Ambiguity and narrative

The discomfort with ambiguity and arbitrariness is equally powerful, or more so, in our need for a rational understanding of our lives. We strive to fit the events of our lives into a coherent story that accounts for our circumstances, the things that follow us, and the choices we make. Each of us has a different narrative that has many threads woven into it from our shared culture and experience of being human, as well as many distinct threads that explain the singular events of one's personal past. All these experiences influence what comes to mind in a current situation and the narrative through which you make sense of it: why nobody in my family attended college until me. Why my father never made a fortune in business. Why I'd never want to work in a corporation, or, maybe, why I would never want to work for myself. We gravitate to the narratives that best explain our emotions. In this way, narrative and memory become one. The memories we organize meaningfully become those that are better remembered. Narrative provides not only meaning but also a mental framework for imbuing future experiences andinformation with meaning, in effort shaping new memories to fit our establish constructs of the world and ourselves. The narrative of memory becomes central to our intuitions regarding the judgments we make and the actions we take. Because memory is a shape-shifter, reconciling the competing demands of emotions, suggestions, and narrative, it serves you well to stay open to the fallibility of your certainties: even your most cherished memories may not represent events in the exact way they occurred.

Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger III, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning