All those who study phenomenology may not deny that we are trying to reveal our lived experiences and their structures in the very way that they are lived. But how can we accomplish this task? Lived experiences are so called because they are just lived without reflection, or more precisely, in a pre-reflective way. This is one of the points where the diverse research methods appear inside the phenomenological circle.
For example, van Manen (1990) stresses the impossibility to consciously grasp the lived experiences:
“A person cannot reflect on lived experience while living through the experience.” (p.10)
“Various thinkers have noted that lived experience first of all has a temporal structure: it can never be grasped in its immediate manifestation but only reflectively as past presence.” (p.36)
According to him, what we are able to do is to reflect our experiences ‘as past presence’. However, he also requires a kind of sensitivity in practicing this reflection:
“a rigorous human science is prepared to be “soft,” “soulful,” “subtle,” and “sensitive” in its effort to bring the range of meanings of life’s phenomena to our reflective awareness.” (p.18)
[van Manen. (1990). Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy. Albany: SUNY Press.]
Thus, in case of van Manen thoughtful and sensitive reflection, though acknowledging the innate limit of it, is placed as a method for grasping the lived experiences.