Narrative self-constitution and vulnerability to co-authoring

Doug McConnell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


All people are vulnerable to having their self-concepts shaped by others. This article investigates that vulnerability using a theory of narrative self-constitution. According to narrative self-constitution, people depend on others to develop and maintain skills of self-narration and they are vulnerable to having the content of their self-narratives co-authored by others. This theoretical framework highlights how vulnerability to co-authoring is essential to developing a self-narrative and, thus, the possibility of autonomy. However, this vulnerability equally entails that co-authors can undermine autonomy by contributing disvalued content to the agent’s self-narrative and undermining her authorial skills. I illustrate these processes with the first-hand reports of several women who survived sexual abuse as children. Their narratives of survival and healing reveal the challenges involved in (re)developing the skills required to manage vulnerability to co-authoring and how others can help in this process. Finally, I discuss some of the implications of co-authoring for the healthcare professional and the therapeutic relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-43
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical Medicine and Bioethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Autonomy
  • Co-authoring
  • Narrative
  • Vulnerability


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