Relationship Conflict as a Disorienting Dilemma

Larry John Green, Kaisu Mälkki

Abstract


This paper takes the form of an essay that investigates the phenomenon of relationship conflict as paradigmatic of what Mezirow (1994) termed a disorienting dilemma.  Understood in this manner, such conflict can be an opportunity to begin a transformative process. If that opportunity is taken up, the paper argues, it might obviate the necessity for major crises as a stimulus for transformation. Relationship conflict is inherently disorienting when it opposes the need to belong against the need for integrity. The paper argues that those needs are experienced sub-verbally and therefore, cannot be reflexively critiqued nor transcended until they are given a verbal form.  Once explicated and critiqued, however, a creative endeavor can begin to forge premises that reconcile what was formerly incommensurable. It is reasoned that having gone through such a process once, this method can be applied to other disorienting dilemmas. In addition, because relationship conflict is an intermittent feature of all relationships, the topic is engaging not only for a specialized audience of educators but also has something of value for all of us. Consequently, it can be a useful instantiation for introducing the transformative learning theory to the general public.


Keywords


transformation; relationship conflict; liminality; sub- and pre-verbal

Full Text:

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References


Gendlin, E. (1997). Experience and the creation of meaning: a philosophical and psychological approach to the subjective. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA:-Oxford Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (1994). Understanding transformation theory. Adult Education Quarterly 44, 222-232.

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult. Core concepts of transformation theory. In J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation. Critical perspectives on a theory in progress, (pp. 3–33). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (2009). An overview on transformative learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning . . . Learning theorists in their own words (pp. 90–105). London, England: Routledge.

Mahler, M. (1975). The psychological birth of the human infant: symbiosis and individuation. New York: Basic Books.


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