In the previous post I discussed Dan P. McAdams’ life-story model, which suggests that we make sense of our lives by creating personal narratives – or myths – to “render sensible and coherent the seeming chaos of human existence.”
McAdams suggests that one component of our narrative is characters, or “imagoes,” that represent our ideal self and personify what we desire to be and the traits we identify with.
Our imagoes go beyond our societal roles to encompass multiple aspects of our lives. For example, the math teacher described in the previous post may identify not only with the societal role of the teacher but also with the imago of the teacher, volunteering his time on the weekends to tutor underprivileged children. The imago of the teacher is part of his ideal self and plays a primary role in his narrative.
We may have one main imago that we identify with, such as the teacher, but it is common for our life stories to consist of two conflicting imagoes. For example, the powerful corporate executive at work may be the patient caregiver to elderly parents at home. As we mature, we refine our narrative, often creating balance amongst our opposing imagoes.
Some of the common imagoes McAdams has found in his work include, but are not limited to: the healer, the teacher, the traveler, the sage, the lover, the friend, and the survivor. McAdams only provides examples of positive imagoes, but they can be negative as well – the opposite of our ideal.
As our personal narratives are unique, so are our imagoes. They don’t tell the entire story of who we are, but provide a framework to understand the stories we create to make sense of life’s journey.
The next post will discuss how to shape and change our myth.