Description: Are you the same person today that you were 5 years ago? How about 10 years ago? A quick answer is, “of course, yes!” but as time, personal and developmental mount up the question becomes more challenging. Typically starting in the adolescent and emerging adult years it can become harder, and perhaps even impossible to answer this question by pointing to first external things (what you wear, what you own, what you do) and then later by pointing to inner things (your personality, character, likes dislikes etc.). If or when it gets harder to find inner things to point to maintaining a sense of personal continuity can become seriously challenging and in a small number of cases this can give rise to suicidal thoughts. A solution to this challenge can involve a developmental shift to using a new, narrative, approach to thinking and talking about your self-continuity. A sort of “let me tell you how the person I was became the person that I am now” approach. Does this seem to make sense? Take this perspective a step further and consider the title of the article/podcast linked below that raises the question of what it might mean to be unable to trust the stories or mind tells us (we tell) about ourselves. Might this narrative approach to understanding how self-continuity may be maintained starting in adolescence and early adulthood provide us with a useful perspective on mental health, mental illness, and challenges to wellbeing? Have a listen to the podcast connected to the article linked below to see what this approach might involve.
Source: When You Can’t Trust the Stories Your Mind is Telling, Rachel Aviv on the Ezra Klein Show (podcast), The New York Times.
Date: October 4, 2022
Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/04/opinion/ezra-klein-podcast-rachel-aviv.html
The concepts and examples raised in the podcast are complicated. There has been a lot of discussion and social actions taken regarding the stigmas associated with thinking about, talking about and socially discussing mental illness. Much of this has tended to include a general assumption that such new and old thinking and storytelling about mental illness are unrelated to mental illnesses themselves. It is perhaps helpful to note that storytelling involves or implies some sort of audience. We tell our stories to ourselves and to others and if we are using those stories to define or to make sense out our current selves and our continuity with our past and future selves then the stories themselves and the audience expectations they anticipate or react to are not out there at a comfortable arm’s length but are woven in as an integral part of how we experience, think about and react to issues of mental illness (in ourselves and others). Food for thought, reflection, and theorizing.
Questions for Discussion:
- How might self-narratives (self-stories) relate to mental illness?
- Is there more to the stories people hear or tell about mental illness than matters of stigma about mental illness?
- Can thinking of some aspects of mental illness in terms of a self-narrative approach help us to better understand and better provide support and assistance to individuals trying to cope with mental illness?
References (Read Further):
Becker, M., Vignoles, V. L., Owe, E., Easterbrook, M. J., Brown, R., Smith, P. B., … & Lay, S. (2018). Being oneself through time: Bases of self-continuity across 55 cultures. Self and Identity, 17(3), 276-293. Link
Chandler, M. J., & Lalonde, C. (1998). Cultural continuity as a hedge against suicide in Canada’s First Nations. Transcultural psychiatry, 35(2), 191-219. Link
Hydén, L. C. (2010). Identity, self, narrative. Beyond narrative coherence, 11, 33-47. Link
King, R., Neilsen, P., & White, E. (2013). Creative writing in recovery from severe mental illness. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 22(5), 444-452. Link
von Knorring, A. L., & Hultcrantz, E. (2020). Asylum-seeking children with resignation syndrome: catatonia or traumatic withdrawal syndrome?. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 29(8), 1103-1109. Link
Sallin, K., Lagercrantz, H., Evers, K., Engström, I., Hjern, A., & Petrovic, P. (2016). Resignation syndrome: catatonia? Culture-bound?. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 7. Link
Thomas, S. P. (2017). Resignation Syndrome: Is it a New Phenomenon or is it Catatonia?. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 38(7), 531-532. Link
Park, J., Lee, D. S., Shablack, H., Verduyn, P., Deldin, P., Ybarra, O., … & Kross, E. (2016). When perceptions defy reality: The relationships between depression and actual and perceived Facebook social support. Journal of Affective Disorders, 200, 37-44. Link
Zeng, N., Pope, Z., Lee, J. E., & Gao, Z. (2018). Virtual reality exercise for anxiety and depression: A preliminary review of current research in an emerging field. Journal of clinical medicine, 7(3), 42. Link
Westerhof, G., & Bohlmeijer, E. (2012). Life Stories and Mental Health:: The Role of Identification Processes in Theory and Interventions. Narrative Matters, 2(1), 106-128. Link