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Mental Illness And Personal Narratives Essay

2280 words - 9 pages

Using narratives to gain an insight into human experience is becoming an increasingly popular method of exploration. Assuming that people are in essence narrative beings that experience every emotion and state through narrative, the value of exploring these gives us a unique understanding. Narrative is thought to act as instrument to explore how an individual constructs their own identity (Czarniawska, 1997) and explain how each individual makes sense of the world around them (Gabriel, 1998). It may also give us an understanding into individual thought processes in relation to individual decision making practices (O’Connor, 1997). It is evident from studies such as Heider and Simmel (1944), that there appears to be an instinctive nature in people to introduce plots structures and narratives into all situations, with an intention to construct meaning to all aspects of life in its entirety. The value of narrative is that it is a tool that allows us to understand what it means to be human and gives us an insight into a person’s lived experience whilst still acknowledging their cultural and social contexts. Narrative is thought to be significance as it is ‘a fruitful organizing principle to help understand the complex conduct of human beings (p.49)’ (Sarbin, 1990) The construction of a person’s narrative is thought to be dependent on each person’s individual awareness of themselves and the circumstances that surround them. However, a debate to whether a person is able to formulate a valid narrative in the face of a mental illness such as schizophrenia has emerged. Sufferer’s symptoms are often thought to interfere with their abilities to perceive within a level deemed acceptable to their society’s norms and therefore the validity of these narratives is thought to be weakened. The aim of this essay is to explore whether it is possible for schizophrenics to produce a valid account of the internal and external processes they encounter to investigate if these can be considered to accurately outline their experiences.
The initial identification of schizophrenia saw it described a loss of sanity that completely consumed the individual. The consummation of this disease was thought to cause sufferers to lose their most basic levels of self-awareness and perception. According to Roe & Davidson (2005) this lack of insight that schizophrenic sufferers are thought to experience results from their ‘impaired brains ability to process data about its dysfunction’. As a result of these biological errors, a viewpoint stemmed that described people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia are having an inability, or at least a moderated ability to create coherent narratives about their experiences. Fischer’s (1994) work on narrative highlighted the need for narrative to be, what he deemed, as rational. For a narrative to be considered this all stories must be evaluated in conjunction with coherence, probability and fidelity. From these assumptions it would be...

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