The Importance & Illusoriness of Our Stories

David Whyte

…………stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.

David Whyte

No such thing as a true story

BY WEAVING our opinions, prejudices, strategies, and emotions into a solid reality, we try to make a big deal out of ourselves, out of our pain, out of our problems. But things are not as solid, predictable, or seamless as they seem.

How Do You Tell Your Story, podcast by Kathleen Ann Thompson

Everyone has a story. Each is as unique as our signature. Your story, and how you tell it, matters in the here and now, and for your future.

What Your ‘Life Story’ Really Says About You by Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post

 Stories may not seem like a basic survival need, but our brains naturally tell stories as a way to give structure and meaning to our lives. 

She goes on to assert six principles from narrative psychology

Your story is constantly evolving, becoming more positive later in life.
Your present emotions color your entire narrative.
We conceive of our life story in the structure of a novel.
Successful people’s stories contain themes of redemption.
Your stories are dictated by social and cultural norms.
You can take control of your own stories.

 The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self  by Dan P. McAdams

“Who am I?” “How do I fit in the world around me?” This revealing and innovative book demonstrates that each of us discovers what is true and meaningful, in our lives and in ourselves, through the creation of personal myths…..persuasively argues that we are the stories we tell. Informed by extensive scientific research–yet highly readable, engaging, and accessible–the book explores how understanding and revising our personal stories can open up new possibilities for our lives.

I decided not to provide a review of this book here, but to let the Goodreads reviews do that. Instead I would like to focus on the part I found most useful and which I think would be of most interest to readers of this blog: namely his chapter Exploring Your Own Myth. In that chapter, Chapter 10 of his book, he provides an outline to explore your own myth, or myths:

A. Life Chapters…at least 2-3 and at most 7-8
B. Key Events (nuclear episodes)…..Specific list of 8
C. Significant People…at least 4, not related to at least 1
D. Future Script
E. Stresses and Problems…at least 2
F. Personal Ideology….beliefs and values
G. Life Theme

For each of these items he provides the detailed text of the questions he and his students used in their interview process of people selected to tell their life stories. He further suggests not only using these questions to help you identify your personal myths; he goes on the suggest you put them in the hands of a friend who interviews you. It is in this telling to another person that you really come to understand your personal myths. Check them out.

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