Theoretical and Paradigmatic Point of Departure

The research is based on a psychobiographical study of a single case. Whilst the two theories are applied in the theoretical framework of positive psychology, the case study method is viewed in the broader methodological frame and research design of hermeneutics.

Hermeneutics defines human subjectivity as part of research and the research processes (Dilthey, 2002). Thereby, hermeneutic interpretation of a life requires an active, sophisticated subjectivity to comprehend subjective experiences and their expressions in life objectively. “Verstehen” (understanding), according to Dilthey, can only happen when a researcher applies a self-reflexive attitude to achieve valid interpretations of the text of lived experiences and their expressions (Ratner, 2002).

The concept of reflexivity is defined in this study as emphasised by Myerhoff and Ruby (1982, p. 6): “Being reflexive is structuring communicative products so that the audience assumes the producer, process and product are a coherent whole.” This means for the study, that reflexivity includes the communicative act of the structured analysis of the data, the process of data handling and research, the expression of the researched (through the data used) and the perception of the researcher. By reflecting on the assumptions and procedures, the reflexive researcher applies a scientific attitude (Myerhoff & Ruby, 1982, p. 28). The terms “reflexive” and “reflective” are used in this study according to the authors cited, whereby authors do use the terms “reflexive” and “reflective” synonymously. If this is not the case, the term “reflective” is defined according to the author cited.

Dilthey’s understanding of hermeneutics integrates the main aim of interpreting ideas, purposes and other mental states expressed in the world of human action (Babbie & Mouton, 2006; Dilthey, 1976). It is therefore defined as a suitable research paradigm for this study.

Many of the psychobiographies of the late twentieth century use idiographic (single case explorations), hermeneutic perspectives, life story analysis and case study approaches. Currently, psychobiography falls into the hermeneutic traditions in which the author of a text is viewed as a “real phenomenon who can be explored and interpreted psychologically” (Kovary, 2011, p. 765). Psychobiography is viewed as a “method of idiographic approach in personality psychology”, which originally aimed at the analysis and understanding of “the dynamic and developmental determinants of artistic creativity” (Kovary, 2011, p. 764). According to this understanding of psychobiography as being a method of idiographic approach in personality psychology, personality psychology is seen as one of the broader contexts of psychobiographical studies and their anchoring in the discipline of psychology. Personality psychology is therefore used as a theoretical frame for this psychobiographical study.

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