The Dissertation Blues

So I’ve been absent from here for a good reason, I’ve been working on my dissertation in Human Development. When people ask me what that is, I just tell them, “Research psychology.” It’s not clinical psych, but its basis is a bit broader than “hard” psychology–you know, the area where they used a lot of rat data on cognition, genetics and anatomy plus a whole bunch of other objective measures. The degree I’m pursuing incorporates a lot of sociology and philosophy, history and a good basis in epistemology. Certainly I received a good foundation in Personality and the basic science behind Piaget, etc., but I also looked at the transpersonal, integral basis for personality, cognition and spirituality. I also studied Systems, which involved an historical overview of how we think about our interface with reality. I had a small cadre of teachers who understand me, but even in the wider perspective of the school I attended, not all of them felt comfortable with me. But they have all been extremely rigorous thinkers.

My dissertation is a comparison of case studies of work I have done with the dying that includes mediumship and shamanic practice. These cases appear to demonstrate similar foundational energetic changes to those practiced by mediums and shamanic practitioners within their respective cultures with the dying. I have also brought the Bardos of Tibetan Buddhism into the mix, as their stages also show similarities. My premise is that there is an physiologic process that occurs across cultures during the dying process, unless it has been distorted by the culture in which the person is embedded.

But I am still embroiled in the process of writing right at the moment. I had reached the point of not wanting to write at all, I was so tired of it. Dissertation writing is more of a hazing process. As many of my colleagues have told me, “You’ll never have to do something like this again–ever.” But when you’re in the middle of it, that doesn’t seem to matter much. We’ve all been there.


But things are looking up. I have turned in my first draft, and my committee chair “loved it.” I’m not sure I believe her yet, there is still some major clean-up and exposition to complete. But I’m on my way.

All I can say to you who are on this journey is 1) Pick a program you actually like (and can pay your school loans in the long run!) and 2) Pick a committee chair and committee members whom you like and they like you. Sounds simple, and perhaps naive, but it will save you a lot of suffering in the long run. And for pity’s sake, if you can afford it, hire an editor. They can turn into your best friend.

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