Storytelling

Published July 2, 2019 by Nan Mykel

                                       “That’s a Story!”

            In the language of children, story telling means telling a falsehood—at least it did in my childhood.  Now a number of learned individuals suggest that our lives—our selves—are no more real than the stories we think and believe and tell.  Ohh that word “real.”  Most folks today avoid that concept, I know.

            After reading an article in Psychology Today describing the difference between a “Romantic” and a “Post-modernist”,  I accepted the mantle of being a Romantic.

Trying to get organized, my usual rallying cry, I came across a copy of Psychology Today I had saved. I was unsure why I had saved it but when I opened it I found out why: It contains an unread article by Kenneth J. Gergen, Ph.D., The Decline and Fall of Personality ( Nov/Dec 1992, p. 59).

“Many of us believe that somewhere behind our masks lies the real person, that all this role playing is so much sham.  We may also believe that that for the sake of society and ourselves we should drop the roles and be what we truly are.  Yet if by chance you are beginning to doubt that there is a factual self beneath the fake, and feel the mask may just be the genuine article, that ‘image is everything,’ you are entering the new world of postmodern consciousness”.  He adds that “Slowly we are losing confidence that there is a coherent, identifiable substance behind the mask. The harder we look, the more difficult it is to find ‘anyone at home’.

“For contemporary psychologists, people are much like input-output machines…what they do depends on what goes into them.”  Remember that this was before the increasingly attractive idea of many toward the partly (soon wholly?) robotic man.

I never thought of myself as a romantic, but as he differentiates between the Romantic and the Modernist conceptions of the self, I have to register as a Thinking Romantic.  (Where does curiosity belong?)

“It is from the romantic tradition that we derive our beliefs in a profound and stable center of identity–a center which harbors the vital spirit of life itself.  In the past, when it was popular, the romantic self was a compelling account of forces buried beneath the surface of consciousness, in the deep interior of one’s being.”  (Kenneth J. Gergen,  Ph.D., The  Decline and Fall of Personality (Nov/Dec 1992, p. 59).

It is also the home of the “soul.”  Everyone knows by now that I am not religious in the usual sense of the word, but I do honor my depths and support from my unconscious.  And so I accepted the mantle of being a “Romantic!”

        Less than one month later, however,  I come across Bob Shepherd’s blog Praxis that makes a case for mankind’s inner core resulting from their own stories about him/herself and others.  “People are made to construct stories—plausible and engaging accounts of things—the way a stapler is made to staple and a hammer is made to hammer.”  (What Makes Humans Human? Posted on November 30, 2018).  There is no “inner self,” only an accumulation of stories we’ve created  to explain our perceptions.  It’s evolution that caused it, he says. I wonder if evolution itself is one of our stories.

            Off to work on a new story!

 

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