The following excerpts are from the article, “Disquieting experiences and conversation,” by Lívia Mathias Simão (2020), published in Theory & Psychology. Disquieting experiences, according to Simão, are inseparable from human life, to the extent that we strive to know ourselves, others, and our shared realities. We are continually acting based on what we believe and we also enact our desires to know (our questions). These actions take place against a background. It’s in the background of those acts that we might face disquiet.

The terms “quiet” and “disquiet” are useful in part because they direct our attention to the background of experience. In a conversation, we can experience disquiet as the background of the conversation, which is to say we cannot necessarily find traces of disquiet in the spoken words exchanged between two people. Drawing on John Shotter’s work, Simão refers to the conversational background in terms of a “third party.”

I’d encourage you to read the article in full, because my excerpts are not only ineffective in representing Simão’s article, they also reflect my biases.

Assumptions:

“[G]iven the different phenomenological worlds of I and of other, there must be an effort from I and from other in the quest for intersubjectivity.” (p. 865)

“[T]he privilege of speech comes in tandem with the responsibility of making oneself clear, and with the burden of, possibly, perceiving oneself as misunderstood […]. Rommetveit (1990) calls this epistemic responsibility, the responsibility to construct and provide sense to a state of affairs, bringing it to the conversation through language, and being responsible for the perspectives intersubjectively assumed in that respect.” (p. 865)

[From the present perspective,] “knowledge does not entail knowledge about ‘the things perceived by the person as outside them,’ but concerns—and perhaps mainly—the knowledge about oneself in relation with one’s world, which implies the quest for others’ knowledge.” (p. 866)

Definition:

“I called ‘disquieting experience’ the experience that hurts expectations, that instigates, affectively and cognitively, either the actor who experiences it, or another person who experiences the actor’s disquieting through dialogue […] (Simão, 2004). Therefore, the disquieting experience may happen both in the intra-personal or interpersonal ambit, and, usually, occurs concomitantly in both.” (p. 867)

“When the ‘gap’ between the aimed and present systems of values surpasses the limit of tolerance, breaking the dialogic relationship between consistency and inconsistency, the disquieting experience emerges. This is because the rupture of the dialogic relation between consistency and inconsistency generates an undifferentiation in what was so far a field of relational sense between the should-value and is-value systems. Instead of a field of meaning marked by the dialogic relation […], the nonsense that characterises the disquieting experience emerges.” (p. 868)

“[T]he person who has a disquieting experience will seek a new relational unity between the expected and what happened not only with respect to a knowledge about the world outside of them, but principally regarding their own potentiality to understand themselves in relation to it.” (p. 869)

“Due to being experienced in the ambit of subjectivity, the disquieting experiences are feelings regarding subjective experiences that touch the person affectively and prereflexively. As such, they are lived in the first person.” (p. 869)

Examples Discussed in the Video

1 – Seeing a homeless person on the sidewalk writing in her diary; 2 – Seeing others congratulating you (on Facebook) on going through a semi-traumatic experience; 3 – Realizing that the other person refuses to adhere to the same norms that you are in social interaction (p. 870)