Description: How you think of yourself can make a big difference in how you manage yourself when things in your life change. Now THAT is a vague general statement that I suspect you can see some truth in even if what you think may not match up with what I, or others, might have in mind. So, let me focus the question a bit. How do you think about and how do you manage your self-continuity through time? Are you just the same person today that you were last month, last year, or 5 years ago or have you had to do somethings to maintain a sense that you are still you? This may seem like an odd or confusing question but give it some thought. Once you have thought about it, consider how you would react to or copy with a traumatic event such as an impactful life event like the loss of a loved one, the unexpected loss of a job or a relationship and think of it in terms of your self-continuity processes. Would you be able to “get over” or “get past” the event and then carry on as before? Or would that even be possible given the way in which the event changed, stole or messed up a part of yourself, of who you are? We think of grief as arising from the loss of something, or someone, but we do not tend to think about how grief might also involve a loss part of ourselves or of our ability, our self’s ability, to continue on. What if what we need to do is not get past or get over as if the trauma of loss will just go away but, instead we needed to revise or rewrite the story of ourselves. I do not mean that you make up a new story of yourself. What if, from early adulthood onward, we have already been self-authoring ourselves and our life stories? And maybe if we worked with that as how we have been managing our self-continuity we would be able to find a way to cope with life traumas more as (not easy) parts of life rather than bad luck or anomalies or disasters. Have a read through the article linked below to explore these possibilities a bit further.
Source: Some People Turn Suffering Into Wisdom, David Brooks, The New York Times.
Date: April 21, 2022
The belief in a just world is talked about and researcher a lot in social psychology. We do not just like, but we seem to need, to hold tightly to the belief that good things happen to good people (like us) and that when bad things happen they only happen to bad people, to people who deserve them. However, life is not like that, is it? There are things that happen that involve loss and grief and change that part of life and that happen to good people. The impact can be disorienting at a very basic level. Some things are equally challenging while, at the same time, being a regular part of life, such as trying to develop and implement an educational/career plan in these increasingly changing and uncertain times. Self-authoring and re-authoring can be a very useful way to plan and to move forward in all of these situations. Check out one or two of the references in the Further Reading section below for some places you can go to find out more about this and about how to do more of it.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some places where the belief in a just world creates coping problems for people?
- What is self-authoring and how or where might it be helpful?
- How does the way in which we consider and manage self-continuity change as we grow, develop, and age?
References (Read Further):
Pennebaker, J. W. (2018). Expressive writing in psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 226-229. Link
Pennebaker, J. W., & Chung, C. K. (2011). Expressive writing: Connections to physical and mental health. In H. S. Friedman (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of health psychology (pp. 417–437). Oxford University Press. Link
Gortner, E. M., Rude, S. S., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2006). Benefits of expressive writing in lowering rumination and depressive symptoms. Behavior therapy, 37(3), 292-303. Link
Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2008). Remembering being me: The self-continuity function of autobiographical memory in younger and older adults. Self continuity: Individual and collective perspectives, 55-70. Link
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
Rutchick, A. M., Slepian, M. L., Reyes, M. O., Pleskus, L. N., & Hershfield, H. E. (2018). Future self-continuity is associated with improved health and increases exercise behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 24(1), 72. Link