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The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  24 reviews
"Who am I?" "How do I fit in the world around me?" This revealing and innovative book demonstrates that each of us discovers what is true and meaningful, in our lives and in ourselves, through the creation of personal myths. Challenging the traditional view that our personalities are formed by fixed, unchanging characteristics, or by predictable stages through which every ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 3rd 1997 by The Guilford Press (first published March 1st 1993)
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Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it
A pretty interesting book that I probably would not have picked up had it not been assigned for a class I am taking; I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it. McAdams's central premise is that we give meaning to our lives by applying a narrative structure - dividing the life into chapters, each with its own setting and characters, and, ultimately, unified with a central theme. More specifically, we each create personal myths, based on dominant narrative forms (e.g., comedy, romance, tragedy, ir ...more
Kyle Farris
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bought
There are few books that have had a profound impact in my life. This will surely be one of them. McAdams explains personality through the stories to tell ourselves. We are not merely traits, desires, or experiences; we are comprised of all the elements of a story. What we tell ourselves, we tend to believe and live by. If you enjoy introspection and understanding yourself, this book is phenomenal.

While I rated this as "everyone should read this," I acknowledge that some people will not have the
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided not to provide a review of this book here, but to let the other Goodreads reviews do that. Instead I focussed on the part I found most useful and which I thought would be of most interest to readers of my blog ( My Call of Stories):  namely his chapter Exploring Your Own Myth. In that chapter, Chapter 10 of his book, he provides an outline to explore your own myth, or myths:

A. Life Chapters…at least 2-3 and at most 7-8
B. Key Events (nuclear episodes)…..Specific list of 8
C. Significant
Jul 10, 2007 rated it liked it
How our memories and life stories serve as the material we use to create a narrative identity. Much of the book focuses on how our narrative stories are formed and refined as we age, and progress through stages of our lives. I liked the discussion of imagoes as the different roles we play and the way we see ourselves in relation to others. I was a disappointed in other ways though, as I didn't find the focus on Agency vs. Communion to be compelling. I wanted to learn more about how our narrative ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book actually seemed to be about people making stories based on life, not the other way around as the title says. I was looking for how the stories themselves could contain power.

Well-written, very thoroughly researched but missing what I thought I would find. Lately I've been encountering the idea that the way life events are interpreted can affect one's psychology. And that one can apply a different interpretation (tell oneself a story) to achieve change, healing, peace, or other goals. T
Oct 28, 2020 rated it liked it
I’m glad I read it; it’s a foundational book in the field of narrative psychology. But it was a bit dated especially in the chapter about infant attachment, really emphasized Erickson, and the chapter about the drives for power and love wasn’t compelling. So, I’m glad I read it but also glad I didn’t buy it.
Ashley L Stout
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Good book- I like a lot of the ideas, and really like the practice of writing a Life Story, but the book was very wordy and long, if it had been shorter and cut to the point a little quicker, I would have liked it even more.

Still liked it though.
Mary Shelton
Oct 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-read
Finished reading this for a class I"m teaching. More about it after class ends. ...more
Charles Collyer
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book. This is the kind of psychology that is meaningful to me these days.
Joy Kaplan
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Good overview of ideas, but nothing deep.
Laura Montauti
Jun 05, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book for anyone studying narrative analysis in psychology. The research is presented in an easy-to-read manner that keeps you engaged.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: academic
OK. A bit too dry for me, but to be fair, I did not realize it is more of a textbook. I was reading because of my interest in constructionism.
Five, mostly because this made me think...think hard. And that's not easy to do with most books.

I absolutely believe we see the world as story. I believe story is what connects humans, and what moves humans. I believe the quest pattern is embedded in our DNA. So, of course this book intrigued me.

McAdams analyzes our lives and stages in our lives as story components -- tone, theme, characters, mythic forms, images...and imagoes.

Throughout our lives, we work on one component or another...children,
Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't be surprised if this book is sometimes used as a text in narrative psychology classes. I've picked it up and read it in chunks, each time enjoying and learning from what McAdams offers. I wanted to give it 4.5 stars. McAdams is brilliant. He describes in detail how we write our own stories as a myth--and then live by them. Nevertheless, it rubs up against some of my core beliefs about story and identity that I cannot yet articulate. Perhaps that's why this interests me so. Isn't it wh ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
with both carl jung and joseph campbell's insightful works, there is no denying that humans delve into myth to make sense of themselves and environment. while this book explores narrative myth in self-creation, i did not find the divisions between agency and communion particularly enlightening. in fact, i found this categorization method more of a distraction because it attempted to cover all role types based on this distinction. familiar archetypes, such as the warrior, become a more encompassi ...more
Jieun Kim
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book reminds me of how to retell and restory to recreate one's past. At times, so do I think it might be awesome to re-imagine my past and ongoing events and episode in a new way. Particularly, chapter 1, The meaning of life and stories has a great character named Margaret who desecrates the chapel to recast her personal myth in self-fulfillment because she doesn't want to pass the same pain onto her daughter. She chose to reconcile her awful experiences with energy and forward direction. I ...more
Mar 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The author is a psychologist who is interested in the way we build the meaning of our lives, selecting experiences and relationships to become the characters and themes in our personal stories. He believes we are all constantly building these stories throughout our lives, but taking the time to lay them out an reflect on them can help us think about our purpose and see where we're going.

His approach is more natural than many psychological tests, and isn't intended to be a self-help book. It's a
May 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to claire by: Ken
Wonderful! A fascinating book about how we think of/narrate our lives and the ways we may divide our selves into different "characters". I loved this book (and it also happened to be a great help in thinking about my dissertation). ...more
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An engaging and accessible exploration of how we write the stories of our life and why those stories are important in shaping where we go next.
Lisa Withered Crone
Oct 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've read this book twice before. Thought-provoking, but I'm not sure I agree with the message. ...more
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So many things happen to us in our lives and we only remember a few. McAdams postulates a theory for why we choose to remember what we do and how we make sense of our life experiences. Fascinating.
Cody Case
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding and accessible book. It should be useful to anyone in the caring profession as well as anyone struggling with their sense of self.
May 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
I identified with the ideas in this book, about how we create a narrative of our life and relate to certain archetypes.
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Nov 05, 2012
Bilal Ahmad
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Feb 28, 2018
Devin Ryback
rated it it was amazing
Aug 06, 2016
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Feb 10, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Dec 13, 2009
rated it liked it
Sep 14, 2018
rated it it was ok
Jan 31, 2019
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