Stories We Live by: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
No self-help treatise about exorcising fatalistic visions of one's life, this frequently wooden but intermittently arresting book proposes that ``each of us comes to know who he or she is by creating a heroic story of the self.'' McAdams, a Chicago psychologist, argues against archetypal myths, although he makes tantalizing if fleeting references to fairy tales and other properties of mass culture. A little heavy on developmental theory, the work hypothesizes how people begin to ``gather material'' for their ``self-defining stories'' in infancy and early childhood. In several case studies McAdams demonstrates the role of myth, while one of the stronger sections explains how to write a narrative to uncover personal myths, offering a list of questions for that purpose. Elsewhere, McAdams discusses ``imagoes''--defined as idealized concepts of self, the characters in personal narratives--and explores how such historical events as the Kennedy assassination are assimilated into one's own saga. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Ranging widely within the canon of Western psychology, McAdams claims to offer a new perspective on personal mythmaking. He discriminates between the collective myths that people inherit and the private myths that individuals create to formulate their identities. Using the terminology of literary narrative study and behavioral psychology, McAdams attempts to combine the two into a new theory of identity. There is a great deal of discussion of themes like grief and intimacy; references to Freud, Erik Erikson, and others; and reviews of the passage from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. While the book is easy reading, its theme has been dealt with before in numerous psychology textbooks. However, it could serve as an introduction to psychology and mythmaking. For large psychology collections.-- Nancy E. Zuwiyya, Binghamton City Sch. Dist., N.Y.
Caroline Paulison
Psychologist McAdams theorizes that people form their identities through a mythical narrative, which is a result of the cumulation of early-life events put into a historical perspective and given a setting during the adolescent years and an ideology in early adulthood. The author takes the reader step-by-step through each stage of human development to thoroughly explain his idea. He backs up his carefully footnoted argument by incorporating other human development theories (Piaget's, for instance) and even some existential ideas (anguish, for example); he also uses interesting case stories collected during his 11 years of research. McAdams discusses how a person can explore his or her own myth. Two appendixes highlight his key ideas--nuclear episodes (turning-point events) and agency and communion (motivational dispositions). Other psychologists' concepts not explained in the text are treated in the footnotes. Even if one doesn't agree with his theory, this is still an interesting book on general human development.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688108663
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 336

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