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Self-Defining Memories, Scripts, and the Life Story: Narrative Identity in Personality and Psychotherapy



An integrative model of narrative identity builds on a dual memory system that draws on episodic memory and a long-term self to generate autobiographical memories. Autobiographical memories related to critical goals in a lifetime period lead to life-story memories, which in turn become self-defining memories when linked to an individual's enduring concerns. Self-defining memories that share repetitive emotion-outcome sequences yield narrative scripts, abstracted templates that filter cognitive-affective processing. The life story is the individual's overarching narrative that provides unity and purpose over the life course. Healthy narrative identity combines memory specificity with adaptive meaning-making to achieve insight and well-being, as demonstrated through a literature review of personality and clinical research, as well as new findings from our own research program. A clinical case study drawing on this narrative identity model is also presented with implications for treatment and research.