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We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves: The Role of Self and Family Narratives in Human Well-Being

It’s no accident that most of us crave stories, in books, in movies on the internet. In many ways, our lives are created by the stories we tell others— and ourselves. And we don’t just tell stories, we live them, and not infrequently we are willing to die for them. Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. Research has shown that endings are especially important for how we think about our lives. Did we fail or succeed, try or avoid trying? Stories that go wrong are one of the strongest drivers of depression and anxiety in our lives.

But what about people without enough personal stories in their lives, or who lack stories about their families? Welcome to the research of Robyn Fivush, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Director of the Institute for Liberal Arts at Emory University. Dr. Fivush has spent a career studying the role of memory and narrative in forming our adult selves. Her work points to the importance of developing coherent, detailed stories of ourselves and of our family heritage. And she has shown how important it is for parents to help young children began to craft these types of stories about themselves and their families. More recently, she has identified disturbing trends in how the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to change the stories young adults are telling themselves about who they are and what their futures might or might not hold. Join us on this podcast as Dr. Fivush describes her work and gives pointers on how stories can promote our well-being.

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