Inicio > Psicología marxista > «Psychology of Experiencing: A Russian View»: Alex Kozulin

«Psychology of Experiencing: A Russian View»: Alex Kozulin

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Fyodor Vasilyuk’s The Psychology of Experiencing (1984/1988) constitutes the first important contribution to the field of psychodynamic theory made by a Soviet author in the last 50 years. The book demonstrates (a) the author’s intention to take seriously classical and more recent Western studies of the psychodynamics of the unconscious, (b) his considerable effort to integrate Western ideas with the psychological principles developed in Vygotsky’s school, and (c) his highly original approach to the phenomenon of coping with critical psychological situations. Now this important book is available in, if not perfect, then quite satisfactory English translation.

The central notion of Vasilyuk’s theory is that of “experiencing perezhivanie.” The Russian word perezhivanie has a spectrum of different meanings from experience to suffering. In the context of Vasilyuk’s work it should probably be rendered as ‘‘living through” a crisis. The term experiencing denotes “a special inner activity or inner work by means of which an individual succeeds in withstanding various (usually painful) events and situations in life, succeeds in regaining the mental equilibrium which has been temporarily lost-succeeds, in short, in coping with a crisis” (p. 18).

Although Vasilyuk discusses different critical situations, his most original contribution is to understanding how we endure deep, existential crises. Such a crisis occurs when a person faces a situation presenting the “impossibility of living,” that is, the impossibility of realizing the internal necessities of human life. The task confronting a person in such a situation differs significantly from the problems associated with less profound critical situations. The task here is not in recognizing the correct meaning of the situation, and not in elucidating a hidden but existent meaning, but in conceiving of a new meaning and bringing this new meaning into actual existence. To be successful, the ‘‘work” of living through the deep, existential crisis must be creative. The prototype for such work should be sought, therefore, not in the realm of primitive reactions, but in the creativity of an author.

In suggesting this literary prototype, Vasilyuk departs considerably from the mainstream Soviet psychology, which took as a model either an animal (as in classical and neo-Pavlovianism) or an ideal worker of the Marxist social theory (Kozulin, 1984). The literary prototype chosen by Vasilyuk identifies him as a follower of Vygotskian psychology and Bakhtin’s philosophy (see Clark & Holquist, 1984; Kozulin, in press; Vygotsky, 1986). Both Vygotsky and Bakhtin claimed that to understand human psychology as truly human, one should take as a paradigm the highest forms of human activity. The creation of a literary text appears to be among the most elaborate and at the same time accessible of these activities. The creative act of an author thus suggests itself as a paradigm of any human action.

Artículo Completo

Reprinted from Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol, 31 No. 3, 1991, pp. 14-19.

Feuerstein Institute, Jerusalem

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