Personal story genres: how to become the author of your life?

Posted by Leave a Comment

Each of us is capable of looking at the world from the point of view of various artistic genres. The wider and richer the spectrum of perception, the more interesting and fruitful our life is. And when we get stuck in one of the genres, we lose the ability to see the world in all its diversity and richness of possibilities.

The genres in which we live can be different: love drama, detective story, comedy of the absurd, and maybe a biblical parable. For example, at some period of his life, a person suddenly encounters the bureaucratic apparatus of the tax authorities and he can perceive interaction with them through different subjects. If he comes into the “catch me if you can” game, then the genre of a rogue novel begins. And if he perceives everything that happens to him as a chain of ridiculous delusional events, then he falls into the comedy of the absurd. Well, if he suddenly falls in love with the inspector, then a love drama is not excluded.

The desire to combine artistic genres and ideas of a person about the world, about his place in it, arose in me when studying narrative practices, a new psychotherapeutic direction in which a person is viewed from the point of view of his life story. That is, work with the client is carried out through the analysis of his problem stories and the creation of alternative stories.

According to the authors of this concept (J. Bruner, S. Mishler, M. White and others), a person perceives reality through his own interpretation of reality. Describing yourself and what is happening creates a unique narrative that helps:

  • Combine life episodes into a single whole.
  • Streamline your experience;
  • Find an explanation, the meaning of your choices and actions;
  • Confirm the idea of ​​oneself, people around, the world in general.

There are no minor events for our consciousness:

  • Meeting at work;
  • Quarrel with a friend;
  • Meeting with a former lover;
  • Inner awareness.

Any of the moments can play a key role in a personal plot.

This is how their own story is created, where the author acts as a storyteller, critic and protagonist. It has its own villains and heroes, important characters and minor figures, atmosphere and context, past and future. A person forms his own style of storytelling, creates a plot and forms it into a finished work.

When you tell others stories about yourself and your life, what motivates you most often? Do you want to make you laugh? Teach? Just talk? Complain? Find common ground? Isolate?

Even Aristotle, in his study of literary genres, noticed that they share according to the personal characters of poets and playwrights. He believed that authors choose a certain style of description in accordance with their perception of the world: high or low, tragic or comic.

The division of narrative into different genres began in antiquity. The Greeks singled out tragedy, comedy and satire drama. In the Middle Ages, miracles, morality, mysteries, farce, tropes, liturgical drama, soti appeared. Now there are many grounds for dividing many aspects of reality into genre structures: in art history, in philosophy, and in psychology.

In what genre does your life story develop? What stories are there more? Comic? Sad? With a tragic outcome? Happy end? With morality at the end? Not finished? Inspiring you? Disappointing?

The perception of reality through various genres largely determines our actions and our expectations from life. The genre sets a certain vector of the story, the attitude to what is happening, the development of the plot and its outcome.

In considering a topic of interest to me, I chose the concept of the Jungian analyst J. Hillman and took it as a basis. He suggests looking at the stories of patients through the peculiarities of the styles of their stories about themselves, their lives and about the disease itself. J. Hillman in his “Healing Fiction” identifies five genres through which a person describes reality:

  • Heroic epic or tragedy;
  • Comedy;
  • Dodgy novel;
  • Detective or thriller.
  • Everyday realism or drama;

Heroic epic

Heroic epic: a genre that describes the victory of the protagonist fighting against fate, evil, darkness, etc. The style of the story is pretentious, raising existential themes: moral duty, responsibility, fate, life, death, etc. The plot always ends with a victory for the hero, real if he survives the battle, or moral if he dies.

Literary examples: “The Story of a Real Man” by B. Polevoy, “The Old Man and the Sea” by E. Heminiguey, myths, legends, legends of the peoples of the world, etc.

This genre helps to withstand difficulties, to overcome one’s own weaknesses: doubts, cowardice, cowardice, to see a sublime meaning in the ordinary, to assert in one’s truth, to take a decisive step, etc. When we turn to this style, then we have clarity, clarity in understanding our goals, in determining who is a friend and who is an enemy, there is no doubt and halftones in the explanation of what is happening.

The archetype of the Hero appears in this genre. He comes to us to overcome circumstances, gain independence and independence. Being under his influence, we are ready to fight, overcome difficulties, achieve our goals.

If a person has only such a genre in his repertoire, then his life resembles a constant struggle. He will always find a real or imaginary enemy for his battles, sometimes inside himself in the form of his own immoral qualities and weaknesses. Difficulties and obstacles inspire him, as they give him the opportunity to accomplish a feat. The role of an epic Hero requires battle, restoration of justice and order, victory and personal glory. Other people are perceived through their value system: their own or someone else’s. It is difficult to see the diversity of human characters, their inconsistency, instability, ambiguity. There is only black and white, yes or no, true and false.

When is this genre included in your life? How does it help? And what, maybe, interferes?

I get involved in this genre when I need to concentrate on a goal, have no doubts and move forward. It makes it possible not to spread out, not to blur, but to quickly go to what was planned and believe in yourself and in your strengths. I also start acting like an epic hero if I define another / others as an enemy. They want to deceive, hurt, harm, do injustice, and not only in relation to me. And immediately there are strength and energy to fight, confidence in yourself and in your truth.

The main thing is to stop in time, otherwise a holy war begins, which can drag on for an indefinite period.


Comedy: a genre characterized by a satirical or humorous approach in which a moment of conflict or struggle is specifically (not heroically) resolved. This style of storytelling is opposed to the heroic epic, it’s the opposite. It is intended to show how absurd, contradictory, inconsistent our world is, that it is not always worth going along the heroic path, there are other ways to cope with reality.

Literary examples: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by D. Adams, “Monday begins on Saturday” A. and B. Strugatsky, anecdotes, horror stories.

With the main character, ridiculous events occur, funny and not very, to which he usually does not take seriously, as if they happen “for fun”, not “for real.” The hero of a comedy is a victim of circumstances, he gets into stories, and does not create them, events happen by themselves and seem to draw him into a kaleidoscope of absurd incidents. But despite this, the plot ends with a successful resolution of the problems of the main characters.

This genre helps to look at oneself and the world from its comical side, to see life in its ambiguity, contradiction, complexity. Comedy allows you to recognize your limitations and weaknesses, inspires optimism and faith in good, develops wit, creativity and spontaneity. Such a view makes the world not as one-sided as in the heroic epic and allows one to see halftones, ambiguity, and the diversity of life.

In this genre, our inner Jester, Fool, Clown is manifested, the part that laughs at itself, and at the people around, and at the world. His laughter knows no boundaries and does not recognize convention. His presence allows you to remove unnecessary seriousness, pretentiousness, tension in any situation.

If a person gets stuck in this genre, then he begins to perceive himself as a victim of circumstances, to believe that little depends on him, to devalue his contribution to life events, to laugh at painful topics and not delve into them, not to notice the real difficulties and problems in which he is in.

How do you manage to incorporate your inner Jester into life?

I begin to perceive the world through the comedy genre when I face my impotence. In order not to fall into despair, my inner Jester comes to my rescue. A look from a comedy allows you to come to terms with what is happening, see something funny in the situation and still assert that there is some sense in the seeming meaninglessness.

This genre is the most mastered for me, and now I understand why: in my past there were many experiences of powerlessness and it was the Fool who helped me adapt to it and live on.

Rogue romance

A rogue novel: a presentation of individual episodes from the life of a trickster, a rogue, without an intelligible compositional drawing. The main character walks through life playfully, easily, without thinking about the consequences. He does not obey the general rules. His goal is to enjoy the process of the game he has started. The Dodger lives in the moment, in the “here and now”. His motto is “Catch your luck by the tail!”

There is no transformation of the main character in the plot. He does not learn from his own and others’ mistakes: “It didn’t work out this time, but suddenly it will work out next time.” His life is ruled by passion and desire for risk.

Literary examples: “The Golden Calf”, “12 Chairs” by I. Ilf and E. Petrov.

This genre can help when we need to take risks and try something unfamiliar, when there is a desire to play a new game, start a new business, but fears and fears get in the way. It raises us above the boring routine, gets us off the ground and allows us to enjoy the risk and uncertainty. The win is not as important as the process of the game itself: “Let’s start, and then we’ll see!”

In this genre, the archetype of the Dodger, the Trickster, is most fully manifested. He plays pranks, manipulates, he likes to play with people and present them with surprises, pleasant and not so. His task is to break the established rules, to break the routine course of events.

How does your inner Trickster live in you? What is his disposition? How does he surprise you?

If a person lives only in this plot, then his life is easy and not burdensome. These are called “tumbleweeds”, he does not stay in a relationship, he quickly changes jobs, places of residence, areas of activity. He does not bind himself with obligations and restrictions, there is only a moment, a moment of joy and euphoria, for which he strives. Such people sometimes seem empty and narrow-minded, sometimes immoral and dangerous, sometimes charming and sweet.

My Trickster turns on quite often. As soon as I get bored, when it begins to seem that life has become too gray and colorless, he knocks on me.
“Let’s play!”, – he says and the world changes in an instant, everything becomes unusual, interesting, exciting and requires attention.


A detective story is a genre that describes the process of investigating a crime, a mysterious incident in order to clarify its circumstances and solve the riddle. The protagonist of the detective finds causal relationships in the world around him, understands the hidden essence of things, sees different variants of inconsistencies. It is difficult to deceive him, he feels the truth and lack of logic in his gut. “What’s wrong here!” – he says and tries to understand what is really going on.

Literary examples: “Ten Little Indians” by A. Christie, “The Name of the Rose” by U. Eco.

The need to call the Detective comes in our life when something incomprehensible, inexplicable, requiring a solution, happens:

  • Why is this person doing this?
  • Why am I doing this again?
  • What is behind this event?
  • Why does life and the world around it develop this way?

This genre helps us to better understand our world and those around us, to become more attentive and insightful, to be open to the riddles in our life, and therefore to the clues.

Our inner detective can manifest itself both in external reality and inside. In the first case, it comes in the form of conscious logical reasoning, psychotherapeutic work, during training, etc., and in the second, through intuitive insights, insights, images of the unconscious, synchrony, etc.

Listen to your Sleuth. What secrets does he solve? What riddles is he looking for an answer to?

If a person lives only through the image of the Detective, then his life turns into a constant search for the causes of current events. He finds cause and effect relationships where they are and where they are not. Also, magical thinking, a desire to see signs and coincidences, confirmation of one’s thoughts and actions can be enhanced here. The explanation that “sometimes a banana is just a banana” will not satisfy such a person, because “nothing happens for nothing.”

The detective genre immerses me in myself, in the processes taking place with me, which is usually unusual for me. And I like this immersion and self-care. It’s like becoming an in

Everyday realism

trovert for a while. The detective genre in my life is included in the work of a psychologist and in my own practice of self-help.
Thanks to him, I can better understand what is happening to me and those around me, see connections, parallels between me and the world.

Everyday realism, drama: a detailed description of life’s circumstances, with the aim of faithfully reproducing reality in its typical features. The genre of everyday realism is invisibly present with us all the time. Life consists of things, furnishings, routine activities, familiar people, etc. An ordinary and simple life, a whirlwind of days, weeks, years. And only our glance can make this flow meaningful and fulfilling.

Literary examples: “War and Peace” by L. Tolstoy, “A Hero of Our Time” by Y. Lermontov.

The main character in everyday realism looks at life as a description of everyday life: “this is a chair, they sit on it, this is a table – they eat at it.” He can remain only on the material level and notice some everyday nuances, or he can rise above it and look at the world of reality through the semantic possibilities that he gives. In the latter version, the little things of everyday life are considered valuable and unique features of the overall pattern of life. Each has their own, with their own colors and tones. Their individuality makes everyone’s life special and unique.

The genre of everyday realism is invisibly present with us all the time. Life consists of things, furnishings, routine activities, familiar people, etc. An ordinary and simple life, a whirlwind of days, weeks, years. And only our glance can make this flow meaningful and fulfilling.

The need for a genre of everyday realism arises when we want:

  • Stop and see where our life is going;
  • See what puzzles it consists of;
  • See what meaning we give to everyday moments;
  • Learn to enjoy the usual things and little things.

What little things does your life consist of? What valuable and important things can your everyday objects and everyday things tell about you?

Getting stuck in this genre gives a person only one focus of reality – the material one. He sees in her exactly what he sees, and nothing else. Fantasies have no place here, as well as humor, pathos, riddles, games. On the one hand, such a life is understandable and predictable, has a clear picture and order, but on the other hand, it is devoid of flight and inspiration, spontaneity and cute nonsense.

In me, the genre of everyday realism resonates through the importance of the ordinary. I feel calm when living it. The quiet course of life, routine regularity and pacifying everyday life turn out to be resourceful and fulfilling for me. Banal and unique, typical and non-standard, special and simple – everything includes this genre. Only my opinion singles out the important from the whole kaleidoscope of events and fills reality with value and meaningfulness. And the genre of everyday realism helps me with this.

This is how I see the main genres in working with personal history. Each of them gives its own capabilities, but also has its own limitations. It is within our power to live them all, use their rich resources and not get stuck in their story for a long time.

Category: Online psychotherapy, Psychotherapy


About the Author ()

I’ve hurt myself while trying to help myself more than you can imagine, that’s why I want to scientifically analyze every popular self-help technique and ‘method’ there is.