By Chris McCollum, PhD

ABSTRACT - The life stories that middle-class Americans tell about how they came to be in their current professions and with their current romantic partners are framed by a particular moral vision of the self. In the process of aligning autobiographical information with this positive self-image, storytellers use cultural frameworks that represent the person and the life course in opposing ways. Drawing on psychodynamic theories of culture, I argue that the contradiction in these culturally shaped narratives is deeply rooted in interpersonal and other important socialization experiences from early childhood. Inconsistencies and discontinuities in the patterns leave lasting residues on the psyche, in the form of conflicting psychological structures. Life stories not only give expression to this core emotional conflict but also regulate or resolve it for defensive and adaptive purposes.

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