Six. Identity: Creating a Personal Story

Until now, I’ve considered the aspects of personality that can be broken down into traits, patterns, and virtues. But to understand someone, we need to know more. Although we can piece together a revealing profile from these components, we can’t complete the picture without information about the guiding principles of the person’s life. To get this information, we need to shift our attention to his or her personal story.

Creating stories is one of the basic functions of the human mind.1 It is our way of organizing sequences of experiences by inferring cause-and-effect relationships that can help us predict future events. In sizing up people, we use this process to create stories about how they got to be ...

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