The stories we tell about ourselves and our experiences are important because they allow us to make sense out of our daily life and maintain coherence and continuity as we move through life.
Everyone loves a good story. In many ways, we are the stories we tell. Researchers have looked closely at the role narratives play in our personality and ability to cope as we use stories as a means of making sense out of a complex and often confusing world. Dan McAdams Ph.D., a personality researcher at Northwestern University, describes how stories overlap with our development as we have more and more roles to play and goals or hopes to pursue. The way we tell stories or recount events also influences the way we remember past events and how we perceive ourselves and others.
Perhaps most relevant today, research suggests that the way we tell stories is associated with well-being. For example, McAdams found that having more stories of redemption when recalling a life story is associated with higher well-being. His research also found that highly generative adults frequently recall how negative events in the past led to positive outcomes.
Ultimately, stories help us to make meaning out of chaos and allow us to better understand our experiences, while providing an overarching structure to the experience of moving through life and a coherence that is important for our sense of self.
Reflecting on the narratives you use to describe yourself and the stories you tell can be insightful. Such reflection can also allow for us to pause and think about the way we present ourselves and communicate our values and beliefs.
What stories do you tell about yourself and your experiences? What do your stories suggest about your personality and coping style? Do you tell stories of overcoming hardship, fairness or unfairness, optimism or pessimism? What are your most important stories and how to these connect to your identity or sense of coherence and meaning in your life?
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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