Psychobiographers each have their own approach. These are some of the methodological approaches that have been invaluable in Paul Elovitz’ research, writing, and teaching:
- Stress the importance of starting with primary sources
- Focus on early childhood development and the family background (including transgenerational transmission of traumas as well as values) in the context of the whole lifespan
- Pay close attention to coping mechanisms and the mechanisms of defense
- Lead with empathy in your research and find a part of the subject’s life where you can empathize. [Paul Elovitz finds a part of a person’s life that I can empathize with, usually childhood.] To empathize is not to condone!
- Encourage psychobiographers to examine their own motivations for choosing a particular subject, their countertransference, and projections
- Examine identity issues in the life histories of our subject
- Probe the difference between conscious intention and unconscious motivation
- Search for the unconscious in dreams, slips of the tongue, the subject’s life’s work, etc.
- Investigate the role of trauma in the subject’s life and the ability to overcome it
- Assess the interpersonal relations of the subject, avoiding making psychiatric diagnosis
- Use transcultural psychological theories in psychobiography
- Utilize interdisciplinary approaches in psychobiography
- Advocate for creating psychobiographical theories that go beyond Western and psychoanalytic theories, taking indigenous and interdisciplinary theories into consideration as part of psychobiographical research
- To establish a nurturing holding environment for all presenters doing psychobiography meetings to nurture their projects. Empathy for the presenter and insight is our ideal, rather than the academic one-upmanship of so many academic meetings
We hope you will join in this important endeavor of writing and publishing quality psychobiography.
PS. Note, we have scheduled a November 20th Psychohistory Forum Work-in-Progress seminar on the impact of child abuse on society. You should receive the presentation within a week.