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Notes on perezhivanie

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Notes on perezhivanie
Perezhivanie is a Russian word, usually translated as lived experience, and used in
connection with social situation of development, has multiple shades of meaning. It
indicates a persons situation with special emphasis on the subjective significance,
especially the emotional and visceral impact of the situation on the person, recollection
of which summons up the entire situation. A bit like "experience" in italics. The excerpts
below are explanations culled from selected writers.

Excerpt from Vygotskys The Problem of the Environment, in the Vygotsky


Reader
The case histories of children we have studied, have put us in a better position to be more
exact and precise, and to say that the essential factors which explain the influence of
environment on the psychological development of children, and on the development of their
conscious personalities, are made up of their emotional experiences [petrezhivanija]. The
emotional experience [perezhivanie] arising from any situation or from any aspect of his
environment, determines what kind of influence this situation or this environment will have
on the child. Therefore, it is not any of the factors in themselves (if taken without reference
to the child) which determines how they will influence the future course of his development,
but the same factors refracted through the prism of the childs emotional experience
[perezhivanie]. Let us now examine one such straightforward case from our clinic.
We are dealing with three children, brought to us from one family. The external situation in
this family is the same for all three children. The essential circumstances were very
straightforward. The mother drinks and, as a result, apparently suffers from several nervous
and psychological disorders. The children find themselves in a very difficult situation. When
drunk, and during these breakdowns, the mother had once attempted to throw one of the
children out of the window and she regularly beat them or threw them to the floor. In a word,
the children are living in conditions of dread and fear due to these circumstances.
The three children are brought to our clinic, but each one of them presents a completely
different picture of disrupted development, caused by the same situation. The same
circumstances result in an entirely different picture for the three children.
As far as the youngest of these children is concerned, what we find is the commonly
encountered picture in such cases among the younger age group. He reacts to the situation by
developing a number of neurotic symptoms, i.e. symptoms of a defensive nature. He is simply
overwhelmed by the horror of what is happening to him. As a result, he develops attacks of
terror, enuresis and he develops a stammer, sometimes being unable to speak at all as he loses
his voice. In other words, the childs reaction amounts to a state of complete depression and

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helplessness in the face of this situation.


The second child is developing an extremely agonizing condition, what is called a state of
inner conflict, which is a condition frequently found in certain cases when contrasting
emotional attitudes towards the mother make their appearance, examples of which we have
previously been able to observe among one of our children and which, you may remember,
we have called an ambivalent attitude. On the one hand, from the childs point of view, the
mother is an object of painful attachment, and on the other, she represents a source of all
kinds of terrors and terrible emotional experiences [perezhivanija] for the child. The German
authors call this kind of emotional complex which the child is experiencing a MutterHexekomplex, or a mother-witch complex, when love for the mother and terror of the witch
coexist.
The second child was brought to us with this kind of deeply pronounced conflict and a
sharply colliding internal contradiction expressed in a simultaneously positive and negative
attitude towards the mother, a terrible attachment to her and an equally terrible hate for her,
combined with terribly contradictory behaviour. He asked to be sent home immediately, but
expressed terror when the subject of his going home was brought up.
Finally, at first glance, the third and eldest child presented us with a completely
unexpected picture. This child had a limited mental ability but, at the same time, showed
signs of some precocious maturity, seriousness and solicitude. He already understood the
situation. He understood that their mother was ill and he pitied her.
He could see that the younger children found themselves in danger when their mother was
in one of her states of frenzy. And he had a special role. He must calm his mother down,
make certain that she is prevented from harming the little ones and comfort them. Quite
simply, he has become the senior member of the family, the only one whose duty it was to
look after everyone else. As a result of this , the entire course of his development underwent
a striking change. This was not a lively child with normal, lively, simple interests, appropriate
to his age and exhibiting a lively level of activity. It was a child whose course of normal
development was severely disrupted, a different type of child.
When such an example is taken into account, and any researchers experience who
investigates concrete material is full of such examples, one can easily see that the same
environmental situation and the same environmental events can influence various peoples
development in different ways, depending at what age they happen to find them.
How can one explain why exactly the same environmental conditions exert three different
types of influence on these three different children? It can be explained because each of the
children has a different attitude to the situation. Or, as we might put it, each of the children
experienced the situation in a different way. One of them experienced it as an inexplicable,
incomprehensible horror which has left him in a state of defencelessness. The second was
experiencing it consciously, as a clash between his strong attachment, and his no less strong

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feeling of fear, hate and hostility. And the third child experienced it, to some extent, as far as
it is possible for a 10-11 year old boy, as a misfortune which has befallen the family and
which required him to put all other things aside, to try somehow to mitigate the misfortune
and to help both the sick mother and the children. So it appears that, depending on the fact
that the same situation had been experienced by the three children in three different ways,
the influence which this situation exerted on their development also turns out to be different.
By citing this example, I only wished to clarify the idea that, unlike other disciplines,
paedology does not investigate the environment as such without regard to the child, but
instead looks at the role and influence of the environment on the course of development. It
ought to always be capable of finding the particular prism through which the influence of the
environment on the child is refracted, i.e. it ought to be able to find the relationship
which exists between the child and its environment, the childs emotional experience
[perezhivanie], in other words how a child becomes aware of, interprets, [and] emotionally
relates to a certain event. This is such a prism which determines the role and influence of the
environment on the development of, say, the childs character, his psychological
development, etc.
In connection with this example, I would like to turn your attention to one more factor. If
you recall, when we were discussing the methods we employ in our science, I attempted to
defend the idea that in science the analysis into elements ought to be replaced by analysis
which reduces a complex unity, a complex whole, to its units. We have said that, unlike
elements, these units represent such products of analysis which do not lose any of the
properties which are characteristic of the whole, but which manage to retain, in the most
elementary form, the properties inherent in the whole.
Today, whilst basing myself on a concrete example of the theory about the environment, I
would like to show you a few such units with which psychological research operates. One
example of such a unit is the emotional experience [perezhivanie]. An emotional experience
[perezhivanie] is a unit where, on the one hand, in an indivisible state, the
environment is represented, i.e. that which is being experienced an emotional experience
[perezhivanie] is always related to something which is found outside the person and on the
other hand, what is represented is how I, myself, am experiencing this, i.e., all the
personal characteristics and all the environmental characteristics are represented in an
emotional experience [perezhivanie]; everything selected from the environment and all the
factors which are related to our personality and are selected from the personality, all the
features of its character, its constitutional elements, which are related to the event in
question. So, in an emotional experience [perezhivanie] we are always dealing with an
indivisible unity of personal characteristics and situational characteristics, which are
represented in the emotional experience [perezhivanie].
That is why from the methodological point of view it seems convenient to carry out an
analysis when we study the role the environment plays in the development of a child, an
analysis from the point of view of the childs emotional experiences [perezhivanija] because,

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as I have already said, all the childs personal characteristics which took part in determining
his attitudes to the given situation have been taken into account in his emotional experience
[perezhivanie]. For example, do all of my own personal constitutional characteristic
elements, of every type, participate fully and on an equal basis? Of course not. In one
situation some of my constitutional characteristics playa primary role, but in another,
different ones may play this primary role which may not even appear at all in the first case. It
is not essential for us to know what the childs constitutional characteristics are like per se,
but what is important for us to find out is which of these constitutional
characteristics have played a decisive role in determining the childs relationship to a
given situation. And in another situation, different constitutional characteristics may well
have played a role.
In this way the emotional experience [perezhivanie] also helps us select those
characteristics which played a role in determining the attitude to the given situation.
Imagine I possess certain constitutional characteristics clearly, I will experience this
situation in one way, and if I possess different characteristics, it is equally clear that I will
experience it in quite a different way. This is why peoples constitutional characteristics are
taken into account when differentiating between those who are excitable, sociable, lively and
active and others who are more emotionally slack, inhibited and dull. It is therefore obvious,
that if we have two people with two opposite types of constitutional characteristics, then one
and the same event is likely to elicit a different emotional experience [perezhivanie] in each
of them. Consequently, the constitutional characteristics of the person and generally the
personal characteristics of children are, as it were, mobilized by a given emotional experience
[perezhivanie], are laid down, become crystallized within a given emotional experience
[perezhivanie] but, at the same time, this experience does not just represent the aggregate of
the childs personal characteristics which determine how the child experienced this particular
event emotionally, but different events also elicit different emotional experiences
[perezhivanija] in the child. A drunken or mentally ill mother amounts to the same thing as a
mentally ill nanny, but it does not mean the same as a drunken father or a drunken neighbour.
Which means that the environment, which in this case was represented by a specific concrete
situation, is also always represented in a given emotional experience [perezhivanie]. This is
why we are justified in considering the emotional experience [perezhivanie] to be a unity of
environmental and personal features. And it is precisely for this reason that the emotional
experience [perezhivanie] is a concept which allows us to study the role and influence of
environment on the psychological development of children in the analysis of the laws of
development.

Footnote from editors of the Reader, R. van de Veer and J. Valsiner:


The Russian term perezhivanie serves to express the idea that one and the same objective
situation may be interpreted, perceived, experienced or lived through by different children in

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different ways. Neither emotional experience (which is used here and which only covers the
affective aspect of the meaning of perezhivanie), nor interpretation (which is too
exclusively rational) are fully adequate translations of the noun. Its meaning is closely linked
to that of the German verb erleben (cf. Erlebnis, erlebte Wirklichkeit).

Excerpt from the Dissertation of Beth Ferholt


The concept of perezhivanie has the potential to be a powerful tool in the project of
reintegrating the subjects of emotion and cognition in psychological and educational studies
of development and learning. Unlike any terms with roots in the English language, the term
perezhivanie encompasses the dynamic relations of imagination and creativity, emotion and
cognition. Translation of perezhivanie is difficult because the English language itself
separates emotion and cognition, but I hope both to strengthen the concept by discussing it in
English, and also to minimize its dilution by turning to technical uses of perezhivanie within
the disciplines of theater (Stanislavski, 1949) and psychology (Bozhovich, 1977; Vasilyuk,
1988; Vygotsky, 1994).
Perezhivanie was first used as more than an everyday word in the dramatic system of
Constantin Stanislavski (1949). For Stanislavski (1949) perezhivanie is a tool that enables
actors to create characters from their own re-lived, past lived-through experiences. Actors
create a character by revitalizing their autobiographical emotional memories and, as emotions
are aroused by physical action, it is by imitating anothers, or a past selfs, physical actions,
that these emotional memories are re-lived.
Vygotsky himself described perezhivanie thus:
The emotional experience [perezhivanie] arising from any situation or from any
aspect of his environment, determines what kind of influence this situation or
this environment will have on the child. Therefore, it is not any of the factors
themselves (if taken without the reference of the child) which determines how
they will influence the future course of his development, but the same factors
refracted through the prism of the childs emotional experience [perezhivanie].
(1994, pp. 338-339)
In this way Vygotsky (1994) explains, generally, how cognition and emotion are
dynamically related. And he follows this statement with two mandates that describe the
import of this observation. The first makes more explicit the fact that, for Vygotsky,
perezhivanie is the relationship between individual and environment, and therefore that this
phenomenon is central to his theory of development: It (Psychology) ought to be able to
find the relationship which exists between the child and its environment, the childs
emotional experience [perezhivanie] (p. 341). The second states that perezhivanie avoids
the loss of those properties that are characteristic of the whole, that perezhivanie retains the
properties inherent in the whole, thus allowing analysis through units rather than elements:

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In an emotional experience [perezhivanie] we are always dealing with an indivisible


unity of personal characteristics and situational characteristics, which are represented
in the emotional experience [perezhivanie]. That is why from the methodological point of
view it seems convenient to carry out an analysis when we study the role the environment
plays in the development of a child, an analysis from the point of view of the childs
emotional experiences [perezhivanie]. (p. 342)
Van der Veer adds that the concept of perezhivanie also captures the idea of
development by insisting on the ever-changing character of interpretations or emotional
experiences (which are also dependent on changing word meaning, another of Vygotskys
units of analysis) (Chaiklin, 2001, p. 103 as cited in Robbins, 2007a, no page number). And
L. I. Bozhovich (a follower of Vygotskys who focused on the relation of his theories of
higher mental functions to the affective sphere of personality (Robbins, 2004)), argued that
for a short period of time Vygotsky considered perezhivanie as the unity of psychological
development in the study of the social situation of development (Gonzalez-Rey 2002, p. 136
as cited in Robbins, 2004).
Fyodor Vasilyuk (1988) adapts Vygotskys use of the term perezhivanie to describe a form
of inter-subjectivity in which we insert ourselves into the stories of others in order to gain the
foresight that allows us to proceed. He describes perezhivanie as an internal and subjective
labor of entering into which is not done by the mind alone, but rather involves the whole of
life or a state of consciousness. And although, for Vasilyuk, perezhivanie is the direct
sensation or experience of mental states and processes, another person is needed for this
experience. It is this inclusion of another that allows a person to overcome and conquer
despair through perezhivanie.
Vasilyuk (1988), who is working from within the framework of cultural historical activity
theory, gives us at once a broader and more specific definition of perezhivanie than does
Vygotsky. But he has not actually moved further from the non-technical definition of the
word perezhivanie. As Robbins explains:
perezhivat means, if you look at it closely, that you have passed as if above
something that had made you feel pain ... There, inside of a recollection that we
call an again living -lives your pain. It is the pain that doesnt let you forget
what has happened. And you keep on coming back to it in your memory, keep
living through it over and over again, until you discover that you have passed
through it, and have survived. (2007a, no page number)
There are also, of course, a range of scholars and artists whose studies of the properties of
perezhivanie have converged, often without their using, or possibly even being aware of, the
term perezhivanie. Richard Schechner, whose work is most useful for us here, integrates
the work of the psychoanalytic play theorist D. W. Winnicott, Victor Turner and Bateson (in
his discussion of the play frame (1972)) with his own work as a theater director. He (1985)
claims that the underlying processes of the ontogenesis of individuals, the social action of

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ritual, and the symbolic / fictive action of art are identical, and he supports this claim by
describing, in concrete detail, the process of perezhivanie without using the term itself
(although he is, of course, familiar with Stanislavski).
For Schechner, performance is perezhivanie. He writes: Performance means: never for
the first time. It means: for the second to nth time. Performance is twice-behaved behavior
(1985, p. 36). Schechner calls this restored behavior and adds: Put in personal terms,
restored behavior is me behaving as if I am someone else or as if I am beside myself, or
not myself, as when in a trance (1985, p. 37).
The essence of Schechners argument is that there are three parts to the process of
performance, not two, and that in performance time flows in more than one direction:
Although restored behavior seems to be founded on past events ... it is in fact
the synchronic bundle (of three parts) ... The past ... is recreated in terms not
simply of a present, ... but of a future ... This future is the performance being
rehearsed, the finished thing to be made graceful through editing, repetition,
and intervention. Restored behavior is both teleological and eschatological. It
joins first causes to what happens at the end of time. (1985, p. 79)
Specifically, the way that the flow of time becomes multidirectional is that rehearsals
make it necessary to think of the future in such a way as to create a past (1985, p. 39). As
Schechner explains: In a very real way the future - the project coming into existence
through the process of rehearsal - determines the past: what will be kept from earlier
rehearsals or from the source materials (1985, p. 39).
Vasilyuk is describing the same phenomenon when he writes of the proleptic nature of
perezhivanie in the development of Raskolnikov, the main character in Dostoevskys Crime
and Punishment:
Although the given schematism fault - repentance - redemption - bliss is
formally expressed as a series of contents following one another in time, this
does not mean that the later elements in the series appear in consciousness only
after the earlier stages have been traversed. They respond to one another
psychologically and all exist at once in consciousness, as a Gestalt, though it is
true they are expressed with varying degree of clarity as the series is gone
through. Bliss is conferred even at the beginning of the road to redemption, as a
kind of advance payment of emotion and meaning, needed to keep one going if a
successful end is to be reached. (1988, pp. 190-191)
Schechner outlines the three stages of this phenomenon:
The workshop-rehearsal process is the basic machine for the restoration of
behavior ... (whose) primary function ... is a kind of collective memory-in/ofaction. The first phase breaks down the performers resistance, makes him a

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tabula rasa. To do this most effectively the performer has to be removed from
familiar surroundings. Thus the need for separation, for sacred or special
space, and for a use of time different than that prevailing in the ordinary. The
second phase is of initiation or transition: developing new or restoring old
behavior. But the so-called new behavior is really the rearrangement of old
behavior or the enactment of old behavior in new settings. In the third phase,
reintegration, the restored behavior is practiced until it is second nature. The
final part of the third phase is public performance. (1985, pp. 113-114)
These stages closely match those stages of perezhivanie that Vasilyuk presents, even
though Schechner and Vasilyuks terms differ. (I will discuss this further in my analysis,
chapter four.)
Cole (2007) has used the term temporally double sided to describe this phenomenon of
growing back and towards the future and the past simultaneously. (He has used it to describe
Deweys relation of the notion of object to prolepsis.) It is the juxtaposition of temporal
double sidedness with these stages that creates perezhivanie. What Schechner argues is
that this juxtaposition provides the rhythm that allows us to raise ourselves up and hover,
suspended momentarily in a state of being simultaneously ourselves and not ourselves: our
past and future selves (someone else).
Winnicott writes of play:
Whereas inner psychic reality has a kind of location in the mind or in the belly
or in the head or somewhere within the bounds of the individuals personality,
and whereas what is called external reality is located outside these bounds,
playing and cultural experience can be given a location if one uses the concept
of the potential space between the mother and the baby. (1971, p. 53) (as quoted
in Schechner, 1985, p. 110)
According to Schechner, this potential space is the workshop-rehearsal:
The most dynamic formulation of what Winnicott is describing is that the baby - and later
the child at play and the adult at art (and religion) - recognizes some things and situations as
not me. By the end of the process the dance goes into the body. So Olivier is not Hamlet,
but he is also not not Hamlet. The reverse is also true: in this production of the play, Hamlet
is not Olivier, but he is also not not Olivier. Within this field or frame of double negativity,
choice and virtuality remain activated. (1985, p. 110)
Schechner explains a central component of the formation of this doubleness by referring to
Winnicotts transitional object (the blanket or stuffed animal that is the first not-me,
representing the mother (primary caretaker) when she (he) is absent):
Restored behaviors of all kinds ... are transitional. Elements that are not me
become me without losing their not me-ness. This is the peculiar but

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necessary double negativity that characterizes symbolic actions. While


performing, a performer experiences his own self not directly but through
the medium of experiencing the others. [italics added] While performing, he
no longer has a me but has a not not me, and this double negative
relationship also shows how restored behavior is simultaneously private and
social. A person performing recovers his own self only by going out of himself
and meeting the others - by entering a social field. The way in which me and
not me, the performer and the thing to be performed, are transformed into
not me ... not not me is through the workshop-rehearsal/ritual process. (1985,
pp. 111-112)
The workshop-rehearsal process allows one to use another person/fictional character as a
pivot, to detach emotions that are personal from the self and to relive them through another,
and this is the process that allows one to be that which one could not imagine without this
process. As Vygotsky writes in The Psychology of Art:
Art is the social technique of emotion, a tool of society which brings the most
intimate and personal aspects of our being into the circle of social life. It would
be more correct to say that emotion becomes personal when every one of us
experiences a work of art; it becomes personal without ceasing to be social.
(1971, p. 249)
The sensation of being at the center of this workshop-rehearsal process is what Schechner
calls an experience of the present moment:
Actions move in time, from past thrown into future, from me to not me and
from not me to me. As they travel they are absorbed into the liminal,
subjective time/space of not me ... not not me. This time/space includes both
workshops-rehearsals and performances. Things thrown into the future (Keep
that.) are recalled and used later in rehearsals and performances. During
performance, if everything goes right, the experience is of synchronicity as the
flow of ordinary time and the flow of performance time meet and eclipse each
other. This eclipse is the present moment, the synchronic ecstasy, the autotelic
flow, of liminal stasis. Those who are masters at attaining and prolonging this
balance are artists, shamans, conmen, acrobats. No one can keep it long. (1985,
pp. 112-113)
Schechner also describes this phenomenon through experience in the space of
performance:
A performance takes place in the not me . . . not not me between
performers; between performers, texts and environment; between performers,
texts, environment, and audience. The larger the field of between, the stronger
the performance. The antistructure that is performance swells until it threatens

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to burst. The trick is to extend it to the bursting point but no further. It is the
ambition of all performers to expand this field until it includes all beings, things,
and relations. This cant happen. The field is precarious because it is
subjunctive, liminal, transitional: it rests not on how things are but on how things
are not; its existence depends on agreements kept among all participants,
including the audience. The field is the embodiment of potential, of the virtual,
the imaginative, the fictive, the negative, the not not. The larger it gets, the more
it thrills, but the more doubt and anxiety it evokes, too. (1985, p. 113)
Robbins describes this present moment and field of between of twice-behaved
behavior, created in the juxtaposition of temporal double sidedness with the progressive
stages of the workshop-rehearsal process, as the anchor of perezhivanie. She writes:
Perezhivanie ... is an anchor in the fluidity of life, it represents a type of synthesis (not a
concrete unity of analysis), but an anchor within the fleeting times we have on this earth,
dedicated to internal transformation and involvement in our world (2007b, no page number).
And Virginia Woolf, in her novel To the Lighthouse, describes this heart of perezhivanie
most eloquently and accurately.

Email from Dot Robbins to xmca listserv 1 December 2007


The history of my interest in Bozhovich came from trying to understand perezhivanie,
when Akhutina, Glozmann, Moskovich and I were putting together a book: Festschrift
Celebrating the Centennial of the Birth of Luria (2002). There were so many words that I
could not really understand. At that time, I wrote to approx. ten people around the world
asking for their definitions of perezhivanie. Unfortunately, I did not save all of that. But, it
led me to Bozhovich, a most remarkable woman, and a person loyal to Vygotsky in very
difficult times. In those early discussions, it was clear that perezhivanie is difficult to
understand for us outside of Russia, because it really captures the Russian soul in so many
ways. What I understood (and if I am wrong, please correct me), was that there is an
intensity, pain, sorrow [Russian] involved in perezhivanie, and it is a type of unity of
affect/cognition with so many other things, forming a unit (of analysis) for Vygotsky (at
one point in his life). Van der Veer (in Chaiklin, 2001, p. 103) states: The concept of
perezhivanie captures the ideas of analysis in units rather than elements....[It] also captures
the idea of development by insisting on the ever-changing character of interpretations or
emotional experiences (which are also dependent on changing word meaning, another of
Vygotskys units of analysis). ....
It is the problem of trying to describe verbs by using nouns only, but never really using
verbs, becoming verbs... it is the problem of trying to prove ones theory, and using case
studies, and offering definitions, but not trying to radically change ones self and trying to
really light the torch of motivation of those around us.... so, perezhivanie for me is an
anchor in the fluidity of life, it represents a type of synthesis (not a concrete unity of

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analysis), but an anchor within the fleeting times we have on this earth, dedicated to internal
transformation and involvement in our world. ...
The Russian language has preserved a lot of magic, almost as much as Sanskrit. In Russian
it sounds like perezhivanie. What does it mean? It is a state of mind in which we are
excited, worried, nervous, suffering from something. Something to that effect. And if we look
at the corresponding verb perezhivat, we will see two stems: pere and zhivat.
... Zhivat means to live. And perezhivat means to be able to survive after some
disaster has overwhelmed you over-live something.
And pere means carrying something over something, letting something pass beneath and
overleaping it. Pere means something like cutting out a piece of space, time or feeling.
Pereterpet (terpet to endure some pain) means to live until a time when no pain
is left.
Pereprignut- exactly like English overleap means to overcome some obstacle a pit or a
stone with a jump, meaning that you dont walk on it, but in some way fly over it.
And, in just the same way, perezhivat means, if you look at it closely, that you have
passed as if above something that had made you feel pain. And the fact that in the base of
each again living lies a pain you know that. There, inside of a recollection that we call an
again living lives your pain. It is the pain that doesnt let you forget what has happened.
And you keep on coming back to it in your memory, keep living through it over and over
again, until you discover that you have passed through it, and have survived.

Bella Kotik-Friedguts response


To your excellent analysis of semantics of perezhivanie I want to add one aspect which
was not enough clear: it is really a unity of affect and intellect, but it is not only negative
affect (pain, traumatic events etc.) we can use it also in a positive context. I remember
hearing about a friend: She is going through (perezihivaet) a cats period which meant: she
is happy, crazy with in love. We can speak about a profound joy of victory as perezivanie
etc.

From Lydia Bozhovich (here perezhivanie is translated as experience)


True to the principle that analysis of complex phenomena should be conducted not in terms
of elements but in terms of units that preserve in simplest form properties intrinsic to the
whole, Vygotsky began to seek a corresponding unit to use in studying the social situation
of development. He identified emotional experience (or the childs affective relationship

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Notes on perezhivanie

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http://www.ethicalpolitics.org/seminars/perezhivanie.htm

to the environment) as such a unit. Experience, from Vygotskys perspective, is a unit that,
in indissoluble unity, represents, on the one hand, the environment, that is, what the child
experiences, and, on the other, the subject, that is, what introduces the child into this
experience and, in turn, is defined by the level of mental development the child has already
achieved. From this it can be concluded that in order to understand exactly what effect the
environment has on children, and, consequently, how it affects the course of their
development, the nature of childrens experience must be understood, the nature of their
affective relationship to the environment. Vygotskys proposition and the concept of
experience that he introduced appear to us to be very important and productive for child
psychology. However, he did not fully develop the concept of experience. In fact, even
taking analysis of childrens experience as our point of departure in understanding the causes
that condition individual (or age-related) features of childrens minds, we will still be forced
to go back and examine of all the circumstances of their life and activity and all the currently
existing features of their personality. Only then will we be able to understand the nature of
the experience itself and its function within mental development.
So it could be said that the concept of experience introduced by Vygotsky isolated and
denoted an essential psychological reality, the study of which must be the first step in
analyzing the environments role in child development; experience is like a node where the
varied influences of different external and internal circumstances come together. But this is
exactly why experience must not be viewed as a whole that will not be broken down any
further, why it is essential to address the problem of the subsequent deciphering of this
concept and, consequently, uncover the forces that underlie it and, in the final analysis,
condition the course of mental development.
Vygotsky himself was willing to accept the need to formulate and solve this fundamental
problem. He also attempted to find that decisive link within the dynamics of mental
development that determines the character of experience itself and, consequently, how the
influence of the external environment is refracted by its subject. However, in this, it seems to
us, Vygotsky was taking a step backward, retreating to a certain extent beyond old
boundaries. He felt that the nature of experience in the final analysis is determined by how
children understand the circumstances affecting them, that is, by how developed their
ability to generalize is. If, he said, children will understand (perceive, conceptualize) one
and the same event in different ways, it will have absolutely different meanings for them and,
consequently, they will experience it differently. For example, a mothers illness is usually
very upsetting for young school-aged children or adolescents, while for very young children it
does not generate negative emotions and may even be experienced as a cause for happiness
and joy, since they are unable to understand the situation and grownups will permit them to
do things they otherwise might not.

Works

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