In brief, I am going to start to explain what I understand about the term Phenomenology by giving answers with references from theoretical sources. I shall, in no particular order along this essay, give examples to support the reason why I think phenomenology is important in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Lastly, I intent to discuss my current ability to understand my own, and another person’s worldview with some examples.
The term Phenomenology originates from the Greek word phainómenon, meaning appearance, that which shows itself, and, lógos meaning science or study. As Hans Cohn puts it, “the Greek word ‘phenomenon’ is derived from a verb meaning to appear, to come into the light, and ‘logos’, on the other hand, is rooted in a Greek verb meaning ‘to say’. (Cohn, 1997:9-10). To me this suggests, come into light through speech, or enlighten oneself through speech. In simple terms phenomenology is the study of how things appear to be.
In order to acknowledge the phenomenon of perception, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), developed a method from his former teacher’s philosophical intentionality, Franz Brentano (1838-1917) that explains how reality cannot be grasped directly because it is available only through perceptions of reality, which are representations of it in the mind. This is a method that attempts to describe phenomena without prior assumptions, by rejecting prior beliefs or consciousness about things, events and people. His aim was to find a way to transcend subjectivity and understand phenomenon through experience as the source of conscious knowledge (Dermot Moran, 2002:1-22). He intended by this to suspend or bracket events, to go beyond the usual choices of perception to describe the things as they really are.
Husserl’s phenomenological method includes concepts of Noema, ‘the object of our attention, or, blocks of meaning’, Noesis to mean, ‘the experience as it is experienced and the act of consciousness itself, or, process of conferring meaning’, and Bracketing ‘an act of suspending our prejudices and usual interpretations’ (Van Deurzen, 2005: 154). At this stage, these concepts are helping me to frame old acknowledged ‘blocks’ and consciously describe them. It is also helping me to bring to my awareness some of my behaviour patterns, which I was unaware of, or aware in hindsight, but unaware of their reasons. Husserl’s method is ingenious in that it brings to light my ‘perspective dynamics’ (sense of reality, prejudices, family dynamics) and helps me to understand and realise how to locate my blocks. I can now begin to verbalise enigmatic reactions and unveil covert fears, when truth about my character and individual qualities begin to be more approachable and real. I very often have been lost in my own personal history not knowing any other way out of it. ‘This felt like a block in my life loosing touch, feeling alienated within myself and therefore, preventing the self to extend towards other people as fully as I would wish. In my understanding of phenomenology in the above example, my own blocks can prevent me from living in the moment of now. The examples that will follow, there are so many thoughts and emotions distracting me from the moment of now.
Learning to make conscious my personal assumptions in the form of noema, noesis and bracketing, an aspect of phenomenological reduction called Epoché, was to learn how to suspend prejudice, frame a...