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Thesis Abstract

Process Work and Initiation: A study of contemporary initiation in the Process Work community of Portland

Akira Kobayashi, M.P.W.

In my research project, I was interested in both traditional and contemporary forms of initiation. I wished to explore my own and other people’s experiences of becoming Process Workers, with the underlying assumption that such experiences might be considered examples of contemporary initiation processes. My research employs qualitative research in the form of an heuristic study. My informants were members of the Process Work Center of Portland learning community. Seven people took part in the study. I was one of the student informants. I used researcher-generated documents for data collection. In this document, I asked each informant to write down an initiation story, connected to his or her experience of learning Process Work. I also asked them to write down their favorite fairy tales from their childhood, and to find a picture that expressed the essential quality of their initiation experience.

In my analysis of data and interpretation, I used a generic approach to qualitative data analysis. After I analyzed the responses, I met with the informant and conducted a short interview in order to clarify or supplement the written response. Through the analysis, interpretation, and participants’ feedback, I identified four main themes: 1) the role of crises and existential problems in contemporary initiation; 2) struggling towards wholeness; 3) searching for faith and awareness, and 4) initiation as a process of going beyond the limits of modern civilization. In future research, it might be interesting to study initiation in relation to group life. For example, data could be collected at seminars and other group settings, including town forums and worldwork seminars. Through this kind of study, the relationship between contemporary initiation and group work could be further explored. An additional area of study might also be to explore the initiation processes of people who have had peak experiences, near-death experiences, or shamanic events.

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