Personal Stories and Narrative Identity


Identity is a hot topic in our society, with regular articles on ‘How to find your identity’ and what identity means in a shifting culture. Advocates on all sides of the culture, gender and sexuality wars also appeal to identity as a core ideal worth defending. However, from the broad usage of ‘identity’ across these different scopes I get the feeling that many of these ‘dialogues’ are really talking cross-purposes and using different definitions of identity. So how do we think about identity?

Well one of the helpful ways of thinking about various forms of identity is from the perspective of story telling. Simply put if you were to tell the story of your life how would you go about recounting it? What would you emphasise, and what would you leave out? Which events have shaped your life, and which have fallen by the wayside unnoticed? How do you integrate all the different facets and experiences that you have?

I stumbled across an article over on the Atlantic that elaborates on some aspects of Narrative Identity from the perspective of telling our own personal story. It is a very useful way of figuring out identity issues, and as we struggle in a world that values identity highly, but doesn’t have a strong grasp on it, it will become invaluable. For Christians the value of Christian identity is similarly core, although just as tenuously grasped.

This short snippet gives the gist of the article:

In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story is not a Wikipedia biography of the facts and events of a life, but rather the way a person integrates those facts and events internally—picks them apart and weaves them back together to make meaning. This narrative becomes a form of identity, in which the things someone chooses to include in the story, and the way she tells it, can both reflect and shape who she is.  A life story doesn’t just say what happened, it says why it was important, what it means for who the person is, for who they’ll become, and for what happens next.

I highly recommend you go and read the rest:

In addition I will continue to be posting things on identity, gender and social identity in the next little while. Many of which will build on some of the concepts that I’m raising now.

Let me know in the comments what you think of Narrative Identity.


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