Ko wai, ko wairua : narratives of wairua and wellbeing : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
Wairua is a fundamental, boundless, and connective aspect of Māori ways of being and the significance of wairua to wellbeing is reiterated in foundational models of health. The research sought to understand Māori narratives and meaning-making of wairua pertaining to experiences of mental distress, healing, and recovery. This entailed developing a Kaupapa Māori narrative approach, to embed the research within Māori worldviews, to draw from mātauranga, and to amplify the relevance and meaningfulness of the research processes and outcomes. Kaupapa Māori theory was the interpretive framework, determining and shaping the research foundations, narrative inquiry informed the methodology, and the research processes mirrored Māori rituals and ways of engaging. Recruitment occurred through Māori networks and used a snowball approach. Twelve Māori adults, who at some time experienced mental distress or accessed mental health services, took part in one-on-one interviews. Narrative interpretations were undertaken at an individual level and as a collection of narratives. The overarching narrative interpretation is laid out in three components, arranged around salient and meaningful metaphors. Firstly, ‘Te pō, te ao mārama’, darkness and light, emerged from the narratives as a metaphor for experiences and temporal phases. Secondly, ‘Aro atu, aro mai’ figuratively conveys a continuum of distance and closeness; it is used to illustrate and represent the qualities of the relationship with wairua. Thirdly, ‘Ko wai, nā wai’ draws on the recurrent narrative imagery of water, as a metaphor for the contextual nature of identity, focusing on the significance of Māori identity and relationships with others. Narratives of wairua entailed a retelling of experiences as Māori. Distress and despair were inevitably experiences of wairua and characteristic to healing and recovery was enriching wairua. Moreover, healing and recovery were inherently relational and enhanced through connections with whānau and collectives.