Research article
Issue: № 2 (18), 2019


Autocommunication between the narrator and the subject's model - the image of themselves - in the space of a narrative turns into artistic fiction. Through aesthetic judgment, the model becomes a character of the story, and its author is the creator of their life. The embodiment of experience in the form of a narrative makes it possible to comprehend it in the interpersonal sphere. Here, a dialogical turn of co-being comes to the fore including the one who understands the speech in other contexts. If one takes the view that the narrative constructs reality, then the technology of the narrative can be designated as dialogization of the situation: inclusion of others, considering the positions of these others, their experiences and the correlation of all these points with each other. Thus the text is created. As a structure representing reality, the narrative scheme is a dramaturgic model of a certain sphere of life. Life, in this sense, is as much a product of imagination as the story of it. The narration imitates life, and life imitates the narrative. It is created by people in the process of searching for interpretations of selected events. The story of one's life is almost always a cognitive action, rather than an artless presentation of something unambiguously given. Ultimately, this is a narrative action. From a psychological point of view, there is no such a thing as “life in itself”. At least, it is the result of selective work of memory; the rest of the narrative of one's life is an art of imagination and interpretation.

Similarly to the philosopher Nelson Goodman's beliefs that physics, painting, historical science are “ways of the creation of worlds” (Goodman, 1978 / Goodman, 2001), autobiography (formal or informal) should be considered a series of “life creation” procedures. J.Bruner

                      —How does autobiography differ from curriculam vitae?

                      — By artistic imagination.

Objects are divided not only into animate and inanimate. There are also animated objects. These are texts that allow us to engage in animation of all that exists. Including our own subjectivity by way of constructing dialogues with ourselves through acts of auto-communication.

An example:

«March 20 […] The two main passions I've noticed within myself are the passion for gambling and vanity which is all the more dangerous as it takes  countless different forms, such as the desire  to show off, thought lessness, absent-mindedness, etc. In the evening I'll reread the diary from the date of arrival in Moscow, make general comments and check the monetary costs and debts in Moscow.

I arrived in Moscow with three goals: 1) Gambling. 2) Getting married. 3) Getting an employment. The first is bad and low, and, thank God, having examined the state of my affairs and having abandoned my prejudices, I decided to straighten the affairs selling a part of the estate. The second, thanks to the clever advice of my brother Nikolenka, I've put off till the time when I am forced to either by love, or reason, or even fate, which cannot be opposed in all cases. The latter is impossible until two years of service in the province, and indeed, although it would be desirable, I want many other things incompatible with it; therefore, I'll wait till the fate itself puts me in this position.

I had many weaknesses at this time. The main thing was that I paid little attention to moral rules, enticed by the rules aimedat success. Then, I had a too close look at things; for example, I accepted a lot of rules, which all could lead to one thing - not to have vanity. I forgot that the condition necessary for success is self-confidence, contempt for trifles, which cannot otherwise occur butby moral elevation ”(L. Tolstoy. Selected Diaries for the years 1847-1894).

Autobiography is always a story. The story about the life of the narrator in the chronotope  of the text. It is almost always a narrative or explanatory story, a subjective narrative with the urgent need to interest, to cause an emotional response, to draw attention to oneself.

Moreover, it is such a narrative, about which it is impossible to say, “that every story retells a story already told. Homer knew this, Ariosto knew this, not to mention Rabelais or Cervantes” [1]. In the autobiography, the first narrator is present - it is the author describing his experience. And therefore he necessarily performs such cognitive procedures as: highlighting significant events, linking them in a time sequence, recoding from a description plane to a story plane, aligning everything to makeup a story. A narrative of autobiography that develops its functions offers a special form of organization of the experience of understanding. After all, the author of his own biography is not a creator of a new genre of literature. He is just a person who wants to duplicate his existence through the text. He creates a speech mirror according to the rules of the autobiographical genre of his time. Therefore, the question of what is a story as a narrative construction is quite reasonable.

Narrative is actually a human way of understanding the world. People transform the stream of consciousness into stories. And, by doing so, they make their lives meaningful. The narrative understanding of the world is universal: it permeates all forms of organization of human experience, from myths, poems, ballads, novels, reports to everyday conversations. People retell stories, their own and others', strengthening their memory. Through narrative structures, knowledge is passed on through generations. The fullness of life is embodied in the stories. The natural form of the story as a means of expressing thoughts and experiences is an epiphenomenon of the narrative way of understanding the world, which, in turn, arises from the narrative structure of human knowledge of the world. “While one lives, no adventures happen. The scenery changes, people come and go - that's all. There's never any beginning. Days are added to one  other without any hesitations, endlessly and monotonously. <...> This is called living. But when you tell your life, everything changes; only no one notices this change, and here is the proof: it’s not for nothing that people are talking about true stories. As if stories can be true; events unfold in one sequence, we tell them in reverse. <...> And the story unfolds backwards: the moments ceased to pile up one at a time at random, they are hooked up to the end of the story, it draws them to itself, and each of them in turn pulls the preceding instant. <...> I wanted the moments of my life to follow one another, lining up in order, like moments of life that you remember. And it's like trying to grab time by the tail”. [2].

The story unfolds through the plot, but the plot is formed by a narrative scheme. The narrative scheme itself consists of at least five elements: the Agent, Action, Goal,  Setting, Instrument, and Trouble. The trouble is what drives the drama; it occurs when there is a discrepancy between two or more elements of the pentad.

Besides, the narrative scheme can directly model the repertoires of the characters' main intentions and the implementation plans concomitant with them.

These five components of the narrative scheme create informative prerequisites for possible story plots unfolding in the specific sphere of the individual’s life, as he understands it. It can therefore be said that within the framework of the narrative scheme, the outlined sphere presents itself to man as the space in which a special kind of story takes place. Namely, the stories are based on what is typical for a given personality, having certain intentions, facing specific recurring problems, while the environment and its features create conditions and predetermine the chances of their solution.

Something always happens in human lives. But not these events themselves are the cause of people's experience, but the peculiar “hermeneutic activity” carried out by the subject in the form of correlation of cultural senses ​​and personal meanings of the happenings. Thus, “completely absent in life, fictional events, “ false memories ”and frank fantasies -“ quasi-lives ”,“ legends about oneself ” can be endowed with the status of autobiographical events by a person. They turn out to be a “pure product” of individual narratization, moments of subjective “creation of meanings” from a sociocultural fabric [3].

A narrative scheme, as a rule, specifies the content of the five components mentioned aboveonly in general terms, but it also defines the whole range of possible stories by means of which an individual is able to interpret the selected sphere of life in an understandable way.

The degree of impact of the scheme on the content of the constructed story is never complete and depends on the sphere of life of the individual (the subject of construction), and also on the real sequence of events. The individual acts as a creative person in the narrative interpretation of volatile events, although his work is organized by schemes or rules of interpretation. An infinite number of narratives can be created on the basis of schemes, which, however, include a limited number of construction rules.

A narrative scheme influences an individual's cognitive processes in the same way as any other scheme, or, interpreting more broadly, imposing certain restrictions on the structure and content of the stories created by the individual. The narrative scheme acts in such a way that the individual expects the appearance of certain contents, and offers interpretation rules that carry out specific categorization and integration of these contents, as a result their mental image is formed on the basis of this scheme. The scheme allows one to “add” (usually unconsciously) the content, distorting the data of the stories (the so-called default values) in the psychology of cognition. It can therefore be said that the narrative scheme is the mechanism of the narrative construction of reality by an individual  [4].

The main function of the narrative scheme is that it governs the processes of understanding and decision making by constructing stories from incoming (and provoked by the decisions of the individual) facts. The scheme is the procedure of “reading” the event flow in such a way that they become understandable in the context of the completed story. Certain characters areacting with certain intentions in the stories, facing certain types of difficulties and having certain possibilities and chances to cope with them. The narrative scheme offers different levels of detail, and therefore the degree of determination of the content of the story by these schemes may be different.

And, coming back to the narrative understanding of the text as an already “detached experience”,we can conclude by Aldous Huxley's words that it is possible that “experience is not what happened to us, it is what you do with what happened to you”.

One of the creators of the narrative approach in psychotherapy, Michael White, considers the lives of people and their relationships as stories. Narrative therapy is a conversation, during which people “reretell”, that is, they tell in a new way their life stories. Any story is not without some degree of uncertainty and inconsistency. And no story can accommodate all life circumstances.

Any narrated text is formed as a counter text: responding, specifying, in some way reacting to other texts in an interactive situation. The discovery of these “stimulus” texts is the task of a professional who can ask questions, conduct additional researches that promote identification of  what is missing, but implied, and its further replete description.

The narrative, even the most primitive, unfolds in a triple space: the space of action in which events take place, the space of consciousness, in the inner speech of the characters involved in the action and in the space of the text itself. The triple nature of the narrative space is its integral component, which to a certain extent explains the ubiquitous presence of deception  throughout the whole story. However, the acting characters do not just cheat, they reflect, dream, doubt, and sometimes cannot separate visibility from reality. Accordingly, there is a preassigned uncertainty in any description. “... Expressions of life can be understood as a phenomenon that is created as a result of viewing, meditating, discerning objects, events, phenomena and attributing sense to them in relation to the meanings and descriptions of other objects, etc. - or in opposition to them. Thus, there is a certain duality in all descriptions. The descriptions are relational, relative, not  representative, they do not directly reproduce the events of the world, whatever those events may be. According to a similar relational understanding of any descriptions, a certain unambiguous description can be considered as the visible part of a double description, a description “from both sides”. It is exactly what is on the other side of unambiguous descriptions of life experiences, what is on the other side of the distinguishable, what the distinction depends on - this is what I call here “absent but implied” [5]. I find support for a similar understanding of the nature of descriptions in the ideas of Gregory Bateson (1980) and Jacques Derrida (1978), who defied the myth of presence, that is, an ideal and unmediated knowledge of the world, the initial presence that manifests itself in all expressions of life, represented in the descriptions of our speech and in writing” [6].The omniscient narrator, like the “observer of the obvious,” who does not take relativity into account, disappears, and “pure” reality dissolves with them. After all, the mind is never free from prejudice. There is no naive glance or gaze reaching the original reality. There are only hypotheses, versions, expected scenarios. And therefore, when searching for meaning, it can be claimed that “content is formed as a mental entity that models the fragment of reality referred to in the text” [7].

Narrative is not reflective in relation to reality. Firstly, the autobiography is a thing of value. After all, what is not valuable is not worth a story. Secondly, the story of one’s own life is a problematic narrative, in the sense that the narrator (the story-teller) and the protagonist of the narrative are one person. But this is a person who splits apart and lives in different spaces. The author enters into communication with the text, the protagonist lives and acts in a newly created reality with other significant persons. The internal extra-finding and opposite-finding of another “I” generate auto-communication in the form of a biography. “We understand by biography or autobiography (a life story) the nearest transgredient form in which I can objectify myself and my life artistically. We will consider the form of biography only in those relations where it can serve for self-objectification, that is, its being an autobiography, i.e., from the point of view of a possible coincidence of the character and the author in it, or, more precisely (the coincidence of the character and the author is contradictio in adjecto *) the author is the moment of the artistic whole and as suchhe/she cannot coincide in this whole with the character, another moment of it. The personal coincidence “in life” of the person referred to, with the person who speaks, does not eliminate the differences between these moments within the artistic whole. After all, the question is possible: how do I depict myself, unlike the question: who am I, in terms of the special character of the author in his attitude towards the character of the  story. Autobiography as a message about oneself, at least given in a seemingly related whole story, not having artistic - biographical values and pursuing objective or practical goals, also does not interest us here, wrote Mikhail Bakhtin in “Author and character in aesthetic activities” [8]. This idea is based on the fundamental stance of Bakhtin, that only in art does a person appear in their wholeness.

The aesthetic comprehension and constitution of both the external body and the soul of a person is not their expression from within, but is an artistic, creative attitude of the author-other towards him. This is a gift of another consciousness - the author-contemplator's to the personage.“... The soul as an internal whole developing in the course of time, a given, existing whole, is built in accordance with aesthetic categories; it is a spirit, as it looks from the outside, in another. ” The problem of the soul, according to Bakhtin, “is methodologically a problem of aesthetics, it cannot be a problem of psychology, the science which is devoid of evaluability and which is causal, because the soul, although it develops and establishes itself with time, is an individual, valuable and free whole; neither can it be a problem of ethics, because an ethical subject is set to itself as a value and in principle cannot be given, available, contemplated, it is I-for-myself.

<…>There is no soul as something given inside myself, there is no valuable whole present within me, I have got nothing to do with it in relation to myself; my self-reflex, because it is mine, cannot produce a soul, but only evil and fragmented subjectivity, something that shouldn't exist; my innerlife flowing through time cannot condense for myself into something valuable, dear, which must be safe and remain eternal (within myself, in my solitary and pure attitude to myself only eternal condemnation of the soul is intuitively clear, only with it I can be in solidarity from the inside)the soul descends on me, as grace upon a sinner, as a gift, undeserved and unexpected. In my spirit I can and I must only lose my soul, it can be saved not by my strength”[9].  “The wholization”(Bakhtin's term) of the soul operates in art.

In literature devoted to the issue of artistic imagery, many specific features that distinguish the artistic image from the concept are described: its specific sensual character, emotional expressiveness, and its aesthetically significant form.

The main thing for our reasoning is the difference between artistic images and non-artistic images, which are also created by imagination and are also reproductions, models of real objects and phenomena of reality in a sensual form, in “pictures” representing life “in the forms of life itself”.“The defining feature of artistic imagery, determining all the other features of it, lies precisely in the fact that it is a model of the subject.” <...>In whatever concrete type an artistic image appears, be it an image of a lyrical hero in poetry, <...>  an image of a character in any work of art - “it functions in a literary work not as an object among objects, but as a kind of subject, that is, “a creature” endowed with activity, consciousness and self-awareness, free will and uniqueness.” [10].  To affirm another “I” (my “I” in an autobiography) not as an object, but as another subject — this is precisely the formula that determines the nature of an artistic image as such.

An artistic image is the result of conscientious creative activity of the author’s imagination, the purpose of which is to objectify a given model of the subject to establish communication with other people with its help, in whose imagination these artistic quasi subjects should be recreated and “settled” there forever, like the images of Hamlet, Don Quixote, Anna Karenina live in our consciousness.

However, first of all, communication should be organized in acts of auto-communication as the author's interaction with the character, the leader and interpreter of this life, the narrator's interaction with the image of oneself in the space of life through the symbolic form of organization of this life, sometimes not dependent on the narrator. “By virtue of their construction, as well as their dependence on cultural conventions and the use of language, life stories undoubtedly reflect the dominant theories of “possible lives” that are part of the narrator’s culture.

In fact, one of the most important ways to characterize a culture is to identify the narrative models offered to it for describing the course of life.

The toolkit of any culture includes not only a stock of canonical life stories (heroes, Marthas, tricksters, etc.), but also combined formal elements — canonical positions and circumstances — from which its members can design their own life [11]. Bakhtin distinguished two types of biographical value consciousness and life design, which were schematized in the adventurous-heroic and social-everyday narratives. These are different approaches both to the life context and to “authoritative otherness”, from whose words the author recognizes a significant part of his own biography, be it birth,  family and other life events.

The author of a biography describes and interprets the events of his life from a certain stance. But the same events can be viewed from the protagonists' of the characterstances, and then we will be approaching not only the multinarrational plot, when you can look at what is written in  small print, in brackets, footnotes, comments, looking into those fragments of a personal story that the character at one time preferred not to enter into the main storylines, but which, nevertheless, have not vanished, one need only remember them and re-breathe life into them. Narrative memory is selective.

Besides, there is no idea of the “norm” in a biographical history  and no knowledge of what a person or his relationships  should be. The narrator is the author of their story and an expert in their life, since only they can decide what is preferable for them. Dialogization of the story objectifies the view on the situations of life and contributes to changing attitudes towards them. For this, an autobiography is written.

M.M. Bakhtin wrote that no author can ever give all of himself and the whole of his speech creation to the full and final will of the present or close addressees and always assumes (with greater or lesser awareness) some sort of higher authority of reciprocal understanding that can move away in different directions. In different eras and with different worldviews, this superior addressee and their ideally correct reciprocal understanding acquire various specific ideological expressions: God, absolute truth, judgment of conscience, history court, science, a professional, etc. The third is not at all something metaphysical - it is a constituent moment of the whole utterance, and can always be found in it. “Each dialogue takes place, as it were, against the background of a reciprocal understanding of the invisibly present third standing above all participants (partners) in the dialogue” [12]. The text as a subject takes the third position in the autobiography.

In his autobiography, the author is naive. In a certain, his own understanding of reality, he does not notice his own participation, does not see the presence of his knowledge, emotions, values and culture in which he was brought up. Since it is impossible to walk along the road and at the same time see yourself walking along it from a bird's-eye view. Any person can  not  know any other "world", besides the one which he learns in the process of his own interpretations. Jerome Bruner (1986) noted that in the narrative way of interpreting the world, truth relies not on the logic of arguments, but on the “lifelikeness” of cognitive facts and, it shouldbe added, their similarity to the life we experience.


Autobiography is also the author's conversation with themselves. An attempt to penetrate into the darkness of one’s consciousness (one cannot see oneself from inside) through the text. And only the aesthetic view is a holistic view of the subject in the chronotope of life. “Narrative understanding” bears the brunt of the life context and therefore is the best means (“medium”) for transmitting human experience and related contradictions.

The presentation of experience in the form of a story, a tale makes it possible to comprehend it in the interpersonal sphere, since the form of the narrative, evolved in the course of cultural development, suggests a historically mediated experience of interpersonal relationships.

A story recreates co-presence in another life. Therefore, a dialogic turn of co-being arises here, including the understanding person in other contexts. The subsequent decentration of one's own position leads to the objectification of experience. Everything objective is multidimensional, or, according to White, multistorial. But how is it possible to get to this polyseries in order to stand in opposition to one's own experience? There were invented a lot of communication techniques: from catharsis to psychodrama. A narrative that develops its functions offers a special form of organization of the experience of understanding.

If we take the view that the narrative constructs reality, the technology of the narrative can be defined as the dialogue of the situation: including others, considering the positions of these others, their experiences and relating all these positions to each other. This is what the text is created for.

Text is concentrated reality. It is a reality oriented to be understood, and therefore one should go beyond the limits of what is directly given in sensory perception. In this functional communicative integrity, the text can be considered as a communicative subject, an intermediary in auto-communication, in the author's conversation with the character. “The essence of my reasoning is as follows: culturally conditioned cognitive and linguistic processes  regulating the act of telling about one’s life to oneself, acquire the ability to structure perceptual experience, organize memory, segment and endow “life events” with purpose. In the long run, we become those autobiographical narratives by which we “speak” about our life. But due to the above mentioned cultural conditionality, we are also becoming variants of the canonical forms existing in culture. I cannot imagine a more important project of psychological research than a project dedicated to the “development of autobiography”, i.e. how our way of narrating about ourselves is changing and how the created narratives begin to regulate our way of life” [13]. Moreover, this regulation is carried out in the three spaces of textual existence: ethical, cognitive and aesthetic - through Ethos, Logos and Aphos.


  • Eko U. Zametkah na polyah Imeni rozy [Postscript to The Name of the Rose] . SPb. Simposium, 2003. P.25 [in Russian]

  • Sartr ZH.P. Toshnota [Nausea]. Ed. AST, 2017. – 320 p. [in Russian]

  • Sapogova E.E. Avtobiograficheskij narrativ v kontekste kul’turno - istoricheskoj psihologii [Autobiographical narrative in the context of cultural-historical psychology] // Cultural-historical psychology. 2005. No. 2. –P. 63–74. [in Russian]

  • Trzebinski J. Narracyjne konstruovanie rzeczywistosci //Narracja jako sposob rosumienia swiata [Narrative konstruovanie reality // Narration as a way of blasting the world] / Ed. by J. Trzebinski. – Gdansk: Gdanskie Wydawnictwo Psycologiczne, 2002. – P.17–43. [in Polish]

  • Uajt Majkl. Otsutstvuyushchee, no podrazumevaemoe. Material, predstavlennyj na konferencii po narrativnoj terapii i rabote s soobshchestvami v Adelaide v fevrale 1999 goda. Perevod Dar’i Kutuzovoj [Missing but implied. Material presented at a conference on narrative therapy and work with communities in Adelaide in February 1999. Translation of Darya Kutuzovaya] URL: https: // (access date: 01.01.2015). [in Russian]

  • White M. Narratives of therapists ’lives.Adelaide: Dulwich Center publications.1997.– P.3-24.

  • Novikov A.I. Tekst i ego smyslovye dominanty [The text and its semantic dominants]. – M .: Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2007. – P. 143. [in Russian]

  • Bakhtin M. Avtor i geroj v esteticheskoj deyatel’nosti [Author and hero in aesthetic activity], 1979. – P.132. [in Russian]

  • Bakhtin M. Avtor i geroj v esteticheskoj deyatel’nosti [Author and hero in aesthetic activity], 1979. – P.89. [in Russian]

  • Kagan M.S. Mir obshcheniya: Problema mezhsub"ektnyh otnoshenij [Communication world: The problem of intersubjective relations] .M.:Politizdat,1988. – P. 112. [in Russian]

  • Bruner Dzherom. ZHizn’ kak narrativ//Postneklassicheskaya psihologiya №1 [Life as a Narrative // Post-non-classical Psychology No. 1], Moscow: 2005. P. 15. [in Russian]

  • Bakhtin M. Estetika slovesnogo tvorchestva [Aesthetics of verbal creativity]. M .: Art, 1979. – 424 p. [in Russian]

  • Bruner Dzherom. ZHizn’ kak narrativ// Postneklassicheskaya psihologiya №1 (2) [Life as a narrative // Post-non-classical psychology №1 (2)], Moscow: 2005. Social constructivism and narrative approach. Scientific and practical journal. –P. 9-30. [in Russian]