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What does it mean to flourish? A psychosocial investigation.

Lennon-Patience, S., 2020. What does it mean to flourish? A psychosocial investigation. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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LENNON-PATIENCE, Siobhan_Ph.D_2020.pdf



The concept of ‘Flourishing’ has been a key idea in the history of positive psychology. The narrative of positive psychology has been influential within politics, culture and society and its language and philosophy have informed key social policies of the UK government, particularly in the area of welfare and wellbeing policy. This thesis examines the ways in which positive psychology is mobilised in political discourse and considers the implications of this. I argue that a psychoanalytic viewpoint is missing from that government policy arena and so, consequently, a significant alternative narrative on what it means to flourish is denied the space to be explored. I argue that psychoanalysis offers an important dimension to our understanding of human flourishing and can provide a more nuanced interpretation than positive psychology allows. Its means of exploring flourishing takes account of the affective dynamics that shape social relations in the contemporary social and cultural context, together with the potential spaces that can be opened up for change and transformation. The purpose of my thesis is to get a purchase on the complex and contested nature of what it means to flourish by exploring ‘structures of feeling’. This involves exploring the conscious system of ideas and beliefs, as well as the whole lived social process organized around dominant meanings and values at any one time (Williams 1977, p.108), The role of the researcher, in this instance, is to document the things and feelings which can block the paths to human flourishing, yet also actively seek what has the potential to offer a more hopeful future (Highmore 2016). It does this through four key case studies, employing a multimodal and psychosocial approach. It argues that the repression of psychoanalysis reveals a deficit that can be fruitfully filled by its rehabilitation in public discourse. This allows a new space for thinking about the complexities of contemporary social and cultural experience. The thesis sets out to foreground an alternative narrative of what it means to flourish from a psychoanalytic, specifically object relational, standpoint. As an original contribution to knowledge, this thesis shows how austerity measures in the UK since 2010 had a direct impact on people's capacity to flourish. The thesis reasserts the value of psychoanalysis for an understanding of flourishing. By adding a psychoanalytic dimension, I am contributing a new intervention into the evaluation of the meaning of flourishing and its relationship to the contemporary political culture of austerity. I am also offering an alternative articulation of what it may mean to flourish by presenting a psychoanalytic object relations understanding of flourishing based on a capacity for concern.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:childhood; capacity for concern; character strengths and resilience; flourishing, mattering theory; positive psychology; psychoanalysis; social injustice; wellbeing and happiness; welfare; Winnicott, D.W.
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:34775
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:05 Nov 2020 10:10
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:24


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