I'm glad you commented because you are bringing up a subject near and dear to me. I think we have a lot of overlap.
Earlier, I quoted Joan Didion in the White Album when I wrote "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." She was going through a nervous breakdown and observed how artificial the narratives we construct are to make sense of the randomness of the world. Artificial, yet necessary to live.
More recently, I read a book by Jordan Peterson: 12 Rules for Life: an antidote to chaos. he maintains that we must live on the knife edge between order and chaos -- living on either side of the divide is pathological (he is a psychologist). Peterson is a Jungian. Joseph Campbell (also a Jungian) observed that each of us is on a hero's journey that brings us into conflict with things in the world that threaten us (e.g., cancer). I don't think he would have a problem with the war metaphor, as long as the hero vanquishes the threat by psychically overcoming it - getting more in touch with his true Self.
In my most recent novel, the protagonist finds that she has built her identity with stories (much as you wrote). A shocking development (not cancer) forces her to discard those layers of identity, like peeling an onion. In the end, she cannot find any core and becomes comatose. (It's depressing)
We construct identity out of the subconscious, which Peterson calls chaos, and impose order (stories) on it. But sometimes the stories we tell ourselves no longer serve us. At that point, we have to discard those stories and come up with new ones. That's what I did during psychotherapy (which I initiated when I got my cancer diagnosis) - I observed the stories I had constructed and sorted through them. Many of the stories had to do with my parents' experience with cancer. Some, I kept; some, I discarded. Mindfulness further helped me deal with things as they are rather than through my narratives - or I should say, it gave me a tool through which I could more clearly see the narratives I had spun.
So I agree with you that we can't flourish without our narratives. But I think that some of our narratives take on a life of their own and become counter-productive to our well-being. They deserve close and constant scrutiny. I hope this thread has led some of us to re-examine some of those narratives.
Allen - not an MD
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