Before I went to sleep last night, I was reading Christine Baldwin’s “Storycatcher” in which she proposes that we create the “story” of our life by selecting certain memories and then linking them together to form a coherent narrative. The latter is what I will call the “life story”. A life story plays a fundamental role in our lives because as Baldwin states (p. 124) “We all need a story to stand on: a core belief that affirms who we are, which we won’t relinquish no matter what.” A life story that is affirming and supportive is a positive and adaptive one; one that is undermining and critical of the self is negative and maladaptive. According to the cognitive therapy approach, life stories of the latter kind could contribute to clinical depression.
Fortunately it is possible to change our mind and rewrite out life story at any time in our lives. I will give a personal example of how I was lead to a radical re-write today of my life story after reading the passages quoted above in Baldwin’s book. In our elder years of life we tend to reflect on our life story and to use it to evaluate our lives and start the job of putting psychological closure on it (if that indeed ever comes completely). In my semi-retirement, I have been reflecting on my own career as a scientist and have felt some feelings of disappointment.