Human beings tell stories of their lives, which help them understand and make sense of their personal experiences. They build and internalize evolving and integrative life stories, supporting what is called a narrative identity. Narrative identity reconstructs the autobiographical past and imagines the future to provide a person’s life with unity, purpose, and meaning. Through narrative identity, people convey to themselves and to others who they are now, how they came to be, and where they think their lives may be going in the future. Although story telling is a universal phenomenon, its narrative structure, shape, content, process and function depend on people’s cultural and social environment, thus varying across the world.
Narrative identity plays a central role in both mental health and well-being. The necessary cognitive and social skills to craft a coherent and meaningful life story are usually learnt in the family circle and develop in late childhood and adolescence. However, many factors may impact these abilities, either hindering their proper development – in the event of neurodevelopmental disorders and early life adversities – or disrupting acquired abilities, i.e., when facing major life breakdowns or neurodegenerative disorders. The lack of coherence plays a role in both the initiation and maintenance of mental disorders. Personal narratives are therefore a major focus of psychotherapy, being simultaneously malleable material to work on and the outcome of psychotherapy processes.
Research on narrative identity has generated various approaches, methods and perspectives. In order to gather researchers and clinicians working on and with narrative identity, and open discussions on future research challenges in this field, we are organizing the Special Interest Conference on Narrative IDentity: Insights from Research and Practice in Lille, France, on June 29th to 30th 2023, hosted by SCALab (CNRS) and the University of Lille. The N-ID conference will be structured around a series of invited talks, introducing the main themes of the conference: developmental and cultural perspectives on narrative identity, psychopathology and narrative identity, and methodological approaches to narrative identity.