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J Clin Psychol. 1999 Oct;55(10):1193-211.

Self-narrative as meaning construction: the dynamics of self-investigation.

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Department of Psychology, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Starting from the metaphor of the person as a motivated storyteller, a theory of meaning construction and reconstruction is presented. Two motives are assumed to be particularly influential in the process of meaning construction: The striving for self-enhancement and the longing for contact and union with somebody or something else. A self-confrontation method is discussed and illustrated, enabling clients to perform, in close cooperation with the psychotherapist, a self-investigation on the content and organization of their personal meaning units. The method represents a gradual transition between assessment and change. Three functions of the method are discussed: assessment, process promotion, and evaluation. These functions are illustrated with a diversity of clinical phenomena: the finding of a central theme in the client's self-narrative, the experience of hopelessness and helplessness, the organized nature of depression, and the construction of a scenario for emerging from a depressive state. Finally, the multivoiced and dialogical nature of the self is illustrated by the dream of a murderer who was perceived by the client as both inside and outside the self. Special attention is given to the shifting boundaries between self and nonself.

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