Volume 16 · Number 2 · Pages 172–181
Anchoring in Lived Experience as an Act of Resistance

Claire Petitmengin

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Context: The pandemic we are going through is an unprecedented situation from which tragic consequences loom. Disturbing and painful though it is, we should, however, remember that it is but a symptom of a profound ecological crisis that is already generating tremendous suffering, and threatens with extinction most living species and perhaps all humankind. This ecological crisis is due to our way of life based on frantic consumption, which exhausts the earth’s resources. Problem: Where does this insatiable desire for consumption come from? This article explores the hypothesis that our way of life and the ecological disaster it is bringing about originates in our blindness to what is nevertheless closest to us: our own lived experience. Our awareness of it is not only partial, but mistaken, which leads to dramatic consequences. Method: To check the accuracy of this hypothesis, I collected fine-grained “micro-phenomenological” descriptions of experiences essential to our human lives, such as the emergence of ideas, of perceptions, the process of verbal expression and the experience of intersubjective encounters. I also relied upon the work of researchers who explored them. Results: These investigations highlight, at the heart of these processes, a dimension of experience that we usually do not recognize: the “felt” dimension of experience, where the separation that we usually think we perceive between “inner” and “outer” space becomes permeable and even vanishes. At the cost of considerable tension and without our knowledge, we try to maintain the separation between these two spaces, which has the effect of depriving them both of life, of dis-animating them. Outside space, the non-human “environment” is perceived as an indifferent and inert space, filled with objects intended to be possessed and exploited. We ourselves lose contact with the felt dimension that is the very stuff of experience and the source of meaning. Implications: Most of our activities - education, medicine, architecture, agriculture - are based on this rigid separation and on the concealment and stifling of the felt dimension, which has the effect of exhausting us. The weaker we become, the more we try to satisfy ourselves with frantic consumption, and the more we exhaust the earth. This rupture with the living heart of our experience is therefore an essential condition for the survival of our current economic system, which strives to maintain it. Liberation from this enslavement requires recognizing and loosening the tensions that cut us off from this source. Retrieving contact with our experience is thus an essential condition for us to find the strength to stop transforming any aspect of our life into an object of consumption, and to regain enough lucidity, dignity, and courage to change our model of society. Keywords: Ecology, ecopsychology, felt meaning, lived experience, micro-phenomenology, political ecology.


Petitmengin C. (2021) Anchoring in lived experience as an act of resistance. Constructivist Foundations 16(2): 172–181. https://constructivist.info/16/2/172

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