Julie Beck writes: In Paul Murray’s novel Skippy Dies, there’s a point where the main character, Howard, has an existential crisis.“‘It’s just not how I expected my life would be,'” he says.
“‘What did you expect?’” a friend responds.
“Howard ponders this. ‘I suppose—this sounds stupid, but I suppose I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc.’”
But it’s not stupid at all. Though perhaps the facts of someone’s life, presented end to end, wouldn’t much resemble a narrative to the outside observer, the way people choose to tell the stories of their lives, to others and — crucially — to themselves, almost always does have a narrative arc. In telling the story of how you became who you are, and of who you’re on your way to becoming, the story itself becomes a part of who you are.
“Life stories do not simply reflect personality. They are personality, or more accurately, they are important parts of personality, along with other parts, like dispositional traits, goals, and values,” writes Dan McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, along with Erika Manczak, in a chapter for the APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology. [Continue reading…]