Psychohistorians have a variety of approaches. Below 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
- In doing psychobiography, 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 he can empathize with, usually childhood. To empathize is not to condone!
- Encourage psychohistorians to examine their own motivations for choosing a particular subject, their countertransference, and projections
- Examine identity issues in the life histories of our subjects
- 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 psychobiographical subject, avoiding making psychiatric diagnosis
- In researching a subject in a culture other than one’s own, immerse yourself in the nuances and values of the culture
- Utilize interdisciplinary approaches in your research
- To establish a nurturing holding environment for all presenters doing psychohistory 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 our important endeavor of writing and publishing quality psychohistory.