Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya • ISSN 2075-7999
peer-reviewed • open access journal


2018 Vol 11 Issue 61

Avanesyan M.O. Alternative autobiographical story as a component of the possible self

Full text in Russian: Аванесян М.О. Альтернативная автобиографическая история как составляющая возможного «я»

St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia

About author
Suggested citation

It is considered that the integrity of Ego, the acceptance of one's life versus despair and regrets about the missed opportunities is an outcome of passing through psychosocial crisis of the last stage of development (by E.Erikson); also the life choice is considered as a fork in the road, after which a person leaves the unselected option behind in his past. However, the content of life stories shows that an unhappened story can evolve in the form of an alternative life story. The analysis of autobiographical interviews with 58 people (25 men, 33 women, average age 35,3 years (SD = 11,2, min – 21, max – 72)) showed that when answering a question about the events that changed their lives, the respondents told about missed opportunities (20,6%), less often about success (5,1%). The notion of an "alternative life story" is developed, which is defined as a part of an actual autobiographical discourse containing unrealized or rejected opportunities. The obstacle of the research was to define the role of alternative stories and the way in which possible selves are included in the life story of a person. The alternative life stories are suggested to consider as possible self. An empirical classification of the types of alternative stories is described and illustrated by examples from the interviews. An alternative life story is often associated with a turning point (crucial event) in life that disrupts the continuity and coherence of the life line and the self-concept. However, it enhances the thematic coherence of autobiographical history, since it carries the basic values and life principles of a person: history remains unhappened, but still relevant in the person's life space. Interpretation of the obtained results is carried out with reliance on the theory of the field of K.Levin, the concept of possible self and the temporal self-appraisal (TSA) theory (theory of self-appraisal based on comparison in time (E.J.Strahan, A.E.Wilson).

Keywords: alternative life story, self-concept, possible self, autobiographical interview


The study was supported by Russian Foundation for Humanities, project 18-013-00703/18.


Bergner R.M., Holmes J.R. Self-concepts and Self-concept Change: A status dynamic approach. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 2000, 37(1), 36–44.

Cummings N.A. Turning bread into stones: Our modern antimiracle. American Psychologist, 1979, 34(12), 1119–1129.

Gecas V. The self-concept. Annual Review of Sociology, 1982, Vol. 8, 1–33.

Grishina N.V. Zhiznennye stsenarii: normativnost' i individualizatsiya [Life scripts: normativity and individualization]. Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya, 2011, 3(17). (in Russian)

Habermas T., Bluck S. Getting a life: The emergence of the life story in adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 2000, 126(5), 748–769.

James W. Nauchnye osnovy psikhologii [Scientific fundamentals of psychology]. St. Petersburg: S.-Peterburgskaya elektropechatnya, 1902. (in Russian)

Korzhova E.Yu. In: Integrativnaya psikhologiya zhiznennogo puti [Integrative psychology of life path]. St. Petersburg: OOO «Firma «Stiks», 2016. pp. 12–35. (in Russian)

Kostenko V.Yu. Vozmozhnoe Ya: Podkhod Kheizel Markus [Possible self: Hazel Marcus approach]. Psikhologiya. Zhurnal Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki, 2016, 13(2), 421–430. (in Russian)

Levin K. Teoriya polya v sotsial'nykh naukakh [Field Theory in Social Sciences]. St. Petersburg: Rech', 2000. (in Russian)

Markus N., Nurius P. Possible Selves. American Psychologist, 1986, 41(9), 954–969.

McAdams D.P. Psikhologiya zhiznennykh istorii [Psychology of life stories]. Metodologiya i istoriya psikhologii, 2008, 3(3), 135–166. (in Russian)

Sapogova E.E. «Legendy o sebe»: k probleme interpretatsii lichnostnykh mifologem vzroslykh v psikhologicheskom konsul'tirovanii ["Legends about myself": to the problem of interpretation of adult personal myths in psychological counseling]. Psikhologicheskaya sluzhba (Minsk), 2003, No. 2, 88–102. (in Russian)

Sapogova E.E. Sluchainost' kak ontologema avtobiograficheskikh narrativov [Fortuity as ontologeme of autobiographic narratives]. Vestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo universiteta. Psikhologiya i pedagogika, 2017, 7(4), 286–307. (in Russian)

Serkin V.P. Nevroz otlozhennoi zhizni [Neurosis of delayed life]. Vestnik Severnogo mezhdunarodnogo universiteta, 2003, No. 1, 27–34. (in Russian)

Serkin V.P., Panchenkova O.V. In: Lichnost' v ekstremal'nykh usloviyakh i krizisnykh situatsiyakh zhiznedeyatel'nosti [The personality in extreme conditions and crisis situations of life activity]. Vladivostok: Morskoi gosudarstvennyi universitet im. admirala G.I.Nevel'skogo, 2017. pp. 186–193. (in Russian)

Strahan E.J., Wilson A.E. Temporal comparisons, identity, and motivation: the relation between past, present, and possible future selves. In: C. Dunkel, J. Kerpelman (Eds.), Possible Selves: Theory, Research and Application. Huntington, NY: Nova Science, 2014. pp. 1–15.

White M. Karty narrativnoi praktiki: Vvedenie v narrativnuyu terapiyu [Narrative practice maps: an introduction to narrative therapy]. Moscow: Genezis, 2010. (in Russian)

Received 25 August 2018. Date of publication: 31 October 2018.

About author

Avanesyan Marina O. Ph.D., Associate Professor, Faculty of Psychology, St. Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya nab., 7/9, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia.
E-mail: Этот адрес электронной почты защищен от спам-ботов. У вас должен быть включен JavaScript для просмотра.

Suggested citation

Avanesyan M.O. Alternative autobiographical story as a component of the possible self. Psikhologicheskie Issledovaniya, 2018, Vol. 11, No. 61, p. 4. (in Russian, abstr. in English).

Permanent URL:

Back to top >>