What Story Are You Living?

By Carol S. Pearson and Hugh K. Marr

Reviewed by Devon Tomasulo, MFA

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What Story Are You Living?: A self-improvement guide for discovering and directing the unconscious influences that drive your life story is a well-organized, thoughtful book that can help raise self-awareness.  This book is based on the idea that all stories are derived from archetypes—not just the stories that we are acquainted with in literature, but also the individual stories of our lives.  Pearson and Marr define twelve main patterns and include an indicator test called the PMAI, the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator.  The PMAI is a simple questionnaire that you can take and score yourself to identify the main archetype(s) in your life.

Pearson and Marr designed this book for people who want to enrich their lives by becoming more aware of the feelings, motives, and desires that influence them.  This book has essentially two sections.  The first half is an overview of archetypal patterns and how to interpret your personal PMAI scores.  The second half of the book is an in-depth look at each individual archetype.  The structure of this book gives it the advantage of being used in two ways: immediately and as a tool to refer back to.  The first half helps you deeply understand your PMAI results (not just reading your top archetype score, but what the other scores mean, too, and how they might evolve over time), so you instantly have meaningful information.  For future use, each chapter is clearly sectioned and written at an eighth-grade reading level for easy reference.  The PMAI is not a one-time test and is, in fact, designed to be taken as often as every 6-12 months because your main archetype is likely to change as your life progresses. 

The therapeutic benefit of identifying and studying archetypes is a concept created by psychiatrist Carl Jung.  In the early 20th century, Jung “recognized the universality of characters and situations.” This idea evolved into “universal templates,” known as archetypes, which Jung (and others) saw recurring in literature, art, and the narratives of human life. According to Pearson and Marr, “Jung explored the manifestation of the psychological symbols of archetypes and their role in healing” and this led them to develop the PMAI, in order to make it easier for people to determine the pattern of their life. 

It is important to remember that this book is designed to improve your life by giving the gift of self-awareness, not by giving concrete, step-by-step advice.  Pearson and Marr carefully formatted this book to be used like a workbook.  There is plenty of space to write notes and to truly discover the psychological structure of your life.  Pearson and Marr believe that understanding your personal psychological structure “will make your individuation process—the process of finding yourself and fulfilling your potential—conscious, so that you can gain the gifts associated with maturity, success and happiness.” 

For me, the book accomplished its most important lesson in the first chapter.  I was more captivated with the idea that archetypal patterns naturally occur in human life than how it affected me personally.  But, I appreciated that Pearson and Marr strived to make this book fall within the context of real life, not just in the realm of psychological theory. The book is both adaptable and accessible—and the workbook section is far more helpful than I originally thought.

Unlike the signs of the zodiac—where you look at your one sign and then move on—this book is holistic.  The workbook section helps you make use of every archetype, even the ones that didn’t rank high on your score sheet, to build a personal psychological frame for you as you are right now. The time spent helping you interpret your PMAI results is one of the best qualities of the book because it reveals the adaptability of the test.  By making the PMAI adaptable and based on real-life situations, it is better able to create a unique profile. I thought my results were accurate and the process was enjoyable.

This book particularly focuses on how to use the PMAI as a tool for self-understanding and fulfillment.  The last chapter has a list and brief description of additional resources, but I would suggest getting a different PMAI book if you are particularly interested in the scientific statistics (such as reliability and validity studies) or how to use the PMAI as a tool for corporate team building.  There is a small section in this book on how to use PMAI results to connect with others, but I would look into the OTCI (Organizational and Team Culture Indicator) instrument if that is your main focus.

What Story Are You Living?: A self-improvement guide for discovering and directing the unconscious influences that drive your life story is a wonderful way to develop your relationship with yourself—especially if you think you have untapped potential or have been ignoring your personal needs.  As stated earlier, it is written at an eighth-grade reading level, so it is easy to absorb and understand.  The workbook section helps you to look at all parts of yourself, not just the archetypes that you identify with the most.  This is a true tool for self-discovery.  This book makes exploring the unconscious patterns of your life not only illuminating, but also fun and safe because your experienced tour guides, Pearson and Marr, are with you each step of the way.

What Story Are You Living?
By Carol S. Pearson and Hugh K. Marr
Center for Applications of Psychological Type: April 2007
Paperback; 163 pages
$24.95

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

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APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). What Story Are You Living?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-story-are-you-living-2/0004244
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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