Mappings of the interior: a critical discourse analysis of emotional competence
MacCulloch, Anthony James
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Discourses of emotional competence (EC) have proliferated over recent decades and increasingly are incorporated in staff training, staff selection and personal improvement endeavours throughout Western society. In the field of health care practitioner education, concerns about the need to ensure safe, emotionally competent practice has led to the incorporation of teaching that seeks to foster the development of such skills and abilities in its practitioners. At their best, discourses that inform these endeavours have the potential to enrich, enhance and enable practitioners in their work and relationships. It has, however, become increasingly apparent that at their worst, if thoughtlessly marketed and implemented as a commodity or technology of the self, such discourses can disempower, control, marginalize and oppress. A hybrid critical discourse analysis method is applied to uncover social, political, psychological, epistemological and philosophical assumptions that are contained within, and expressed through, these discourses. It is used to identify, problematize and question these assumptions with a view to revealing hidden motivations and informing resistance. Out of an extensive range of material available on the topic, five written texts were selected on the basis that they focus on a core emotional aspect of human functioning, represent different discourses of EC and that the authors are well known in their respective fields. Texts addressed are:- The development of emotional competence (Saarni, 1999); Feeling and personhood (Heron, 1992); Emotional literacy (Steiner, 2003); Executive EQ (Cooper, Sawaf, 1997); The emotionally intelligent workplace (Cherniss, Goleman, 2001). These texts are subjected to a four stage analysis process that examines how these texts construct meaning and representation, position subjects, assert authority, persuade the reader, exert mind control, acknowledge multiple contexts, are positioned historically, and express technologies of commodification. Stage one provides a macro-analysis identifying core literary elements of each text. Stage two provides a microanalysis of how the text influences or positions the reader. Stage three uses a modified form of Scollon and Scollon’s Nexus Analysis (2002) to examine multiple cycles of discourse that intersect within the nexus of practice that constitutes a ‘call to action’ for the reader. Stage four identifies and examines manifestations of social power interest. The critical theory orientation of this research draws on the work of Michel Foucault, Ian Parker, Erica Burman, Nikolas Rose, Teun van Dijk, Barry Kanpol, Norman Fairclough and others. Its intent is to uncover how the discourses conveyed through the selected texts contain the potential to oppress and disempower health professionals or liberate and empower them. The over-riding purpose is to increase awareness of the hidden assumptions and motivations expressed through such texts in order that potential social power abuse and inequality may be exposed, understood and resisted. A critical cartography metaphor is incorporated to frame and illustrate the representational nature of mappings of the emotional interior. This research affirms that the publication and circulation of EC texts represents the expression of multiple motives, and confirms that this diversity of intention carries contradiction, inconsistency and the potential to further the interests of the more powerful parties involved. The reader’s unique and idiosyncratic personal, social, educational, and cultural context is revealed to be a critical element in whether, or in what way, the message of a text is received, internalized and translated into a response. Within the process of engagement with the call to action, it is shown that multiple cycles of discourse intersect and combine to shape and powerfully influence the reader. Where aspects of that unique identity and subjectivity are unacknowledged or not overtly and respectfully accommodated there is potential for manipulation, oppression, marginalization and disempowerment.