Location of Repository

The Unhealthy Underside of Narratives

By Ian Craib


Elsewhere (Craib, 2000) I have talked about narratives as a form of bad faith,\ud and I want to extend that analysis here in a more concrete way and suggest that\ud far from narrative and life being that same ‘thing’ (a la Bruner) they are very\ud different ‘things’ and, further, that the relationship between narrative, life and\ud health is not the one we might expect. We might expect that narratives are\ud good for us, that they help us get our lives together, make sense of where we\ud are and enable us to go forward. Indeed this is so obvious that - as we see from\ud a paper delivered at this conference - when people receive bad news, a\ud diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, helpers set out to provide them with a narrative\ud that will enable them to be strong and look hopefully at the future.\ud In this paper I want to argue against such a position; it is my contention\ud that some narratives can help people in certain situations but more important,\ud narratives, and perhaps especially the best intentioned of accounts that are\ud offered by people in the caring professions, can function to keep people in\ud passive positions, inhibit possible change and separate people from the\ud authenticity of their lives. I am sympathetic to Martin Amis’s suggestion, that\ud if there is such a thing as a shared feature of authentic narratives, it lies, at least\ud in the modern Western world, in our common experience of tragedy. I will use\ud some examples from my own practice as a psychotherapist to illustrate the\ud counter productive nature of some narratives

Topics: H1, BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2003
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:5111

Suggested articles



  1. (1990). Acts of Meaning, doi
  2. (2002). Equals,
  3. (1994). From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society: New Theories of the Contemporary World, doi
  4. (1997). Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture, doi
  5. (2000). Narrative as doi
  6. (1998). Psychodynamics, narrative and ‘intention causality’”,
  7. (1985). Representation and Patriarchy: Sexuality and Hysteria in Freud’s Dora’, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.