Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct

By Theodore R. Sarbin | Go to book overview

self-as-storyteller extends the generality of the psychological functioning which implicates personal narrative grammar structure.

The future of the concept of narrative grammar would be enhanced, I believe, by widespread entertainment of the belief that behavior scientists function as historians when they report studies like those which show that adolescents adopt the view that an ancillary second self, the unconscious, participates in authoring self stories. When reporting the prevalence of this conception of I, behavior scientists might better recognize that they have tracked the constructs of incipient adults who live in late twentieth century European-influenced cultures. Like other dwellers in this culture, these adolescents have been influenced by widely propagated tenets that an unconscious mind has been discovered, and that this discovery aids in the explanation of erratic, poorly composed self stories.

The belief in the ancillary mind, I believe, represents a plausible accommodation of the self-as-storyteller concept. When people call up their concept of I-as-storyteller they also retrieve from long-term memory the entire system of narrative grammar which they had developed early in their lives, and they expect I to function according to the rules applicable to this grammar system. When self stories appear to deviate from expected grammar structure, the person experiences discrepancy, just as do participants in the formal studies who hear "garbled" stories. In life persons cannot attribute the garbled story to the machinations of a psychologist/experimenter. Aided and abetted by many modern behavioral scientists, however, the participant in late twentieth century European-influenced culture can attribute the garbled story to the unconscious.

Although I believe that behavioral science can offer no conception that effectively supersedes the concept of I-as-storyteller, I hesitate to collude with those who would attribute garbled stories to a secondary mind which functions in parallel with the storytelling mind of which we are aware. Instead, I would attempt to construct a good psychological story to be used by ordinary persons who struggle to understand the ubiquitous effects of the narrative grammar used by their selves-as-storytellers.


REFERENCES

Ames L. B. ( 1966). Children's stories. Genetical Psychological Monograph, 73, 337- 396.

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