Vol. 16, No.10-12, October-December 2009
Special Issue: Ten Years of Viewing From Within: The Legacy of F.J. Varela 
edited by Claire Petitmengin
Claire Petitmengin   abstract
Editorial Introduction

Refereed Papers

Pierre Vermersch   abstract
Describing the Practice of Introspection
Maryse Maurel   abstract
The Explicitation Interview: Examples and Applications
Natalie Depraz   abstract
The ‘Failing’ of Meaning: A Few Steps into a ‘First-Person’ Phenomenological Practice
Charles Genoud   abstract
On the Cultivation of Presence in Buddhist Meditation
Marion Hendricks   abstract
Experiencing Level: An instance of developing a variable from a first person process so it can be reliably measured and taught
Russell T. Hurlburt   abstract
Iteratively Apprehending Pristine Experience
Jane Mathison & Paul Tosey   abstract
Exploring Moments of Knowing: NLP and Enquiry Into Inner Landscapes
Connirae Andreas & Tamara Andreas   abstract
Aligning Perceptual Positions: A new distinction in NLP
Russell T. Hurlburt, Christopher L. Heavey & Arva Bensaheb   abstract
Sensory Awareness
Claire Petitmengin et alii   abstract
Listening from Within
Pierre Philippot & Zindel Segal   abstract
Mindfulness Based Psychological Interventions: Developing Emotional Awareness for Better Being
Daniel N. Stern   abstract
Pre-Reflexive Experience and its Passage to Reflexive Experience: A Developmental View
Eugene Gendlin   abstract
What First & Third Person Processes Really Are
Claire Petitmengin & Michel Bitbol   abstract
The Validity of First-Person Descriptions as Authenticity and Coherence
Annual Index


Natalie Depraz

The ‘Failing’ of Meaning: A few steps into a ‘first-person’ phenomenological practice

Abstract: The experience I am going to go into refers to a process of emergence of meaning in consciousness. More particularly, what was given to me in terms of ‘meaning’ was the very lack of meaning of what was happening to me in the very moment. There is a crucial hypothesis here: this is the discovery of one’s own experience and the production of a personal description of it within the framework of a disciplined practice. It is the only way to check the effectiveness of my first-person access to my unique and irreducible experience. After having written a lot ‘about’ the necessity of such a putting into practice, after having ‘claimed’ it as an absolute requirement, after having checked it recently in the light of a step-by-step reading of a book of Husserl and having contended that as the genuine approach of Husserlian phenomenology, here I am one who ends up revealing a bit of herself while risking such a putting into practice. It is one thing indeed to ‘account’ for the first-person experience by relying upon the utterances of the phenomenologists who write about it, as is often done today in the context of crossings between phenomenology and the cognitive sciences; it is quite another thing, which is epistemologically quite different, to practise such a first-person experience while accounting via a self-elicitation for a unique example, which is hic et nunc situated, i. e., while using a descriptive tool which is faithful to it and thus closely attests to the practice in question by working with it.

Correspondence: Natalie Depraz, University of Rouen; Husserl-Archives (Paris); CREA (Paris)

Connirae Andreas and Tamara Andreas

Aligning Perceptual Positions: A new distinction in NLP

Abstract: This article describes and refines an experiential distinction which has been highlighted by neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), perceptual positions. When you are imagining a past or future scene, you may perceive it (usually pre-reflectively) from three different viewpoints or perceptual positions. If you are looking at the world from your own point of view, through your own eyes, you are in the first perceptual position. If you are looking at the scene through another person’s eyes, appreciating the other person’s point of view, you are in the second position. If you are seeing the world from an outside point of view, as an independent observer, you are in the third position. NLP highlighted the fact that our feelings change dramatically according to the perceptual position we adopt. Through a concrete example, Connirae Andreas shows that this distinction does not only concern visual perceptions, but also auditory and kinaesthetic perceptions. She also shows that our visual, auditory and kinaesthetic perceptions may be split in different perceptual positions at the same time, and that this misalignment may cause difficulties. Learning to ‘align’ our perceptual positions brings us greater wholeness, enables us to become more integrated.

Correspondence: Email:

Eugene Gendlin

What First and Third Person Processes Really Are

Abstract: ‘Implicit understanding’ is much wider than what we can attend to at one time, and it is in some respects more precise. Examples are examined. What is implicit functions in certain characteristic ways. Some of these are defined. They explain how new concepts come to us in a bodily process that goes beyond previous logic but takes implicit account of it, without new logical steps.

All concepts can be considered ‘explications’ of implicit body- environment interaction. ‘Explication’ provides an overall model within which the objectivity of logical concepts can be explained and preserved.

Section III concerns new kinds of operational research. Section IV shows how a theory of logically connected terms can always be formulated from something known implicitly. Section V shows how the explication model affects the theory of language.

Correspondence: Eugene Gendlin, University of Chicago. Email:

Charles Genoud

On the Cultivation of Presence in Buddhist Meditation

Abstract: This article is an exploration of the nature of consciousness. The author draws in depth from works of philosophy, psychology, literature, and meditation practice to examine a subject so subtle that we may overlook it.

Consciousness, in the Buddhist tradition, cannot be held as merely another object of knowledge, a thing to be known, because it is not located in time or in space. Some modern philosophers seem to arrive at the same conclusion. Consciousness cannot be discovered through common scientific strategies. Only presence—being conscious of being conscious of something—allows one to realize what consciousness is. And this can only be discovered by an exploration in the first person. Buddhist meditation offers a skillful means of investigation.

Correspondence: Charles Genoud, 5 rue du Colombier, 1202 Genève, Switzerland. Email:

Marion Hendricks

Experiencing Level: An instance of developing a variable from a first person process so it can be reliably measured and taught

Abstract: The concept ‘Experiencing (EXP) Level’ points to the manner in which what a person says relates to felt experience. The manner is a first person process which is quantitatively measurable. Examples of low, middle and high Experiencing are given. In a high experiencing manner a person attends directly to a bodily sense of what is implicit and allows words (or images and or gestures) to emerge from that sense. The Experiencing Scale which measures the manner of process is a third person rating of a first person process, according to precise linguistic and somatic characteristics. A new rating method gives high reliability. I will briefly summarize several of the more than one hundred research studies which have used the EXP Scale or other measures of high EXP process. The high end of the EXP Scale describes what came to be called ‘Focusing’.

Because EXP level is a variable of the manner of process, it can be applied to almost any content area. Examples from tape-recorded psychotherapy sessions, creative writing, and theory-building will be analyzed in terms of experiencing level. Having defined the variable in observable terms makes it possible to formulate exact steps for teaching high Experiencing. Two practices — Focusing and Thinking at the Edge — have been developed, which can be taught in precise steps. This kind of third person variable can be found only from first person process. Its value for studying living will be shown.

Correspondence: Marion Hendricks, Ph.D., The Focusing Institute. Email:

Russell T. Hurlburt

Iteratively Apprehending Pristine Experience

Abstract: Pristine experience is inner experience that is directly ongoing before it is disturbed by any attempt at apprehension; we live our lives immersed in our pristine experiences. I argue that an iterative method — one that successively approximates the desired result — facilitates the faithful apprehension of pristine experience. There are four main aspects of an iterative method: the refreshment by new experience; the improvement of the observations; the multiple perspectives on experience; and (perhaps most importantly) the open- beginningedness of the process. Because an iterative exploration of experience is open-beginninged, first interviews occupy a unique position in an iterative method. I comment on the transcript of a first interview, showing why and how an iterative procedure is desirable, if not necessary.

Correspondence: R.T. Hurlburt, Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV 89052-5030, USA.

Russell T. Hurlburt, Christopher L. Heavey & Arva Bensaheb

Sensory Awareness

Abstract: Sensory awareness — the direct focus on some specific sensory aspect of the body or outer or inner environment — is a frequently occurring yet rarely recognized phenomenon of inner experience. It is a distinct, complete phenomenon; it is not merely, for example, an aspect of a perception. Sensory awareness is one of the five most common forms of inner experience, according to our results (the other four: inner speech, inner seeing, feelings, and unsymbolized thinking). Despite its high frequency, many people do not notice its appearance nor recognize its theoretical import. We describe sensory awareness and distinguish it from other aspects of experience. We give examples and discuss how it appears when moments of inner experience are examined carefully. We note that there are large individual differences in the observed frequency of sensory awareness and consider its relationship to mental health and other aspects of psychological functioning.

Correspondence: R.T. Hurlburt, Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV 89052-5030, USA.

Jane Mathison and Paul Tosey

Exploring Moments of Knowing: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and enquiry into inner landscapes

Abstract: This article is an account of reflections drawn from a total of four explicitation interviews (Vermersch, 1994), with two people. The article has both methodological and substantive purposes.

Methodologically, we explain the contribution of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in the elicitation of first person accounts through guided introspection. Aspects of NLP have been used by both Vermersch (1994) and Petitmengin-Peugeot (1999) as means for exploring people’s inner worlds. We further elucidate NLP as a set of tools for researchers, emphasising the distinctions these enable researchers to make within the structure of consciousness. As the nature of NLP’s methodological contribution to the field of Psychophenomenology (Vermersch, 1996, Maurel, 2008) has been little articulated, this represents an original feature of this article.

Substantively, we show how the application of these tools has generated insights into the fine experiential detail of what we term `moments of knowing’. First, our data suggest that suspension and Epoche, which manifested themselves as unrecognised, or pre-reflective moments of understanding for the participants, may be part of everyday ‘knowing’. Second, consciousness appears to be multi-dimensional. In particular it appears that it may be helpful to distinguish between different dimensions of awareness that may be involved when exploring an inner landscape. Third, we consider the apparently transformative effect of the explicitation interview for one of these participants, which emphasises that the interview is an active exploration. Our findings question established views of transformative learning, which hitherto have regarded `critical reflection’ as the central process involved in transformative learning (Mezirow, 1990, 1991, 2003).

Correspondence: Dr Jane Mathison and Dr Paul Tosey, School of Management, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH, UK.

Maryse Maurel

The Explicitation Interview: Examples and Applications

Abstract: This article summarily presents the explicitation interview with some examples of interviews. In the first part, referring to three excerpts from protocols, we consider some of the techniques used to guide a subject into an introspective posture. We show how these techniques create conditions conducive to access to pre-reflective knowledge, knowledge stemming from a moment of action experienced by the subject, of which the subject has no knowledge in the mode of reflective consciousness. Some of this knowledge is in fact surprising both for the interviewer and for the interviewee. The experience or the expertise of the subject interviewed is invariably increased as a result. In the second part, we provide a brief insight into the fields of application of the explicitation interview, with reference to three case studies, which are presented in a vivid and detailed way (in the fields of sport, health and training, and artistic creation). We conclude with a very brief panorama of the various known fields of application of the explicitation interview.

Correspondence: Maryse Maurel, Chemin de Moustiers  04 500 Montagnac, France. Email:

Claire Petitmengin, Michel Bitbol, Jean-Michel Nissou, Bernard Pachoud, Hélène Curallucci, Michel Cermolacce, and Jean Vion-Dury

Listening from Within

Abstract: This article is devoted to the description of the experience associated with listening to a sound. In the first part, we describe the method we used to gather descriptions of auditory experience and to analyse these descriptions. This work of explicitation and analysis has enabled us to identify a threefold generic structure of this experience, depending on whether the attention of the subject is directed towards (1) the event which is at the source of the sound, (2) the sound in itself, considered independently from its source, (3) the felt sound. In the second part of the article, we describe this structure. The third part is devoted to a discussion of these results and the paths they open up in various fields of theoretical and applied research.

Correspondence: Claire Petitmengin, Centre de Recherche en Epistémologie Appliquée, 32 boulevard Victor, 75015 Paris, France.

Jean Vion-Dury, Unité de Neurophysiologie et Psychophysiologie, Pôle de Psychiatrie Universitaire, Hôpital Sainte Marguerite, Bd. Joseph Aiguier, 13009 Marseille, France.

Claire Petitmengin & Michel Bitbol

The Validity of First-Person Descriptions as Authenticity and Coherence

Abstract: In this paper we list the various criticisms that have been formulated against introspection, from Auguste Comte denying that consciousness can observe itself, to recent criticisms of the reliability of first person descriptions. We show that these criticisms rely on the one hand on poor knowledge of the introspective process, and on the other hand on a naïve conception of scientific objectivity. Two kinds of answers are offered: the first one is grounded on a refined description of the process of becoming aware of one’s experience and describing it, the second one relies on a comparison with the methods of the experimental sciences. We conclude the article by providing a renewed definition of ‘the truth’ of a first person description.

Correspondence: Claire Petitmengin, Michel Bitbol, Centre de Recherche en Épistémologie Appliquée, 32 boulevard Victor, 75015 Paris, France.

Pierre Philippot & Zindel Segal

Mindfulness Based Psychological Interventions: Developing Emotional Awareness for Better Being

Abstract: This paper presents and discusses the psychological interventions that are primarily based on the development of mindful awareness as a psychotherapeutic tool. Mindfulness based psychological interventions are defined and situated in their historical context, in the larger perspective of the evolution of psychotherapies in the Western world in the last two decades. A special focus is given to mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR, Kabat-Zinn, 1982) and to mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT, Segal, Williams & Teasdale, 2002). The structure and core elements of these interventions are presented. Then, we examine their effectiveness in improving psychological and physical well-being. In the next section, we speculate about the underlying psychological mechanisms that might account for the effects of mindfulness based interventions. Special attention is devoted to the cognitive processes underlying emotion regulation and self-awareness. Finally, we examine how a first person approach might contribute to the understanding of mindfulness based interventions.

Correspondence: P. Philippot, Faculté de Psychologie, Université de Louvain, place du Cardinal Mercier, 10, B- 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.
Zindel Segal, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 250 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8, Canada.

Daniel N. Stern

Pre-Reflexive Experience and its Passage to Reflexive Experience: A Developmental View

Abstract: Taking a developmental perspective, experience is divided into three domains: the pre-reflexive; and two reflexive domains, the non-verbal reflexive and the verbal reflexive. This splitting of the reflexive domain is done in part because infants spend the first two years of life with only the pre-reflexive and non-verbal reflexive modes during which so many basic interpersonal skills are learned. The structure of experience in these first two domains is very rich. In particular, the role of ‘dynamic forms of vitality’ as a global organizer of interpersonal experience is presented as playing a major role in the structuring of pre-reflexive experience. The process of the passage of experience between all three domains is also explored, with the following question in mind: what is special about the passage into the verbal reflexive domain? We suggest this process requires acts of ‘soft assembly’, as described by dynamic systems theory. The soft assembly process, however, is not unique to the verbal reflexive domain but is needed in all passages between domains to link different modes of experience.

Pierre Vermersch

Describing the Practice of Introspection

Abstract: The main objective of this article is to capitalise on many years of research, and of practice, relating to the use of introspection in a research context, and thus to provide an initial outline description of introspection, while developing an introspection of introspection. After a description of the context of this research, I define the institutional conditions which would enable the renewal of introspection as a research methodology. Then I describe three aspects of introspective practice: 1) introspection as a process of becoming aware, theorized through Husserl’s model of consciousness modes; 2) introspection as recollection, through the model of retention and awakening in Husserl’s theory of memory; 3) the use of universal descriptive categories for the description of all lived experiences, as a guide for skilled practice of introspection in research. Finally I examine the question of the validation of introspective data, suggesting a strong distinction between the ethical criterion and the epistemic criterion of truth.


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