The Cultural Psychology of Silence. Treasuring the Poetics of Affect at the Core of Human Existence.
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- Institutt for psykologi 
In striving to develop resources to better understand affective processes, psychology acknowledges both the possibilities and limitations oflanguage for giving account of the richness of these experiences. Yet, the silent aspects of affective processes need scientific exploration. Silence-phenomena are not "empty" black holes, but rather constitute space for affect; they represent the possibility to embrace relational depth and existential nourishment. Human beings make decisions within uncertainty. In attempting to remain faithful to our needs and wants, we are inevitably met with variations from these ideals, and thus we are confronted with tension. At times, in this struggle to pick a path, we are faced with the decision to speak or remain silent about how we feel, which affects our relationships with others. This thesis builds upon the premises and models from Valsiner's approach to cultural psychology and Vygotsky's understanding of poetry, so as to recognize affect as being at the core of human existence. These theoretical perspectives are integrated with those of Humanistic and Existential Psychology, as well as those ofDialogical Self Theory. In order to accomplish this theoretical integration, silence-phenomena and poetry serve as magnifying glasses to explore the tensions that form affective processes. In this way, we are able to give account of the ambiguity, ambivalence, polyphony, and homophony of psychological functions. These considerations are further explored on the basis of the empirical material gathered from a class about silence-phenomena held at the Institute of Experts in Team at NTNU. Diary entries and e-mail follow-ups of four case studies are analyzed intraindividually as well as inter-individually through a developmentally oriented approach to thematic analysis. The data analysis indicates that contact with poetry and the experience of silence-phenomena act as contrasts with ordinary life experiences, thereby amplifying the perception of uncertainty. Both silence-phenomena and poetry are related to the notion of verticality, creating discontinuities in the perception of chronological time, and opening up a phenomenological space that can potentially help human beings to reconcile and accept the contradictory and opposing forces that belong to the human condition. Relational depth and existential nourishment can blossom in this space. Once we have come into contact with the contrasts that silence-phenomena and poetry provoke, attentional shifts appear that allow the individual to relate to them with different degrees of immersion or detachment that are critical for meaning-making and genuine dialogues. In a similar vein, when people become aware of the uncertainty of life, we can activate