4th International Conference on the Dialogical Self (icds-4) University of Minho, Braga, Portugal



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Discussant: Jaan Valsiner (Clark University, USA)
The authors will present studies developed on psychotherapeutic context. In the first study, unspoken narratives from clients and therapists in psychotherapy are analysed (Gonçalves, Gonçalves & Fernandes), namely their effects and meanings. Another research about psychotherapeutic process (Matos & Gonçalves) describes the role of “unique outcomes” (UO) as narrative markers of change. Subsequently to that study, a successful and a failure clinical case (Santos & Gonçalves) are analysed, namely the profiles of the “unique outcomes” and, specifically, the role of re-conceptualization UO (Matos & Gonçalves, 2005) in self narratives. Finally, we present a theoretical and broader approach (Gonçalves & Matos) about the possible dialogical processes involved in these empirical data. Results obtained are also allowing us to consider new pathways within this field of research.

Unspoken narratives in psychotherapy

Armanda Gonçalves, Eugénia Fernandes & Miguel Gonçalves (University of Minho, Portugal)


The majority of the verbal psychotherapies, independently of their theoretical orientation, have as main assumption that self-revelation in psychotherapy produces positives outcomes. However, in the scope of psychotherapy process research has been emerging some intriguing results concerning clients and therapists participation in the therapeutic process: clients and therapists, mutually, hide different kinds of information, suggesting also that there is a great variability in the ability to identify what is concealed by the other and the meanings attached to it. Assuming a traditional approach to psychotherapy this phenomenon can be seen as a form of resistance or at least as an obstacle to successful treatment. The dialogical approach allows us a different perspective about this event in psychotherapy, since the self and its meaning construction process is viewed as a continuous and dynamic process, through which we constantly engage in dialogues with others or with ourselves (inner dialogues). From this standpoint the things left unsaid in psychotherapy may be considered as inner narratives that are not shared with the other.

How do abused women construct change in psychotherapy? The role of unique outcomes

Marlene Matos & Miguel Gonçalves (University of Minho, Portugal)


We present a qualitative research about the construction of the therapeutic change in women abused by their partners. Usually this intense experience destroys preferable self-meanings, blinding women to other possibilities of acting, relating, being and also prevents them from storing episodes of competence that occur in their lives. Through a narrative process of re-authoring (White & Epston, 1990), it is supposed that the elaboration of unique outcomes (UOs) makes possible the creation of a new narrative. We developed a coding procedure that is applied to psychotherapy sessions that allows differentiating 5 types of UO. The coding procedure involves for each UO 2 measures: frequency (number of UO that arise in the session) and saliency (time of the session spent in each UO). This study compares 5 successful with 5 psychotherapeutic failures. Frequency and saliency of OU are very different from one group to another: they are progressive along the process in successful psychotherapy and stable or even decrease in failures. The differences are also clearer for salience than for frequency. We suggest that salience is related to the narrative elaboration of the unique outcomes and it is this process that makes possible the evolution from new episodes to new stories. We also conclude that different cycles of novelty exploration (diverse types of UOs) are needed for the construction of change and for a new narrative of the self to emerge.

Therapeutic change, “unique outcomes” and the re-conceptualization of self narratives. Analysis of a successful and a failure clinical case

Anita Santos & Miguel Gonçalves (University of Minho, Portugal)


In the previous research presented in this panel (Matos & Gonçalves, 2005), UOs (e.g., action, protest, re-conceptualization) were found to have an important role in therapeutic change. UOs of Re-conceptualization seems to be significant in successful therapy because they ascribe for a meta-cognitive level of understanding about the processes involved in clients own change, allowing them to redefine stories about self experiences. Towards a better understanding of that role, we evaluated the diversity of UOs in all sessions of two cases of women victims of an abusive partner. Both cases involved multidimensional violence and clinically relevant symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression) resulting one in a psychotherapeutic success and the other one in a failure. In the present research we intent to track the UOs of Re-conceptualization in psychotherapeutic narratives, analysing their emergence, amplification and contribution to the development of preferred self versions. We report results and clinical implications from the theoretical view of the dialogical self.

Psychotherapy failure, monologism or hidden-dialogism? Unique outcomes as markers of development pathways in psychotherapy

Miguel Gonçalves & Marlene Matos (University of Minho, Portugal)


According to narrative therapy new narratives emerge in psychotherapy through the elaboration of “unique outcomes” (UO), which are narrative details outside the dominant totalitarian life-story. Totalitarian life-stories reduce the complexity of the life-narrative to a single dominant and detrimental theme (pathology, invalidation). If in clinical practice this idea seems to work well, it does not allow us to understand the processes by which the transformation from a totalitarian narrative to a narrative that allows multiplicity happens. In this presentation we will depart from an empirical research that shows that the concept of “unique outcome” is more heterogeneous than what one would expect from the therapeutic literature and that they emerge either in successful and therapeutic failures. What seems to make a difference between success and failure is the way the UO emerge along the therapeutic process and the types of UO that appear in each moment of the psychotherapy. We will illustrate two pathways of therapy development using UO as markers. The difference between the two suggests pathways suggest that in some psychotherapeutic failures we may be in the presence of a process that Valsiner termed hidden-dialogism. We further suggest that what narrative therapists have been calling a totalitarian narrative is not a narrative reduced to a single voice, but a narrative where stability is maintain by the competition between two opposite and incompatible voices, that exclude other voices.

13h45 – 15h15

Paper 3
The world of school and the dialogical self

Chair: Beatrice Ligorio (University of Bari, Italy)



School identity: A living document

Ina ter Avest (Christian University, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands) & Cok Bakker (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)


For more than five years now we have tried to establish a theoretical framework to analyse the development of school ethos in Christian primary schools, in a multicultural and multireligious context. The Self Confrontation Method, which has been developed by Hermans and Hermans-Jansen, has served as an instrument for facilitating the process of gaining insight into the development of the personal and professional identity of the schools’ principals. Apart from functioning mere as a method and diagnostic instrument, the SCM also contributes to the development of the principal’s leadership theme, which inevitably has a close relationship with the development of the school ethos (described in Dutch as ‘the identity of the school’). As the ‘primus inter pares’ the principal is not just taking part in the talks and discussions on the school’s ethos. The principal plays a distinct role. The biography of the principal in particular seems to be of importance in the process of articulating clearly the identity of the school. In this paper we will explore this inter-relatedness: the process of putting into words aptly the identity of the school in relation with the biography and the professional theme of the leader of that process, the principal. The preliminary results of our research project would seem to call for focused coaching of principals in their role of leader of the identity development of the school as a ‘moral community’. We suggest a method in which the validation process of the SCM should coincide with the coaching process. This will stimulate the development of the principals as reflective and reflexive professionals who will be able to actively mobilize their valuations and their life themes with a view to developing the identity of their school.

Teacher’s professional identity development and action research: Stories in dialogue

Kara Vloet (Institute of Inclusive and Special Education, The Netherlands), Petra Ponte & Douwe Beijaard (Fontys University of Professional Education, The Netherlands)


Fontys focuses on student teachers’ professional development as practitioners in the field of special and inclusive education, for which Action Research can be a strategy (Ponte, 2002). This study focuses, from a narrative perspective, on whether action research has an influence on teachers’ professional identity. Professional identity refers to teachers’ self-knowledge, it implies both person and context, is (re)constructed by stories teachers tell and draw upon in dialogue with each other, consists of different sub-identities in dialogue, and agency seems to be important (Beijaard et at, 2004). A comparative case-study will be presented in which student teachers from different courses reflected on their professional identity development and action research. A narrative instrument was constructed, based on Kelchtermans (1994) and Hermans (1995), to investigate aspects of professional identity (vocational motivation, self-concept, self-approval, task-concept, future perspective) and its affective and motivational counterparts.

Teacher’s professional culture and dialogicity: An higher education case study

Gracinda Hamido (Santarém Higher School of Education, Portugal) & Margarida César (University of Lisbon, Portugal)


We aim at describing and discussing some results of a research project whose main goal was to analyse and interpret an ongoing reconstruction process of a teacher education curricular project. Assuming an ethnographic approach and a case-study methodology, we analyse the teacher educators’ views about this process. We also interpret the different approaches to the intra and interpersonal dilemmas implied in it, both through the way they reported their experience within it, and through class and meeting observations. The dialogical intelligence of the interactions between the different voices involved, whether intra or interpersonal, is illuminated by the level of transparency/explicitation of those differences, recognizing the systematic and systemic presence of asymmetries, alliances, exclusions, and issues of power as well as of emotions. The teachers’ professional culture is nevertheless rooted in socio-historical and organizational forms of individualism and uniformity, seeking consensus more than managing divergence. Thus personal and professional identities tend to crystallize and resist reculturing dialogues.

Exploring teachers and students discourse in university classrooms

María del Mar Prados Gallardo & Rosario Cubero (University of Seville, Spain)


This work is influenced by conceptual and methodological tools coming from different perspectives as knowledge construction, discourse psychology, sociocultural theory, and classroom ethnography. The main aim of this paper is to study the processes of teaching-learning as construction of shared meanings as well as dialogical processes. We analyse educational speech, devices, strategies, and semiotic resources that teachers and students use at the university classrooms. Specifically, the results obtained from the analysis of transcriptions of the educational speech produced in three classrooms of the Sciences of the Education Faculty at the University of Seville are developed. These results are a description of the educational speech by a joint of semiotic mechanisms and discourse strategies used by teachers and students in the process of teaching-learning. These mechanisms make different functions as legitimating knowledge, building intersubjectivity or how teachers and students include their interlocutor in their discourse. Our results are also a reflection about the possible relationship between activity in each one of the three classrooms (understood as settings of activity) and the ways of speech produced in the same settings.

13h45 – 15h15

Paper 4
Parenthood, narrative and dialogicality

Chair: Dan McAdams (Northwestern University, USA)



The invention of fatherhood – the writing of a father biography as identity

Carolus van Nijnatten (University of Utrecht, The Netherlands)


In my paper, I will go into the psychological consequences for sons of writing a biography of their father. On the basis of around thirty biographies but also novels about fathers from the European and North-American literature, I will discuss several aspects of the writing process, for example the life events that catalyse the writing a father biography. There is a lot of discussion about facts and fiction in autobiographies. I will start from the idea that a sharp distinction between these two never can be made. I take a psychological approach in analyzing the act of writing a father biography, and see it as an identity formation. Dialogical processes play a crucial role, resulting in changed positions between father and son. Writing a father-biography is entering an internal dialogue, in the knowledge that it may be showed to a reading public.

Motherhood and fatherhood, a field of dialogical relations

Alejandra Salguero, Gilberto Pérez, Maria Marco, Esther Garcia, Priscila Montiel, Rebeca Rodríguez (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico)


Motherhood and fatherhood like social practices are exposed to a multiplicity of divergent or opposite views from cultural changes like feminist movement and human rights. As social construction they are not fixed or self-contained. Instead, they are espousing through various voices, and developing in a field of dialogical relations. We consider that mothers and fathers are involved in a dynamic multiplicity of relatively autonomous or even opposed positions. The purpose of our work is to analyze the voices that function in the stories of Mexican mothers and fathers in their learning process. The analysis is illustrated with data from in-depth interviews of middle-class parents involved in a parent education program. Each of them has a story to tell about his or her own experiences, including, in some cases, voices from their family of origin, specialists, media, friends, with reference to the positions of father or mother. This plurality of voices are neither identical nor unified, but rather heterogeneous and even opposed, resulting in a complex narrative structured of dialogical self, incorporating a combination of continuity and discontinuity in their own experience of parenthood.

Motherhood and body significance of young mothers living in the streets

Azucena Hernandéz Ordoñez (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico)


To explore the life experiences by motherhood and body perceptions within street young-mothers in Mexico City. Material & Methods: Qualitative study, on group discussions with 12 street young-mothers. Participating young-mothers were chosen based on the non-statistical sampling Research Convenience Criteria. Results: a) the body is experienced, on one hand, as a target of sexual and physical violence; on the other hand, experienced as a means for survival; b) sexual practices are fortuitous actions, without information and under health risks. Conclusions: The young-mothers living in the street are the maximum expression of social marginality. In this context, the body experience is negative and is concealed, pleasure is denied. The body is provided with a value of use or, it is inseparably related to motherhood. Womanhood is circumscribed in the traditional discourse of femininity. The direct field-work with young-mothers living in the street, not only allows to know the meaning given to body and their sexual practices, but also to provide secure and effective designs for assistance programs based upon social needs, health conditions, and affective-emotional situations.

Working mothers and their multivoiced self

Leila Sanches de Almeida (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)


Especially since the 1960’s, female labor has been highly estimated by Brazilian middle class women. However, former values and functions are still attributed to them. But how do these women deal with these multiple and contradictory identities? It is well known that the working mothers of lower classes have always been able to work and take care of their children. Thus, the present study, which is also based on the Network of Meanings (Rossetti-Ferreira et al., 2004), investigated the senses of motherhood and child care for 4 middle class working mothers and for 6 groups of working mothers of lower classes. We carried out interviews and focus groups. We observed that, in general, women attribute to mothers only the function of taking care of the children. The women don’t seem to integrate in one single identity the roles of mother and worker. We also observed that being a working woman (labor) has different senses in those two social classes. The feeling of guilt was explicitly manifested in the discourse of middle class mothers.

13h45 – 15h15

Symposium 4
Past and future within the dialogical self

Tania Zittoun (University of Lausanne, Switzerland) & Alex Gillespie (University of Stirling, UK)


Discussant: Ivana Marková (University of Stirling, UK)
Humans live in the present, but this present is temporally extended. The present is not a ‘pin-point’ present, but rather a present populated by multiple pasts and possible futures. How do these multiple times coexist in the present? And how can we understand the co-existence of these times within the dialogical self? What are the dialogical relations between these different ‘times’ within the individual? Moreover, how does time function within ongoing activity? These are the questions that bring the presenters together. Hviid focuses upon how children understand their own past and future. Gillespie examines how other people exist as possible futures for the self. Zittoun studies how symbolic resources are used to sustain images of the past and future in the present. And Abbey explores the ambivalence brought about by these time processes. All the papers demonstrate that for there to be dialogical relations within the self, there must be time. Yet there is also a sense in which humans conception of time emerges out of their dialogical relations with others, by seeing in others the past and future.

Children’s perspectives on timing their own development

Pernille Hviid (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)


How do children think about their own developmental movements in time and space? Drawing on a developmental contextualized 1st person perspective, the child’s perceptions of the meanings of spaces in which they lived their every-day lives, those persons who guide them in their participation, their steady and changing engagements and interests and the routes they make in the landscape of childhood are central topics of the investigation. Twelve-year old children draw maps of the spaces they had been in, actually were in, or expected to be in, in future. They told stories of their life, and described dynamics of their becoming in a varied and changing set of cultural and social conditions. The dynamics of timing; e.g. ‘in-time-’ or ‘out-of-time-’ interactions with adults and peers and timing with the temporal organisations and expectations of institutions were highly important. Being ‘ahead of time’ or ‘falling behind’ social representations of age-appropriate behaviour and engagements became measurements in understanding themselves as both being and becoming a person. An inquiry into how children’s experiences and views on their own developmental processes can prove useful in further development of conceptual dynamics and theoretical concepts in developmental contextual psychology.

The future and the other: Striving tourists in Ladakh

Alex Gillespie (University of Stirling, UK)


The dialogical self is goal-directed, but what is the dialogical self striving towards? This paper argues that the self is often striving towards the social positions of others. The dialogical self contains many subject positions, some of which are identified with and others which are external to the self (Hermans, 2001). These external social positions, it is argued, can form ideals towards which the self strives. This thesis is examined using ethnographic data from research on tourism in Ladakh, in the Himalaya. Interpretation of tourists’ talk, action, and photographs reveals that the goals toward which tourists strive are heavily mediated by the mass media - tourists recreate their own narratives from templates provided by films, books and guidebooks. While it is often too simplistic to say that tourists are striving to become a specific other, the analysis does support the conclusion that tourists are striving toward generalised experiences propagated in the media. In conclusion, external positions, positions occupied by others (but not by self) exist as future potential selves. Thus, in relating to the other, self is relating to a possible future self.

Using symbolic resources, playing with time

Tania Zittoun (University of Lausanne, Switzerland)


A dialogical perspective considers the dynamics which take place between a variety of “I-positions” within the “imaginal landscape” of the self (Hermans 1996). These I positions can be generated through interactions with others, but also, with semiotic means. Here, I propose to examine how cultural artefacts such as novels, films, music, theatre, visual or audio art can become symbolic resources which participate to a person’s sense and experience of time. Data examined here is longitudinal and is given by a young woman’s diary during the years of World War II. Recontextualisng it in her social, historical and cultural contexts, it is possible to identify the many cultural artefacts with which she interacts; in her diary, we find traces of how she uses them. On the basis, I will show how cultural artefacts can become symbolic resources which shape and transform time: they create regularities, continuities, or ruptures; they accelerate, or slow the ongoing present; they change the time-span by anchoring it in the past or by generating possible futures; and they can change its geometry, which can be linear or more circular.

Codetermination as a triadic relation: The dialogical self conversing with time

Emily Abbey (College of the Holy Cross, USA)


Dialogical theorists share a common belief that codetermination be understood as a central notion in psychology. In previous writing, the relevance of co-determination has been stressed on ontological grounds, and as a means to conceptualize and understand a post-Cartesian, tension filled, complex self. The goal of this paper is to further extend discussions of codetermination as it applies to the dialogical self by approaching from a perspective that explicitly stresses the temporal embeddedness, and future-orientation, of meaning construction. From this perspective, it is suggested that dialogical relations between different positions within the self be understood as triadic in nature. Second, I offer that from such a perspective, ambiguity can be seen as a constant quality of the dialogical self.
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