Talking, Listening and Emancipation:
A Heideggerian Take on the Peer-Relation in Self-Help
Keywords:peer-relation, phenomenology, agency, self-help, social work
This paper adds a phenomenological account to the discussion on what constitutes the favorable prospects of the peer-relation in the context of self-help. By drawing on Heidegger’s lectures on St Paul’s First Thessalonians, and engaging in dialogue with a fictive case, we show that more attention needs to be given to how meaning is enacted, rather than simply adopted, in the peer-relation; that is, away from experiential content towards the process of how experiential knowledge is transferred communicatively. This, we argue, may clarify the underpinnings of the peer-relation and its emancipatory potential. Our findings propose a reconsideration of the role played by communicative activities in self-help. And, whereas storytelling has often been propounded as a way to facilitate agency among self-helpers, also the act of listening should receive more attention. By considering listening as an expression of agency, attention is reversed from self-narration on behalf of the person expected to be helped from it, to participation in another person’s story. The enaction approach to the peer-relation elaborated on in this paper invites the reader to rethink the value of talking and listening in helping relationships.
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