Fractured narratives

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Some psychologists have always studied what persons say about their lives, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s psychologists began to employ the concept of narrative in a self conscious manner. Over the past two decades, the amount of psychological research calling itself narrative has blossomed. Although I view this movement optimistically, I am concerned by both the over-application of the concept and the difficulties in forming a clear definition of the term. This is a problem because when concepts, such as narrative, are overused and misused, they lose their distinctiveness and risk betraying the intentions that inspired them. Intellectual domains can and should tolerate dissent and creativity. However, the conceptual tensions in narrative psychology make it vulnerable to trivialization. In particular, narrative is in danger of being reconceptualized as just another psychological variable to be studied in the same manner as other psychological variables through experimental and survey methods. I reflect upon two central conceptual tensions in narrative psychology, between theory and method and structure and function. I offer my point of view on these tensions, how they can be resolved, and the ultimate goal of narrative psychology.


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