Inventing the Self

Understanding the Myth

October 2nd, 2013 by Sabrina Smith · 2 Comments

The conversation of narration and the self in the reading for this week were, to me, very insightful. Lazlo’s piece focused on the psychological (and rather technical) argument of the ‘root’ of knowledge regarding the self and the symptomatic value of this understanding through .  This took me back to the course that I took in my undergraduate class where we studied the personality with diagrams and theories, which is a similar approach that Lazlo uses. What were really compelling were the two short reads from Dan McAdams as he explored the idea of storytelling, narration and the self.

Before I venture off into the positive components of his pieces, I wanted to address an issue that I had with his use of the word “myth.”  The word here is used to describe the personal encounters that individuals face that assists in establishing the idea of self, however, I was initially turned off by his word choice. Myth refers to a fictitious events that are generated by the senses but in the story of Margaret Sands, this was a tangible narration of her life story, one that was real even if she herself didn’t want it to be. I puzzled at this point throughout the reading of Personal Myths and the Making of the Self because he makes it a point to repeat this notion, especially when he describes verbal accounts as “internalized personal myths” and the reference to imagoes. Despite the fact that I appreciated the inclusion of Margaret’s story and the segment on the narrating mind, I couldn’t get past the association of myth and personal encounters. It just didn’t seem logical and a part of me was disturbed by the possibility that the my life its experiences are merely mythological.

At that point I had to take a step back, order a coffee and make an attempt to figure out a method of reasoning as to why he would make such a comparison.

After another run through of this and Story Characters, I came to realize that I was over thinking the logic and possibly taking it too literal. McAdams makes a useful point that each of us has a narrative mind and that mind produces stories involving characters and plot based emotional and environmental exposures. In a way our lives are the stories that the self elaborates. Our psychological thought processes make us aware that these experiences are real but they can still be considered the fabrication of our mind’s conceptualizations.

This was a creative revelation for me and I was happy to have that sort of experience with his writing because that’s what makes good writing.

Just to touch on a few other things that I found interesting, I sensed a bit of Damasio in the idea that McAdams agree that the identification of self through personality is fostered on the environment. Also his pieces also focused on the discussion of illustration, imagery and tale-telling which is a perspective that we don’t always here about in the discussion of mind and self.

More importantly, I now understand the myth.


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2 responses so far ↓

  • matthew finston // Oct 2nd 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I think you are right in both instances. McAdams seems to be using the term “myth” in a figurative sense but also I think that he uses the term in a way that would also incite your “turned off feeling,” although I don’t think he would want you to stop reading. I think this post is great because you really bring out a tension that I think McAdams is trying to incite. Myth has been the object of study within the literary camp. Once upon a time, I believe one could major in folklore studies but I don’t think they are as prevalent anymore. After a quick google search, here is a list of programs where one could potentially get a PhD in folklore:

  • Yana Walton // Oct 2nd 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I really appreciated his discussion of Margaret’s story as a myth because in our stories of selves, we pick and choose which pieces are salient – the highly charged ones, and create truth from those events. Those events of mythic proportions shape our identities, rather than create “untruths.” And this figuratively mythical dimension he’s using to understand her story makes it even more powerful, instead of less so. Mythical autobiographical narratives might be the way we understand our own “crazy” and depathologize ourselves – as well as the way we do that for others, finding empathy and compassion in what makes us most human.

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