“Subjective Senses” in Psychology

Fernando L. Gonzales Rey, Subjectivy and Discourse: Complementary Topics for a Critical Psychology, Culture and Psychology, 2019, Vol. 25(2) 178-194, DOI: 10.1177/1354067X18754338.

I am not a psychologist, but I have long been interested in how personality, thoughts, motivations, and emotions affect behavior, especially regarding how we interact with and respond to others. This comes partially from my own experience in psychotherapy, through which I learned a lot about myself and why certain people and life situations create in me a lot of anxiety, confusion, frustration, and anger.

I am also working on a paper right now in which I am exploring the acculturation process of foreign students, and how the acculturation experience can shape the student’s experience with scholarly research during their time abroad. During my research for this paper, I found myself drawn to articles about culture and subjectivity. That is why I decided to pick this article for today’s Daily Read.

I was not familiar with Dr. Gonzales Rey’s work before reading this paper. Before he passed away earlier this year, he had spend his career studying the impact of Russian and Soviet psychologists on the field. Apparently, he was very interested in expanding on the ideas that were originally conceived of by Lev Vygotsky, whose work in cognitive development has formed the basis on which this subject is studied to the present day.

This article was quite an intellectual stretch for me, which made it perfect for a Friday in which I have an empty calendar. (How much do we all love an empty calendar?) In this article, Dr. Gonzales Rey discussed his ideas about “subjective senses,” which are “interwoven” to create “subjective configurations.” He argues that a subjective sense is a human production that is both social and individual, and that it is not “restricted … by any external orders.” Because a subjective sense has this un-ordered quality to it, he likens it to a “snapshot of symbolic emotional flashes.” Subjective configurations, he contends, “emerge as a self-regulative and self-generative organization” of subjective senses.

It seemed to me that Dr. Gonzales Rey is primarily interested in establishing this framework because he is also interested in exploring emotions and motivations, which he claims are “the main criteria for distinguishing subjectivity from discourse.” Discourses, he argues, are “constituents of social orders.” Because of this, they lack the dynamism that is required to inspire human creativity. Subjectivity, on the other hand, can explain “the specific generative imaginary capacity of human being from which new human realities are created.”

I like this idea of thinking about emotions in their “generative capacity.” I often feel like emotions, especially negative ones, are something to be tolerated until they go away. But emotions can also generate a strong impulse to consider new ideas, and create a fresh way of looking at a situation or a person.

I also appreciated Dr. Gonzales Rey’s discussion of motivations. He claims that a motivation “can never be reduced to one specific motive; it always implied complex subjective configurations, which appears as a microcosm of social individual life.” I admit that I need to think more about this, and consider how my own motivations are formed and shaped.

There is a lot more to this paper, but my time is up for today and this week. I’ve decided that I will post about this blog on Twitter now that I have managed to keep it up for a few days and still feel motivated to continue. I have some other ideas about where I might want to take this project, but I want to contemplate them a bit more before putting them out into the world.

Happy weekend!

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