Chapter 10 – Life Scripts, Life Stories
Though life stories are, and should be grounded in reality, they are nonetheless imaginative and
creative productions that each of us constructs and reconstructs as we move through our adult
years. We make a life by making a story and the stories we make become parts of who we are. A
person’s internalized and evolving life story (narrative identity) is just as much a part of his or her
personality as are his or her dispositional traits and characteristic adaptations.
Bruner suggests that human being evolved to interpret personal experience in terms of stories. He
argues that human beings understand the world in two very different ways
Paradigmatic mode: we seek to comprehend our experience in terms of tightly reasoned
analyses, logical proof, and empirical observation. We seek to order our world in terms of logical
theories that explain events and help us predict and control reality. We look for cause and effect
relationships. – Good logicians and scientists are well trained in this way of thinking
Narrative mode: this mode of thought concerns itself with stories, which themselves are about
the “vicissitudes of human intention” organized in time. This mode deals with human wants,
needs, and goals. Events are explained in terms of human actors striving to do things over time.
Good novelists are maters of the narrative mode.
Pennebaker - conducted many studies showing that personal disclosure of negative life events
leads to positive health outcomes and mental well-being. Translating difficult life experiences
into a coherent story appears to enhance life and promote understanding.
Self-disclosure stories of health study show that students who wrote stories about both the facts
and feelings they experienced during a personal trauma had fewer health care visits compared
with other students who wrote about the feelings or facts of a personal trauma or who wrote
stories about nonpersonal topics
Tompkins was the first psychologist to develop a broad theory of personality centred on life
stories. He argued that people organize emotionally charged life experiences into self-defining
scripts. Among the important life scripts he identified were commitment scripts and nuclear
Affect: a term usually designating emotion – Tompkins emphasized affect in his theory. As he
tells it, two personal discoveries led directly to his own conviction that affects, not drives or
needs are the primary motivators of human behaviour
Display rules: determine the appropriateness of expressing certain emotions through facial
behaviour in certain situations. Primary emotions appear to be biologically linked to specific
facial expressions but different cultures establish different display rules.