The experience of interpersonal conflict: a hermeneutic phenomenological investigation

Jonathan Toussaint

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In this investigation, a hermeneutic phenomenological approach was used to explore the thematic meaning of interpersonal conflict as articulated in participant accounts. Participants were asked to describe âÂa situation (or situations) in which they experienced a conflict between themselves and another person(s)âÂ'. For these participants, situations of interpersonal conflict define events that contribute to the complexity and unpredictability of everyday social experience. Descriptions of participantâÂ's accounts were produced in an open-ended dialogue situation. In the process of data collection, a number of participants were interviewed until central sets of themes across diverse accounts were evident.Within this context, the structure for the interpersonal conflict experience centred around three moments that emerge against the ground of a pre-existing relationship - Betrayal, Fight, Aftermath. The themes associated with Betrayal were an awareness that relational expectations have gone unfulfilled and have undermined participantsâÂ' sense of identity and self-esteem, as well as feelings of injustice and unfairness within the relationship. The moment of the Fight is when the individual is locked in a defensive and destructive relation with the other, and believes he/she is given little option but to attempt to assert his or her self within this relation. The fight is often described in terms of feeling a loss of control over the circumstances of the interaction, and hence oneâÂ's interpersonal power and personal strength is called into question. The Aftermath is a reflective moment. Much of the initial storm represented by the betrayal and fight has died down, and the participant seeks to understand what the conflict means within the context of his or her life.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Health Science
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Loftus, Stephen, Principal Supervisor
Award date01 Oct 2013
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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