Therapeutic Recreation after Disasters: Research Memos
January 21, 2019
This post is meant for my research project on therapeutic recreation in post-disaster contexts. As I re-analyzed some of my past interview studies, I would like to be transparent with my analysis by showing all the memos associated wit it.
============= The following are the memos ============== Title: Lack of mindfulnessDate: 12/27/2018 So far I have coded several cases from Katrina and GEJE. Right now, I am coding Tosh from Katrina. Among the 5 LWB mechanisms, I think I have got 4 covered, except for mindfulness (although leisure gratification was not mentioned a lot either; that's another memo). And I used this mindfulness code for the first time for Tosh. He was describing how his mind was focused on the single, urgent task of rebuilding his flooded house for 11 months after the hurricane. This is a long time for one to focus one's mind on a single project. However, the task was related to such a fundamental part of his life: house. House also relates to other basic components of life -- sleeping, taking shower, cooking, and having leisure (like, Tosh's favorite home-based leisure: watching TV). When one's mind is this busy with one thing, it takes up the room for being mindful for other things. This may be why 5 or so transcripts I have coded so far did not mention any of mindfulness components. Instead, they mentioned A LOT of uncertainty. Uncertainty in the post-disaster contexts means not knowing the extent of disaster damage, not knowing where to live, how to live, what to do; not knowing when one can get a house back, a job back, a community back, a school back, etc. These are the content of uncertainty, or "what" of uncertainty. The consequence of uncertainty is that the never-ending thought and worry. Post-disaster uncertainty is related to essentially un-answerable questions. For example, no one knew how soon one survivor can get his home rebuilt. No one can answer it, but it does not mean that one can stop asking this question and thinking about it. That's the real harm here, in relation to mindfulness. Survivors' mind is too full of thoughts and worries about these uncertain issues. There was no room for mindfulness and mindful leisure specifically (with the fact that leisure had a less priority in their mind at that time). Having this noted, I would argue this absence of mindfulness is NOT the evidence that mindful leisure would not work in post-disaster contexts. I feel that the opposite would be the case for many survivors. If you can intentionally create the space to be mindful about surrondings that one can be certain about--including leisure, that could help survivors being free from the endless loop of uncertainty thoughts. I would need to find at least one case for this... Perhaps Ume, who did some meditation?
Title: Scope of leisure gratifications
At this point, I have coded a few of each of Katrina and GEJE survivors, and there were only a few references to "leisure gratifications" (e.g., Hurley), which I think goes beyond the definition of this concept by Hood and Carruthers (2016). They defined the concept by stating "learning to identify, select, and modify leisure experiences in order to create the possibility of flow and ultimately to support the ongoing development of skills and capacities" (p. 7). So, it's essentially about flow and engagement (as per Seligman).
I think there are some fundamental problems. The first is that "gratifications" -- by which Hood and Carruthers meant deeper satisfaction -- are assumed to be derived only from flow. Flow is an optimal psychological experience, but it's just ONE TYPE of it. Within leisure contexts, Fenton and Walker discussed that there are several other psychologically deep experiences (also see Kleiber et al., 2011). Some of them are communitas, fascination (based on nature and ART), and spirituality (transcendence). The interpersonal/community aspect of the optimal experience -- communitas -- may be very important too in the post-disaster context, because disasters disrupt communities and relationships. Moreover, some of group events (e.g., Saints home game after Katrina) is symbolic and uplifting -- it sends out the message that survivors are there and are having a life. These events also reassure them that they will get through this challenging time. The festive nature of sports and music events (e.g., Mardi Gras) tend to cause this fleeting sense of community.
All of this means that "leisure gratifications" or optimal/engaging leisure in the post-disaster context needs to be conceptualized more broadly than Hood and Carruthers did. It's not simply about flow. It can't be. Sometimes survivors lose access to the activities they are good at. Often the issue is not about developing one's individual skills and capacities, but to re-building community's resources and capacities (in relation to resilience). Thus, optimal leisure after disasters can be interpersonal and communal.
Title: Disaster hassles and mindfulness
Today, I was coding Ume, one of the Japanese American Katrina survivors. She was an artist and I knew she talked about some of mindfulness and spirituality issues. This was an intentional selection after discussing the absence of mindful leisure so far in the past memo. Indeed, Ume mentioned some of mindful leisure. Taking time. Scheduling leisure, unstructured time to get out of a harried life after the disaster. This part -- the relationship between mindfulness and hassle-- something that I want to discuss further in this memo.
Based on the literature review, I thought that mindfulness would be important for survivors who suffer from the constant worry about the future and flashbacks of traumatic past events. So, I theorized that mindfulness would bring survivor's attention from the future or past to the present. This was not really apparent so far (I have coded 6 people so far).
Instead, what Ume was suggesting was that she was having this post-Katrina life with increased hassles, and that's where it was important for her to be mindful. Take time off. This I could see apply to many other individuals after Katrina or GEJE. Many GEJE survivors, for example, said that time flied so fast dealing with many things -- e.g., funerals, rebuilding house, getting a job, taking care of family members etc. Their post-disaster life was a constant, load of tasks to do. Although this kind of sounds like a typical lifestyle in a big city, this was not really case for many Kartina and GEJE survivors. New Orleans was known for slower lifestyle, while the country side the GEJE struck was also very different from the metropolitan area in Japan. This could be very stressful for survivors.
Hence, the mindfuless. It's sort of like being relaxed and peaceful for a moment, too. But, just trying to slow down this quick pace life, even temporarily. Perhaps, having a cup of tea with your friends or neighbors. Listening to your favorite music. Playing with your children. Just be here and now, rather than constantly thinking of what to do next.
Personally, I can resonate with this a lot. I tend to schedule my life based on my work -- a series of teaching preps, writing papers, doing research, writing grants, etc. They never end. I feel very good about being spontaneous here and there. Just going for a half round of gold with a colleague because the weather is so nice. Just spending a lazy morning with my wife. The same could be true for disaster suvivors, to an extent.
Title: comfort and authenticity
This is a memo about the 3rd type of leisure well-being model mechanisms -- authenticity -- and its relavance to post-disaster life contents. I have used this code authenticity a few times so far -- survivors getting back to who they really were, expressing their truer sense of self through leisure. So, that part has been very consistent with Hood and Carruthers's conceptualization. There has been several instances I created and used the code called "comfort." Survivors are talking about feeling comfortable with their own (rebuilt) house, with their family or close friends, with their pet, etc. I have this gut feeling that there is something about the relationship between authenticity and comfort, which is why I am writing this memo.
First, here is the definition of authenticity from Hood and Carruthers (2016): "experiences that reflect personal strengths, interests, and aptitudes" (p. 7). They also say, "Using and cultivating one's most self-defining signature strengths, interests, and virtues lead to the realization of one's full, unique human potential. ... Signature strengths, interest, and aptitudes are characterized by a sense of 'true self' abd authenticity, intrinsic motivation, enthusiasum and excitement, and energization." Is it only me who thinks this conceptualization heavily Western, individualistic? It also sound like biasing toward high-arounsal dimension of psychological experience. Why being authentic has to be "exciting"? If one feels like being who they are, don't they feel rather relaxed, calm, peaceful, and "comfortable"? Like, the English expression "feeling comfortable under one's skin" (or something in that line) goes? I feel that there is some bias toward HOW one can and should be authentic. There is too much emphasis on "striving to be the best version of self" which is consistent with Aristotle's idea of "daimon" and the emerging eudaimonic well-being literature. But, when people go through traumatic like disasters, often what's important is not really trying to be something better, more. But rather, just returning to the ordinary, comfortable version of self, as this can be lost through life-changing experiences.
Second, Hood and Carruthers's conceptualization of authenticity is also very "self-ish." It virtually does not refer to others. However, humans are social beings. The authentic version of self is defined by others around us as much as by ourselves. Indeed, one GEJE survivor was told by her neighbors that she was getting back to who she really was -- cheerful, funny, social -- through their chatting. Moreover, a large part of being true to self, I would argue, is about whether one can feel comfortable in their interpersonal relationships. This is also important in post-disaster lives, because often survivors' communities and relationships were strained and destroyed.
In short, I propose that, based on the data coded so far, the concept of authenticity should be expanded in two ways: (1) embracing more comfortable, low-arounsal side of being who one really is, and (2) incorporating interpersonal aspect of authenticity.
Title: Communal virtue
This is the issue that came to my mind when I was coding Satoko's transcript yesterday. Satoko did a lot of volunteer-like activities since she was displaced to the temporary housing complex. She started an initiative in which a group of survivor residents went around the complex (which initially accommodated about 1,000 survivors) and greeted everyone, especially older residents who were alone. Sometimes she would visit those who looked lonely or so door-to-door. She also organized countless free meal events and recreational events for residents, while cooperating with disaster volunteers. She also began several volunteer activities for future disaster survivors and other people in need (e.g., making and selling craftworks to gain some money for a charity). All of this sounds very much virtuous leisure.
Hood and Carruthers (2016, p. 8) defined virtuous leisure as "leisure experiences that allow one to use one's strengths to make a contribution to the world in some way." They also quoted Seligman saying "meaning comes from the dedication of one's signature strengths in service to something larger than oneself, a greater good." Then they went on listing many examples. Although the latter examples were diverse in nature, their core conceptualizations were, I argue, fixated on one's strengths and characters. To be fair, this is based on the positive psychology research, specifically virtuous character research by Seligman and Peterson (VIA), and further it can be traced back to the ancient Western philosophies of the relationship between ethics and self.
However, more dialectic, fluit, sometimes even contradictory Eastern philosophies tell us that what's good can vary across situations. More importantly, good is really about collective, communal good, rather than individual ethics. It's not about what's good about you, but what good (for others) come out of you. The key question I want to raise here is: do survivors have to mobilize their "signature" strengths to be virtuous? Or, can they simply help others and be good? I think that the latter may be the case. Theoretically, limiting virtuous leisure to one's signature characteristics blurs the boundary between authentic and virtuous leisure.
I am not saying that some of my interviewees did not use their strentths to help others; probably they did to an extent. But, their accounts were rather focused on others and community -- i.e., greater good -- rather than themselves. Moreover, Satoko and a few other Katrina survivors (with only notes) suggested that helping others helped themselves. It's like this. Satoko was depressed (possibly PTSD with flashbacks) and did not get out of her apartment. She knew (probably others told her) that this wasn't healthy. So, she started to go out and do that greeting initiative. People responded to her activity and started to greet her back, and there was a stronger sense of community in that housing complex, which is greater good. Now those older residents who got cheered up by Satoko, made her feel like she "cannot lag behind them" and have to stay strong and positive. It was the positive spiral and "echo", if you will, of virtuousness. Doing something good for others allows one to see positive effects of those good interactions, which then encourages and motivates oneself.
Post-disaster life is a touch time. No one single survivor can go through it alone. Strengths of any one survivor is often too weak in front of highly traumatic, uncontrollable, uncertain, and stressful life situations. But, when survivors can echo their virtues among them -- sometimes through leisure practices, then the magnitute of virtue amplifies to the extent that sustains survivors' effective recovery, healing, and transformation. In this sense, virtuous leisure in post-disaster lives should be expanded to be communal and collective. I just need a better word to capture this "echoing" part...
Title: My assumptions 1
As the thematic analysis appoarch identifies reflecting on the analyst's own assumptions around the research topic as an important practice toward rigor, I wanted to write a reflective memo about some of my assumptions.
First and foremost, the key issue in this particular project is that I have analyzed both datasets (i.e., Katrina and GEJE) before from a different theoretical perspective. Thus, I have seen the transcripts from a different angle, and I should be careful not to gravitate toward that again. So far, I have coded about 15 transcripts/notes, and I think that having the pre-determined coding scheme helps in this regard. It helps me not readily replicate the previous codes and themes. Meanwhile, I am also allowing other data-driven codes to emerge, as well, and many of them look like my previous codes. Some of these emerging codes are rather new, though: different from the coding scheme or previous codes. This means that the choice of deductive (and inductive) coding was effective.
Second, the datasets were collected, to an extent, based on these theoretical expectations. Although interviews were semi-structured and interviewees had opportunities to go off the topics, questions were largely about theoretical themes. This is largely why many of the emerging codes are similar to what I had in the previous analyses -- the data are already about these theoretical topics.This is not something that we can fix at this point. Obviously, it would be better to collect new data specifically for the current research questions. However, given the rarity and inaccessibleness of disaster survivors, I would argue that our re-analysis of existing data has merits. This is a limitation that we should acknowledge clearly.
Third, I am bringing in this specific theoretical model of Leisure Well-Being Model by Hood and Carruthers. It's an assumption that this may work. Indeed I was aware of their early work in 2007 before I was conducting the data collection. However, I rather focused on stress coping aspect, as to me back then, disaster-caused negativity was more obvious and fixing it through leisure seemed to be a more urgent issue. However, going through the data, writing and rewriting about the data (boy, did I spend a lot of time on this), thinking about it, reading other things (especially positive psychology) later, and observing more disasters since, made me realize that fixing negativity is not the whole story. That cannot make survivors "happy" again, whatever that means. Life does not begin until you actually bring back something fun, meaningful, exciting, peaceful, etc. Fixing disaster-related negativity is not same as enhancing positivity in post-disaster lives. Now I think I can see that my survivor interviewees were already discussing the importance of regaining positivity through leisure, and that's why I wanted to do this project. Yet, again, that's my assumption. I did not revisit the data to check these hypotheses. I should be careful not to blindly apply the theory to my data.
The third point makes me think that next, I should reflect on the theoretical model's assumptions (e.g., disciplinary, cultural).
Title: Assumptions of the LWM
As part of the process to strive for higher rigor in thematic analysis, I am writing about assumptions of the Leisure Well-Being Model by Hood and Carruthers (2016). This is the guiding framework in our paper, and it's important that we are aware of the assumptions attached to the model, so that we would not blindly impose them onto our data. Specifically, I focuse on the 5 leisure engancement elements: savoring, authenticity, gratification, mindfulness, and virtunousness.
They defined savoring as the act "to purposefully foster, appreciate, and extend the positive emotion associated with leisure engagement" which is almost consistent with Bryant and Veroff (2007). They further descrived it as "the ability to attend to and fully immerse themselves in the joy and satisfaction of anticipatinng, living, and reminiscing about their leisure experiences" (p. 7). The bottom line is that savoring is about here-and-now. Triggering, extending, and amplifying positive emotions. Yet, it certainly has some implications for the future and past: some savoring is about anticipating what great joy comes in the near future, while other techniques are about recollecting past positive experiences or even thinking of how one would tell the current positive experiences to others (in this future moment, the current is told as the past). Reflecting how much effort one has made in the past to achieve the current joy is also a type of savoring.
In terms of assumptions related to savoring, the most obvious one is that the concept is based on the premise that positive emotions are conducive to well-being, and dismisses any other types of emotions, especially negative ones. Often savoring is contrasted with (stress) coping; savoring is for positive emotions, and coping is for negative emotions and stress. This binary thinking to me seems in line with the Western linear logical thought process. Cross-cultural psychology has shown us that East Asians do experience a mix of positive and negative emotions even in positive situations, while they do not hope to experience a very high level of positive emotions because of their "moderation" tendency. For example, wouldn't it be almost deviant to go around and just smiling after disasters? Would it really help that person's overall well-being? I am not sure if this is socially and culturally beneficial.
That said, I can definitely see the applicability of savoring to post-disaster life contexts. Often, post-disaster lives are too stressful and depressing. Survivors need some breaks from this dominance of negative emotions. They discussed (well partially because I asked them) "diversions" that resulted in some level of positive emotions. This is essentially "triggering" positive emotions. Yes, they may not last for a long time, or they may not have much long-term adaptive benefits. However, doing something positive for a time being helps one from not thinking about traumatic events, not worrying about the future, not fighting with their friends and family members, etc.
Authenticity is the second element, and I have already challenged its individualistic conceptualization in my memo on "comfort and authenticity". The bottom line is that we should be careful not to rigidly assume that one does and should know who they really are and express it through authenticity. Self is defined and redefined in relation to others and depending on situations. Another issue is that being authentic is not necessarily exciting thing (although Hood and Carruthers seem to assume so); it could be calming and comfortable. The cultural bias toward the high-arousal state should be carefully examined.
The third element is leisure gratifications, and it's basically flow-based skill and resource development according to Hood and Carruthers. I have already critiqued some of the assumptions in the previous memo on "Scope of Leisure Gratification". Flow should not be treated as the only gratifying psychological experience through leisure. Leiure is more than that. Specifically, flow is often highly individual and misses any interpersonal components. For that, the concept of communitas or fleeting sense of connections with others may be helpful. Also problematic is that its focus on PERSONAL skills and resources. I mean, individual skills and resources do not make too much difference in post-disaster life contexts. And that's fine. A few interviewees discussed the importance of their spirituality in post-disaster adaptations. Often, they are more about accepting situations, rather than trying to control them. Here, the cross-cultural literature says that North Americans tend to emphasize too much of "primary control" to influence and change environment, while East Asians tend to appeal to "secondary control" to adjust to environmental changes. Any arguments around which is better, to me, should be culturally and socially situated.
The fourth element is mindfulness, which is "the state of open awareness that arises from intentional, nonjudgmental attention to the unfolding of present moment-to-moment external and internal experiences." I discussed it a little in my memo on "hassle and mindfulness." Mindfulness is an interesting one here, because it has a cultural root in East Asian philosophy (e.g., zen). I don't really see issues here, but there are not many interviewees who explicitly mentioned it.
The fifth and last element is virtuousness. I have discussed its individualistic aspect in the memo on "Communal virtue." To reiterate, I think it's problematic that virtuousness is centered on one's signature characteristics. What's good may not be about one's strengths. Maybe we need a broader concept than virtuousness in post-disaster contexts?
Title: after reading Susan's comments
I am writing this memo after reading Susan's comments on my memos. I really enjoyed her comparing my accounts with her thoughts and personal experiences. This is like "theoretical comparisons" in grounded theory. Understanding what data are telling by relating it to similar or dissimilar experiences we researchers did. For this, Susan is a great person because she has a wide range of personal experiences including some of disasters.
One thing that stood out among Susan's comments was her emphasis on "moving foward" rather than trying to get something back. Often major disasters are too powerful and devastative, so that things (e.g., activities, material, people, relationships) are lost and gone for a good. And as long as you try to hold onto something that is already lost, survivors cannot really move forward. I remember Tosh was emphasizing not dwelling on loss. Instead, he focused on rebuilding his home, with some new revisions to his house design. Often Katrina survivors emphasized the difference between "new" and "old" normal. Old, pre-Katrina normalcy was lost, but somehow survivors could still perceive a sense of new normalcy, often through leisure.
Why? To discuss this issue, I would like to re-conceptualize the end-goal of LWM. It's well-being. It's conceptualized as the state of satisfaction and positive emotions, as well as development (i.e., eudaimonic well-being). I think that there may be some issue in conceptualizing the target outcome as well-"being" state -- it's static. Now I am thinking of Ken Sheldon's chapter on "Understanding the good life: Eudaimonic living involves well-doing not well-being." Post-disaster recovery is like that too. I mean that the recovery is not about trying to retain some sort of desirable cognitive and emotional state that's been destroyed by disaster; they are gone. You and your life won't be the same any more. However, life continues (as Susan's case of surgery). Thus the post-disaster recovery is about "well-doing" and "well-living." And well-doing involves leisure. Doing enjoyable and meaningful leisure again -- although the activities, sites, equipment, companions, etc. may not be the same -- helps survivors "live forward."
Living forward, to me based on the data, means that not giving up on living one's life because of the past traumatic life events and current highly stressful live situations. It's more than simple "surviving" everyday. It's about doing something that is not "necessary" (in a biological sense), but enriches one's life. Now I can see that some of survivors did this living forward. Most and probably all Katrina interviewees were at this stage of living forward, simply beacuse I interviewed them 7 years after their catastrophic experiences. They had time to start living forward. In contrast, some of my GEJE informants were not there -- mostly, those middle-aged mothers. They were buried with a load of paperwork, housework, other logistics, child-rearing, professional work, etc. They were still surviving their everyday life (maybe not physically, but emotionally and socially). In contrast, many older GEJE survivors seemed better off (especially the ones I interviewed), as they let go of their past. This is a bit conter-intuitive as older people would have more past that they would not want to let go than middle-aged people. Perhaps, it's the life lessons that older people learned through their life; don't dwell on what's gone (as Tosh would say).
Title: Method searching themes 1
This is a methodological memo to document my methodological practices and decisions. Specifically, I did finish the initial coding and am now searching for themes. What I have done are:
- Going through all the LWM codes from the code perspective (by clicking each of the LWM nodes on NVivo)
- Using the matrix coding query to examine how the LWM codes are co-occurring with other disaster and emergent codes
- Recoding (mostly adding) while going through the LWM and other codes
- Re-arranging codes, especially non-LWM codes, under the LWM codes
- Creating mind maps about how codes are related to each other to form a theme
Title: Normal, familiar, minimalism...
So far, I was working on searching for themes. I have got a pretty good start on organizing themes around the LWM codes, while identifying some parts that do not quite fit. One of the things that has bothering me was, though, the codes of normal (leisure) and minimalism. My gut tells me that there is something about them, but cannot quite figure it out. Let's see if writing a memo on them helps.
So far, my thought was that normal and minimalism may fit with mindfulness... mostly because of the minimalism and its zen affiliation. However, this hasn't quite fit well. The thing about normal is that because survivors lost many things (e.g., house, equipment, people), they experienced changes in their values: they don't need something fragile (fragile in front of disasters), but rather want to have normal, ordinary, common, familiar things. These things are often daily activities, such as family time, gardening, watching TV, being at home, etc. They start to appreciate more of these seemingly trivial things. They realize these normal things are actually important in life.
This to me sounds like "savoring" -- triggering enjoyment of otherwise non-enjoyable things and activities. The tricky part is whether these changes are intentional or not. I would have to revisit the conceptualization of savoring, but can it be unintentional? Moreover, some of savoring including the current case of normal and minimalism seems to reflect more of trait-level changes, rather than situational savoring strategies. Thus, it's not a particular action at a given time in a given situation, but rather it's a manifestation of more fundamental changes in one's value systems.
Title: Family support, caring and cared
I was reading all the excerpts for the code of family support, and realized one thing: family support in post-disaster contexts is about the exchange of care. It's about caring and being cared. Of course, this is often more one directional as survivors are parents and then they tended to care others. However, caring others also gives one positive emotional energey that they have to be positive and keep going. They can't give it up. As I wrote in a different memo, a lot of interaction after disasters is about echoing and amplifying positivity between self and others. One trying to be positive throughout traumatic and stressful life situations is challenging, while we can be stronger and positive together. And that's more sustainable. Some of gratification (communitas) and virtuousness (kindness to others) may fall into this function. Now the bigger question is: should I impose the LWM categories?
Title: Anhedonia, consequence not condition
I was going through the excerpts under the anhedonia code. Based on my literature review, I had thought that anhedonia or the inability to have fun was a condition where savoring becomes important. This makes sense. However, what the data are suggesting seems that anhedonia is a constraint to savoring leisure. This also makes sense. Survivors went on a travel to have fun, but could really not enjoy it because of disaster trauma. Or, if I can use Galit's concept of constraint to benefiting from leisure, this is exactly it. Galit discussed it within the context of people with depression.
A bigger-picture learning point here is that I should not assume that all the disaster contexts I identified are "conditions" or antecedents to LWM and enhanced leisure experiences. They can be constraints to them too. Or at least constraints to benefiting from leisure experiences.
Title: theme -- authenticity
I was going through the quotes for the authenticity theme. As I try to establish this theme, I discuss what this theme is about and why it's important in the post-disaster contexts. By the way, below is the mind-map of authentcity I created so far.
Going through the quotes, I realized that survivors were disucssing two different versions of authenticity. One is to revert back to old self, whether it's about being Japanese, a farmer (occupation), flower arrangement master (recreationist). Of course, it's not the same. Sometimes it's not the same as before because of disaster-related experiences, or just because so much time has passed. However, I can see that this helps survivors to regain some level of continuity in their lives. This is significant because there have been so many changes in their post-disaster lives. Many survivors mentioned "not normal" as a characteristic of post-disaster life, while they also discussed about uncertainty. Another version of authenticity is finding a relatively new side of self. Disasters change survivors' self and lives and let them discover new sides of themselves. It's like the expression about a phoenix coming out of ash. A stronger, better version of self (at least in their mind) come out from their traumatic and stressful experiences.
Besides this old-new self continuum, authenticity after disasters can be therapeutic because disasters take away people's sources of identity. For example, Fumiko felt that she needed something more than New Orleans that could give her a "sense of roots" and foundation. She compared herself with locals from New Orleans who literally lost everything -- house, family, job, pictures, etc. This put people into a major identity crisis. Fumiko could tap into her Japanese side, by reading Japanese literature and stuff. Yasushi lost his job as a taxi driver. He struggled with finding any jobs after the disaster, which could have troubled his identity as a "bread earner". So, sources of identity can be related to place, job, recreation, and social role. However, major disasters can effectively destory most, if not all, of them for survivors. Developmentally speaking, this is very detrimental to human well-being. I mean, if I am not a husband, bread earner, golfer/badminton enthusiast, then who am I? What kind of life would I have? Would I want to keep living?
When this happens, recreation activties can give survivors opportunities for survivors to regain some sense of self. They allow survivors to be more than just disaster survivors. Identity means the basis of one's life. Identity means purpose and meaning in life. Thus, being authentic in the post-disaster life contexts means living forward.
Title: theme -- gratifications
Now I am reviewing all the quotes on the code of gratification and wanted to reflect on this theme to conceptualize further what this is and why it is important in the post-disaster life contexts. The following is the mind-map I created so far. It essentially depicts the three subcategories of gratification: personal skills, uplifting, and spirituality.
There are a few survivors (e.g., Katsuko) discussing learning new skills and being absorpted into the experience of learning (e.g., computer skills). This sort of sounds like flow experience. Thus, in a way, this is the classic type of gratification Hood and Carruthers discussed. Uplifting experience is the interpersonal aspect of gratfication. It's like communitas in that group gathering among survivors, and sometimes between survivors and non-survivors, create this temporary sense of comradery, belonging, and togetherness. It uplifts the moral of survivors. Like having a Mardi Gras after Katrina devastation. It was not just any festival; it was THE festival for which New Orleans was known for. That's what it made survivors feel that they were actually living forward, their city was coming back (albeit slowly), and it's gonna be okay. The last sub-category is spirituality and religion. I used spitiuality as a broader label than religion as a few survivors specifically denied religion and mentioned spirituality. A classic example is M who was a devoted Christian. When she had to face difficult situations and decisions (e.g., going back to Japan after Katrina, while being separated from one of her children and husband), he consulted the bible and church. They gave her a way to make sense her decisions. Also other survivors felt hope and optimism due to their faith and spirituality. These things can be helpful as in post-disaster lives, things are too uncertain and sometimes unreasonable. Spirituality gives survivors a way to close one's thoughs around "why me?", "what if?" and so on; there are no answer. But, survivors have to find an answer to them, so they can stop thinking and start moving on (see "moving forward" quotes).
What's common across these three subcategories of "gratification" appears to be that they are all about something more than self. Personal skills and growth is about being more than the current version of self and becoming better. Uplifting, communitas is about connecting to others. Spirituality is about one's relationship with something beyond humanity and potentially higher existence. Each one of the sub-categories has its own reason why it is therapeutic -- experiencing personal growth after going through something uncontrollable, comradery after community and relationship disruptions, and regaining faith, belief, and hope when uncertainty, mistrust, and dispair prevail. However, there may be something fundamentally gratifying, or deeply satisfying, about having the relationship with something more than (the current version of) self. I recall a lot of GEJET survivors were saying that post-disaster life situations were the time when they got all about "me." Surviving, taking care of famility, getting income, getting a place to live, getting aid, etc. But, that life does not get anywhere. It's about maintaining what's left befind after the disaster. It's not about living forward. To live forward successfully, one has to relate with something more than self.
In this sense, I can see why communitas (uplifting) and spiritual leisure were more dominant than flow. Flow is still at an individual level. It may get you grow, but humans do not grow so rapidly after one experience. Connecting a large group of people or something spiritual would feel far more powerful and gratifying. Thus the concept of gratification has to be expanded within the post-disaster contexts.
Moreover, I think that calling all of this as "gratification" is also problematic. All the other LWM facets are defined by what it is -- authentic, savoring, virtuous, and mindful. Gratification to me looks like what comes after. It's the consequence, not the nature of experience itself. For that matter, authentic, virtuous, and mindful experiences can be deeply gratifying. This is the issue of conceptual heterogeneity according to Braun and Clarke. As of now, based on the above conceptualization, I feel that this should be labelled as something in life with "transformative" or "transcending" leisure. Being more than self -- probably the latter?
Title: theme -- mindfulness
Now I am reviewing the quotes under the mindfulness code, and I would like to further conceptualize what this theme is and why it's important in the post-disaster contexts. The below is the mind map I have created so far about mindfulness.
What this diagram means is that mindfulness is opposite to disaster hassles. This is based on the realization that mindfulness is one of the most absent LWM codes in our datasets. As documented in one of the previous memos, I came to think of what's stopping survivors from being mindful (of leisure). The answer was that survivors had a lot of things that occupied their mind since the disasters. The classic exampple is Tosh, who could not think of anything else besides rebuilding his home. Similar comments were derived from GEJET survivors. Thus, their mind is "full", but full of disaster-related concerns -- job, house, family, insurance, relocation, etc. The post-disaster uncertainty also exacerbate these hassles. Survivors could not really eliminate these concerns, but they had to keep thinking about them.
A few examples of actual mindfulness through leisure was Ume and Sachiko. One became mindful with haiku and meditation and structuring more leisure time, while Sachiko was mindful with flowers and gardening. There were a few other cases where survivors also talked about being peaceful, calm, and relaxed. Essentially Ume discussed slowing down her life, while using a Spanish word lamente -- having more time to people in her vicinity and things. Sachiko was suffering acute anxiety disorder like symptoms, and she would get out of her house, sit outside, and see the flowers we planted together. This way, she could let go of her feelings.
The two cases, although the number is low (2/25), indicate that mindfulness can be facilitative of living forward in the post-disaster lives. That being said, the dominant narrative in our datasets regarding mindfulness is that survivors' mind is full of disaster-related concerns. Surviving disasters (e.g., earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, flood) is not the end of the whole disaster experience; the real surviving is far more extensive and takes much more time. You have to build your life again. Since some of the disaster-related concerns are about such basic issues of one's life, their mind gravitate toward it all the time. It appears therapeutic to have some time off from this continuous spiral of thoughts (which usually do not have any immediate solution or answer). Mindfulness can have an important place, but it's just difficult to achive it.
Title: theme -- virtuousness
I am reviewing the quotes under the code of virtuousness and wanted to reflect on what this theme is and why it's important within the post-disaster contexts. Below is the mind-map I have created for virtuousness so far.
This diagram shows that there are two directions of virtuousness. One is about self and personal realm. This is often related to one's sense of gratitude for support that they received since the disasters. There is also a layer of feeling owed to others (those who died, those who are suffering more) to do something good. Personally virtuous activities do not necessarily immediate target, like other survivors in need. For example, Shigeru's project of selling local noodles around the country to repay for the support he got does not really make sense in that he won't be actually cooking for volunteers and miliary people who helped him. It's more symbolic. But, his motive is based on his gratitude, and his action -- in his mind -- is good, selfless. He emphasizes that it's not for making money. I feel that this type of virtuous leisure is close to what Hood and Carruthers desribed in relation to one's signature strengths.
On the contrary, there are many cases of communal virtuousness after the disasters. Often survivors' communities and relationships were devastated by the events. But, they received tremendous support from their local and/or distant communities. They were surrounded by others who were still suffering. This situation led them to do things to help others. The key here is that this community support isn't necessary related to one's strengths or something. It could, but not necessary. It's really not about survivors' self, but for others and community. It's simple: there are people around me who need my help and I can help them, so I do. Of course, this altruistic behavior is often faclitated by a sense of gratitude and community, which was strengthened (or weakened) after the disasters. But, this one is not really personal catalthsis of some personal awakening or something. In a way, some of communal support is very pragmatic.
So, why is it important to be virtuous after the disasters? The latter communal version is straightforward: community is devasted and it needs to be rebuilt and helped. It's the community you are living in. Living forward after disasters is a difficult path if you are alone. But if you can walk it with your community members, it becomes easier. The former, pesonal version is more about personal catharthis, if you will. Many survivors felt this strong urge to do something back, after receiving much support. That urge drives them to do something virtuous -- in a way, it's more of self-expression.
Now the issue is the conceptual distinction (and the issue of heterogeneity according to Braun and Clarke) between this personal version of virtuousness and authenticity. This conceptual blurring is something we can find Hood and Carruthers's conceptualization. Where do we draw a line between authenticity and virtuousness? What if survivors have or gain this virtuous self and wants to express it through leisure? This is theoretically possible.
For now, I think that the important distincion is whom the behavior is for. Is it for self and to be true to self, or to pay back to others even symbolically? If the main goal is the former to be true to self, then it's authenticity. If it's about for others, then it's virtuousness. Maybe not just others, but a greater cause that goes beyond self. This sort of sounds like "gratification" but again, communitas is about connecting with others, while virtuousness is doing something for others and a greater cause. Not necessarily that you would connect to them.
Title: Theme -- savoring
I am reviewing the quotes under the savoring code, and I wanted to reflect on what this theme is and why it's important in the post-disaster contexts. Savoring has been one of the most developed themes (along with virtuousness) so far. The following is the mind map I created so far.
This diagram shows that there are two important conditions for post-disaster savoring: uncertainty and minimalism. Uncertainty is a very predominant cognitive and affective (as well as interpersonal) atmosophere after major disasters. No survivor knows what's future is going to be like. Although the future is unknow-able (and of course the future is always unknow-able), this does not stop survivors from thinking and worrying about it. They rather always worry about the uncertain future. This means that sometimes, survivors have the difficulty appreciating and enjoying things around them. The other important condition, although less prevalent than uncertainty, is minimalisim or the belief that things (e.g., physical stuff, people) are too vulnerable in face of massive natural force like disasters. It's noteworthy that minimalism was mentioned by only GEJET survivors.
On the one hand, these two conditions make it challenging for survivors to engage in savoring. For example, uncertainty distracts survivors from positive experiences at here-and-now. On the other hand, these conditions are the reasons why savoring after disasters can be very therapeutic. Because of the uncertainty, survivors had to take their mind off of the future by doing something often simple, enjoyable. Some of these diversions are maladaptive (e.g., partying), but often survivors used activities that brought positive emotions (e.g., watching stupid TV). They are sometimes very intentional strategic about having fun. This is about "triggering enjoyment" of savoring. Using humor is one of good strategies here. Then, prolonged uncertainty makes survivors feel appreciative of leisure activities they took for granted before (see Ume and Donna).
Minimalism also makes survivors realize the importance of cherishing what they already have, especially the things that survived massive disaster devastation. This makes survivors value "normal leisure" such as time with family, daily activities like gardening, watching TV in a reconstructed house. These are the things that survivors would not have thought of before the disasters, because they were so embedded in their daily lives and taken for granted. The realistic possibility, or actuality, that these basic things can be taken away any moments by disasters make them appreciate them more and experience hightened positive emotions by doing them. This is also reflected in the code of "comfort" because survivors feel comforted around normal things (e.g., daily activity, house, pet, family). They are the "constants" (as per Ume) in their pre- and post-disaster lives. Comfort here is cherishing and feeling positive about normal, seemingly trivial things.
The last code of anhedonia is a caveat. Sometimes, when survivors try to enjoy things, they cannot after disasters because of high stress or trauma.
Title: Resliency as virtue
I was reviewing articles in our annotated literature review. In so doing, I found many of our findings were also recurring in the literature, which is reassuring in terms of the validity of our findings. That being said, a major concept in the literature was "resiliency" and I noticed that I did not use this concept in my analysis process so far, although Susan has mentioned it several times throughout her annotating process. I think this notion helps making further sense of some of our findings.
What articles related to resiliency reminded me of were my interviewees' accounts such as "I think I have to face forward!" and "I cannot lag behind others!". These motivational quotes were often derived in relation to survivors' interaction with other survivors, which made them think more positively and optimistically. I could not pin down what this was about quite well so far. But, now, I think that they are basically expressions of resiliency, which is a virtuous character.
Survivors had a lot of trauma and stress. It's almost natural for them to feel stressed, depressed, negative, pessimistic, etc, time to time. However, they also know -- and my interviewees expressed -- that doing so does not help anything and anyone around. There was this discourse and norm that they should be positive, optimistic, and forward-thinking. These qualities were considered as "good" and virtuous. Especially because being positive is not just good for themselves, but also others around them. Nobody wants to be around grumpy, depressed people, especially after oneself going through trauma and still suffering from stressful situations.
Also related to this is my code of "not bothering others." Especially many GEJET survivors mentioned that they tried not to bother and rely on others. Often this mean that they became independent, hopeful, and cheerful.
All of this may be considered as part of virtuousness, although whether it's expressed through leisure or not is another story.
Title: Stress and negative emotions for savoring
I am writing a draft of our manuscript, which further forces me to clearly define each theme and refine it if necessary. One thing that came to my attention was that I may have been missing "stress and negative emotions" as one of the important conditions or contexts for savoring. Simply, negative affect is so prevalent after disasters. This makes it important to interntionally have fun. Indeed, there was some norm and discourse that survivors should also have fun, after the GEJET while I was doing the filedwork. Volunteers would try to facilitate this by hosting a variety of recreational activities and hosting festivals and events.
Title: Time to think
I am writing our paper draft specifically part about mindfulness. It came to my mind that "time to think" sort of fit with the story of mindfulness and lack thereof. Survivor's mind was full of or busy with disaster-related tasks. To an extent, this prevented them from being mindful with other things and possibly beginning healing. On the flip side, these disaster tasks served as a source of diversion. While hecticly working on house reconstruction and as such, survivors did not have to think about people they lost, and other trauma. Thus, truly adaptive mindfulness after disasters cannot be and should not be just having more leisure time. It's critical that they also work on skills like emotional non-reactivity. Otherwise, merely taking away these distractive tasks could worsen emotional state of some survivors.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!