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The Redemptive SelfStories Americans Live By$
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Dan P. McAdams

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195176933

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176933.001.0001

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CONTAMINATED PLOTS, VICIOUS CIRCLES

CONTAMINATED PLOTS, VICIOUS CIRCLES

Chapter:
(p.209) Eight CONTAMINATED PLOTS, VICIOUS CIRCLES
Source:
The Redemptive Self
Author(s):

Dan P. McAdams

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176933.003.0009

This chapter considers the life stories of American adults who score low on psychological tests measuring generativity. Research suggests that less generative adults tend to construct life stories that feature contamination sequences — scenes that begin very good but become irrevocably ruined or spoiled — and circular plots wherein protagonists fail to show progress or growth over time. The chapter traces the ideas of contamination sequences and circular narratives in the theoretical writings of Freud and Silvan Tomkins, and describes efforts to undo contamination in life stories of recovery, rehabilitation, and reform. Among the most powerful redemptive narratives in contemporary American culture are those associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and criminals' efforts to reform their lives.

Keywords:   contamination, stagnation, repetition compulsion, Silvan Tomkins, Alcoholics Anonymous, criminal desistance, narratives of reform

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