The heartfelt positivity methodology has been developed to focus on what is working well in society, to ensure stories of survival, value, and a meaningful life are shared in the face of hardship, and to intentionally create more positivity in the world through academic research (Penttinen, 2014). How may this methodology be used by researchers working with highly sensitive topics in the sociology of health and illness? In this presentation, I will critically examine the two components of the heartfelt positivity methodology. First I will review it in light of existing positive approaches to research in healthcare (e.g. Mesman 2012; 2015) and second, test the methodology as an ingress into emotional reflexivity which, Penttinen argues, is a means to intentionally create more positivity through academic research. To do this, I will work with four vignettes that arise from emotionally-charged public engagements while doing positively-oriented research on lactation and milk donation after infant death. As a result of working through the heartfelt positivity methodology, I will share learnings for doing future research on topics that involve bereavement. Moreover, I will discuss the proposition that mindful emotional reflexivity would also be a pertinent strategy for some research collaborators to ensure assessments of research funding applications, potential research participation, and research findings are not derailed by dominant narratives of human frailty, suffering or disease.
Katherine Carroll is a RSSS Research Fellow. Her research interests include how the donation and banking of female reproductive tissues such as oocytes and breastmilk intersect with the enactment of motherhood or anticipated motherhood, and the delivery of safe, quality healthcare. She also conducts collaborative research with / in medicine in areas of high-technology healthcare in order to optimise patient experience and clinicians’ practices of healthcare delivery. Before taking up a position at the ANU she was Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Faculty of Health Sciences for two years at the Mayo Clinic, in Minnesota, USA.