Narrative Identity 101

February 17, 2012

So if our identities are just stories... what does that mean for our lives, our memories, our mental health? Jonathan Adler is a psychologist who studies narrative identity. He tells Jim Fleming that his research found that our sense of well-being is based on the tone of our internal narratives rather than the stories themselves.



The dialog was interesting but superficial... showing the limits of what neuroscience and psychology and the scientific method can tell us about HOW our bodies work but cannot answer deeper questions like WHY we exist. It was a very bogus, "unscientific" argument to say that we have no free will because of a science experiment about brain activation after skeletal muscle activity in grabbing a cup. Multiple hypotheses should have been generated: our sensitivity of how we detect neuronal activity may not be accurate enough, the "distribution" of our self within our corporate bodies and brains is more complex and mysterious than we thought, the mind and brain and body and self relationship needs to be understood better. There was no evidence to suggest free will was absent. Scientists who make claims like "there is no free will" are straying into creating a religion of science as the only way of understanding truth and reality.... essentially "scientific fundamentalism" that is not really science at all. For deeper understandings in this dialog on the mystery self, other people should have been interviewed besides the scientist and Buddhist convert - Catholic theologians and monks, perhaps someone like Fr. Thomas Keating. Consider the reality of "original sin" as the explanation for distorting the stories of ourselves and the possibility of the redemption of self by God - the origin of truth and reality - in whose image we are made. The inner capacity for self contemplation (self, reflection of self by self, and the dialog of self and self reflection) was perceived by St. Augustine as one piece of evidence suggesting we are made in the image of God who is love and is an interplay of unity and diversity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Don't create a new religion out of science.... it is unscientific to do so! Felix Chau, MD

My apologies - the previous comment was for another interview. This dialog was very good regarding "narrative identity" and "agency." Could it be that compassion / love/ redemption in the process of therapy is what increased people's positive evolution in self development and mental health? Very nice dialog on how a "redemption sequence" is good for mental health while a "contamination sequence" is bad for mental health. Sorry again for the previous incorrect comment posting. Felix Chau, MD

I'm loving this program and all the others using the latest brain/mind science to confirm the positive and healthy direction and practices.

I'm a bicyclist. First, one that had problems with cars, then the opposite, one that loved getting along with other people - as drivers - regardless of their vehicle. And all this change started decades ago with just a change in my view (my internal story) of the driving environment.

Today, I would sum it up with this question: Does your bicycling reflect the kind of person you want to be? Helpless vulnerable victim, dependent upon engineering your separation from challenges while indulging in ex post rationalizations of those bicyclists not having problems? Or, curious resilient persistent with the character to look for and learn from examples of success?

Has popular bicycling advocacy become the story of mental ill health? While those bicyclists with success and great mental health are disregarded and even ridiculed.

It's time to retell the bicycling story, and many others, in light of this amazing intelligence.

I recommend following up with these two books: Mindset The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

David Smith