Introducing Narrative Psychology: Self, Trauma, and the Construction of Meaning

Introducing Narrative Psychology: Self, Trauma, and the Construction of Meaning

Introducing Narrative Psychology: Self, Trauma, and the Construction of Meaning

Introducing Narrative Psychology: Self, Trauma, and the Construction of Meaning

Synopsis

• What is narrative psychology?

• How is the experience of 'self' linked to language, narratives and other people?

• What is the role of time, morality, power and control in the construction of identity?

This introductory textbook presents a coherent overview of the theory, methodology and potential application of narrative psychological approaches. It compares narrative psychology with other social constructionist approaches and argues that the experience of self only takes on meaning through specific linguistic, historical and social structures. The author shows how the choice of one narrative over another - for example arising out of dominant narrative structures of power and control - can have serious social and psychological implications for the construction of images of self, responsibility, blame and morality.

Theoretical approaches are introduced and an overview of methods is provided, encouraging individuals to apply these theories to their own autobiographies. Such theories are further illustrated with case-study material drawing on physical illness (HIV infection) and childhood sexual abuse. Each of these issues is examined in a way which demonstrates how different contemporary narratives and discourses are used to construct meaning and a sense of coherent identity in the face of traumatic events which break down temporal coherence and order. Taken as a whole, this book represents essential reading for students and researchers interested in narrative psychology.

Excerpt

Traditional psychological studies
of self

We might as well begin with the age-old, perennial question. What is a self? Who am I? C.S. Lewis once commented: 'There is one thing, and only one in the whole universe which we know more about than that we could learn from external observation. That one thing is ourselves. We have, so to speak, inside information, we are in the know' (Lewis 1952: 25). But how true is this? Are we 'in the know' about ourselves? Many of us spend large portions of our life in a state of mixed confusion, subsumed by contradictory thoughts, feelings and emotions. Even on those occasions when we know exactly how we feel, we're not always sure why we feel the way we do. So perhaps the idea that we 'know' ourselves is a bit inaccurate. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that we are 'strangers' to ourselves, our whole lives lived much as a mystery? We bumble along like second-rate detectives, fitting the pieces together as we go, but invariably failing to pull it all together, this elusive 'I' which, 'like the shadow of one's own head, will not wait to be jumped upon' (Ryle 1973:178).

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