The previous two posts (Click here for One and Two) 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.” Wednesday’s post specifically discussed the idea of “imagoes,” or idealized characters, that we build our life stories around. This post will discuss what happens when we don’t succeed in creating a personal myth.
McAdams says, “To fail in this effort of mythmaking is to experience the malaise and stagnation that come with an insufficient narration of human life.” Malaise, McAdams writes “…results most generally from difficulties in making wholehearted commitments to vital life projects. Whole-hearted commitment in life and in myth requires a fundamental faith in some aspect of the human enterprise.” Essentially, when we do not commit ourselves to something outside of ourselves that is greater than ourselves, we risk malaise. Stagnation, McAdams suggests, may occur from feeling pressure to conform to that which we desire to move beyond, resource limitations we are challenged to transcend, and a failure to recognize and understand the myths we are creating for ourselves.
It’s easy to let one day slip into the next without actively thinking about what direction we want to take our life story. And it takes vigilance to ask ourselves if we are making choices that are in alignment with the self we want to be. When our myth is no longer one we want to recount, or if we have forgotten how to tell it, how do we reclaim our myth?
McAdams suggests that to change our myth we must first be conscious of our myths’ building blocks. Examine those experiences that you consider your turning points and ask yourself what significance they hold for you. Your perceived turning points likely say a lot about how you want your life story to unfold.
The above quotes were from Dan P. McAdams from his book, The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self.