Stories of stress: feeling, thinking and the flourishing of life

PhD Thesis

Burke, Dominic Francis. 2007. Stories of stress: feeling, thinking and the flourishing of life. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Stories of stress: feeling, thinking and the flourishing of life

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorBurke, Dominic Francis
SupervisorO'Brien, Patrick
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages222

[Abstract]: This research responded to calls in the literature for more studies into subjective components of student stress as well as for innovative studies of appropriate counselling interventions. An innovative, individualised, body-mind intervention was offered to university students experiencing emotional stress overwhelm. Integral to the intervention was an extensive list of feelings, representing the approach-avoidance structure of the motivational system. Feelings qualitatively differentiate emotional experiences, and the list was found to be useful for identifying the feelings around emotional experiences. It was proposed that how one thinks about feelings is a key to resolving emotional stress and would facilitate the flourishing of life.

There have been recent calls for development of first-person methodologies for investigating experiences, and, since the intervention was individualised, analysis of the unique data set took a narrative interpretive approach. Narrative data, evoked by the feelings list, were interpreted to formulate students’ “stories of stress” then analysed to study their stressful emotional experiences.

This study demonstrates an innovative method for resolving emotional stress. Feelings were identified clearly, prompting students to think differently about emotional experiences. The study also demonstrates a method for researching those experiences of emotion. Analyses of consultants’ notes highlighted inter-connections and relationships between feelings and experiences throughout clients’ life-stories. Analyses of the data demonstrated a way of making sense of “emotional stress” and how the use of the feelings list could facilitate an individual’s thinking differently about experiences and resolving personal issues. For the participants of this study, feelings of grief and guilt were identified more than feelings of fear of loss for the issues discussed, suggesting that student's behaviours were motivated more by guilt than by fear. The study concludes with a discussion of how the research contributes to the counselling field and with suggestions for continuing research.

Keywordsstress, trauma, intervention, feelings, emotion experiences, motivation, narrative, interpretation, thinking, first-person research
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020520406. Sensory processes, perception and performance
520102. Educational psychology
390404. Educational counselling
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