Psychobiography and Life Narratives

McAdams (1988, 1990, 1993) and McAdams et al. (2001) highlight that life narratives are stories of individuals about their own lives and are therefore authobio- graphical, while Sarbin (1986) mentions that narratives could provide a new root metaphor for the psychological discipline as a whole. Schultz (2005d) highlights in his “Introduction to Psychobiography” that the narrative approach might be close to the psychobiographical approach; however, there are differences that need to be considered. On the one hand, he defines psychobiographies as “multimethodological and essentially theoretically anarchistic” (Schultz, 2005d, p. 16) and emphasises that most of the psychobiographers do not use a narrative methodological approach as life narratives do. On the other hand, the author mentions that psychobiographers are “structuralists”. When they talk about the biographies and minds of their subjects, they propose to discuss something “real” (Schultz, 2005d, p. 17). In comparison to psychobiography, in narrative-based models mind is text, text is story and story is fiction and is therefore not based on reality (Ochberg, 1988, Schultz, 2005d).

Fouche and Van Niekerk (2005b) emphasise that the study of life narratives or life stories concerns either oral or written accounts based on subjective experiences and narrations. Usually, life stories are limited to the description of subjective experiences of situations, events, circumstances and relationships (Cole & Knowles, 2001). However, life stories and life narratives became popular with regard to studying meaningfulness and coherence in life (McAdams, 2001). They were also associated with case studies (Allport, 1965), psychobiographies (Erikson, 1958) and identity research (McAdams, 1996).

The study at hand does not use a life narrative approach. In this study, “something real” (Schultz, 2005d, p. 17), the life of Paulo Coelho, is discussed, as is common in psychobiographical approaches.

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