Narrative Identity: Being Your Own Author of Second Chance

As human beings, we perceive life stories differently, regardless of its nature.  Everyday experiences shape the way we see the world, the way we see others, and the way we see ourselves. In major life events especially, this perception is accelerated, creating a dramatic process of formation of narrative identity. Narrative Identity as defined by McLean and Pasupath (2014, p. 1846) is an identity that is developed from “the ability to integrate the past and present into a life story.” Narrative identity development is a known research method to analyse how one’s life changes construct their identity overtime. This particular field of study becomes increasingly important when researchers recognise its value, especially when studying individuals who are faced with significant challenges or trauma in their lives.

When we as individuals often encounter difficulties, and unfortunately more often than we want, trauma (both physically and mentally). These dramatic events disrupt our everyday-life cohesive patterns that we constantly (and unconsciously) build. However, there may just be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Looking from a positive perspective, the silver linings of these trauma can be more useful than we think. As scholar Jennifer L. Pals suggests, “difficult emotional experiences also may be understood as providing the potential for a second chance to construct narrative identity, an opportunity to reconstruct oneself in an improved, healthier, and transformed manner that opens up new possibilities for the quality, meaning, and trajectory of one’s life.” (Pals 2006, p. 102). This means that, even though experiencing emotional and physical pain can potentially change the course of our lives, we still have the possibility to become our own authors of second chance.

Survivors of deathly physical injuries often feel that they are ‘given’ a second chance. While the belief of the existence of a ‘higher power’ at play is habitually necessary for some, people’s reaction to having a difficult past differs from one to another. Some find it exceptionally hard to recover, especially those who are recovering from depression and severe anxiety, that they often give up on trying to be positive at all. However, there are many cases where people living with disabilities have high level of spirit that they manage to oversee their physical disadvantages and have a more appreciative attitude towards little things in life. Researchers Foslund, Jansson, Lundblad, and Soderberg (2017) conducted a research on survivors of Out-of-Hospital Cariac Arrest (OHCA), and found that their research subjects had adopted a positive outlook on life after the unfortunate events of their lives.

It is important to realise that despite what life throws at us, we are still the authors of our own life stories. As long as we are still alive, our life chapters are still being written, and how you want your life to be, is completely up to you. Indeed, a second chance is the way we, ourselves, perceive what is happening in our lives. By producing our own second chance, we take control and adapt a more positive way of seeing the world.

The article is written by Sienny Thio .She is crossing borders national coordinator for Indonesia.

 Reference List

  • Ann-Sofie Foslund, Jan-Håkan Jansson, Dan Lundblad, Siv Soderberg (2017) A Second Chance at Life: People’s Lived Experiences of Surviving Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest, Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences.
  • Jennifer L. Pals (2006) Authoring a Second Chance in Life: Emotion and Transformational Processing Within Narrative Identity, Research in Human Development, 3:2-3, 102.

Kate C. McLean & Monisha Pasupath (2014) Narrative Identity, Encyclopaedia of Adolescence, 1846-1847.

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