Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct

By Theodore R. Sarbin | Go to book overview

10
The Narrative in Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalytic Notes on Storytelling, Listening, and Interpreting

Frederick Wyatt

In taking up the adoption of a fashionable term in psychoanalysis, narrative, one has reason to ask: what is so new about it? What will help us to conceptualize our subject more parsimoniously, to understand it more profoundly, and to connect it in all its variations before we extoll it as a promising new acquisition? The fact is that psychoanalysts have known all along that we are dealing in stories and with stories all the time; that we offer ourselves to listen to stories and thereby call them forth; and that through a method contrived for this purpose we can carry listening to a point where it transforms storytelling into the life history of a person. The unreflected life may not necessarily be an unlived life; but it surely will be an inarticulate and very vulnerable life, especially when powerful traditions no longer have the power to bind it and hold it together. The psychoanalytic method, interpretation, thus may do more than assist needy storytellers in learning to come to themselves. Interpretation establishes a viable context between a person's past experiences and his engagements in the here-and-now. Even more astounding, interpretation establishes a context between the psychic origins and development of the

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