010-174529

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Wessels, Francois
Email francois@kune.co.za
URN etd-10232010-174529
Document Title Narrative reflections on a life that matters
Degree PhD
Department Practical Theology
Advisor Name Title
Dr W C de Klerk Co-Supervisor
Prof J C Muller Supervisor
  • relationships
  • spirituality
  • practical theology
  • participatory action research
  • narrative
  • existential meaning
  • purpose
  • identity
  • reflection
  • examined life
Date 2010-09-03
Availability unrestricted
This study was inspired by the ever growing need for significance expressed both by my life coaching and pastoral therapy clients as well as the need for existential meaning reported both in the lay press and academic literature.

This study reflected on a life that matters with a group of co-researchers in a participatory action research context. The study has been positioned within pastoral theology and invited the theological discourse into a reflection of existential meaning.

Adopting a critical relational constructionist epistemology, the research was positioned within a postmodern paradigm. The implications for meaning and research were explored and described. My fellow researchers were invited to reflect on what constitutes a meaningful life or “a life that matters” to them personally. These stories of meaning were explored and situated within personal meaning histories. Meaning discourses introduced to the discussion of “a life that matters” were deconstructed, their effects externalised and embedded in life long meaning stories. In the process outsider witnesses were introduced to these stories, enriching these as we did.

Together the research community made up of me and my fellow researchers, reflected on the meaning discourses introduced to the conversation on a life that matters in this way. These discourses included spirituality, purpose, and being meaningful in somebody else’s life. Only then did the group decide that perhaps these discourses were complemented by identity discourses.

When we reflected upon the value of the research process as meaning enhancing action in their lives, my co-researchers suggested that it was the reflection process which added most value to their own experiences of meaningfulness.

Throughout the research process, the voices of literature were invited into the conversation, exploring their perspectives on existential meaning. These voices acted as outsider witnesses, authenticating the stories of meaningfulness which were introduced by my fellow researchers.

This study may serve to revive the conversation both in the practical theology discourse and the pastoral theology discourse. It positions existential meaning within an uncertainty discourse and suggests that reflexive co-construction in the manner suggested previously, can contribute to the meaning enhancing multilogue.

Meaning making is introduced in a non-totalitarian way, strongly suggesting that an experience of meaningful living is possible even in postmodern times often described as confusing and potentially relativistically or nihilistically meaningless.

This study creates space for spirituality in the existential meaning conversation; perhaps even strongly proclaiming that it should be part of any conversation on meaningfulness.

Meaningfulness has been introduced as a local experience devoid of the power discourses of meta narratives and do-it-yourself recipes. Local process rather than universal content was positioned as meaning enhancing in the study, thus opening space for local life knowledges and negating the need to conform to meta-narratives of meaningfulness which may in effect be alienating and disempowering in that they relegate the life knowledges of objectified people into anecdotal and fictional.

© 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:

Wessels, F 2010, Narrative reflections on a life that matters, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-10232010-174529/ >


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