THE STORIES WE LIVE BY by Dan P. McAdams

THE STORIES WE LIVE BY

Personal Myths and the Making of the Self
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 From psychologist McAdams, a strong and engrossing argument for the relationship between storytelling and personal development. The stories people tell about their lives re-create special moments, recognize turning points, or reveal ongoing identity issues. Finding a particular ``grammar'' in these narratives, McAdams contends that they act as ``a natural package for organizing...information'' and illuminate ``the values of an individual life,'' reaching the level of myth. People define themselves in the tone and content of their narratives as well as in the telling, and the themes that emerge most often--especially love and power--appear in a wide variety of contexts. Ultimately, these stories create ``a human narrative of the self'' and, usually toward midlife, give each life a sense of unity and purpose. Pointing out developmental correlates in his scheme--the emergence of narrative tone in the earliest years or of intention-themes in adolescence--McAdams places a powerful emphasis on ``agentic'' and ``communal characters''--awkward terms for those who act, think, and feel vigorously, or for those who are oriented toward love and intimacy. McAdams also alludes to classical mythology for occasional amplification and refers to standard works (Erikson) and famous individuals (Karen Horney, Margaret Mead) to support his ideas and to highlight his theoretical departures. Likening his role as listener to the protagonist in the film sex, lies, and videotape, McAdams has been researching this cluster of ideas for many years and urges others to follow his outline for ``interpersonal dialogue'' and to pursue a similar exploration. Stimulating--but dense and demanding.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-10866-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993