Identity & Narrative

Growing in clarity about who we are as a beloved, unique, embodied person.

Discovering who we are, who we belong to, and how we live meaningful lives.

One way to understand our identity is through our life narrative—the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. Healthy spirituality produces stories that connect us to love and belonging and support us as we explore who we are in our pursuit of a thriving life. Although spirituality reminds us that we are a part of something bigger, healthy spirituality celebrates our uniqueness and individuality in the way we contribute to the world. We are too often prone toward telling negative stories about our lives and others. Science reveals that our brains have tendencies to be oriented toward fear and shame, and this can limit our growth and connections. An important aspect of spiritual health is to intentionally consider and revise our stories to be oriented around love. Healthy spirituality pursues a lens of redemption, hope, and thriving. How do you understand your unique role in contributing to this greater story?

A curated content list

Discover more about identity and narrative

Freedom from Fear: Mental Health, Justice, and Hope for an Unencumbered Life in the Black Church with Rev. Dr. Dwight Radcliff

What would it be to dream and live unencumbered? Rev. Dr. Dwight Radcliff is a pastor, community leader, and cultural theologian who wants the pages of Christian scripture to come alive to the gritty realities of justice, equity, and social transformation. Looking through the narrative vision of hip-hop and the Black church, he weaves a story of personal and communal wholeness …. holding everything together in all the tension of life … all to find thriving and spiritual health in the embodied, emotional, and empathetic now.

A Practice: Centering Prayer of Awareness

Awareness is a practice that allows us to train our mind and body, reorienting to the world around us.

An Integrated Life: Balancing Rigidity and Chaos

Thrive blogger, Amy Dunn, reflects on the concept of integration and how humans navigate the river of life, avoiding the rocky shores or rigidity and chaos.

Dr. Dwight Radcliff’s Prophetic Hip Hop Playlist

Want some of Rev. Dr. Radcliff's greatest hits from the history of hip hop? Check out the playlist here!

A Broad Place: We Do Not Live in a Shoebox

Thrive blogger, Amy Dunn, reflects on Miroslav Volf and creating a broad place in which we can grow and become.

The Makeup of a Flourishing Life

Thrive blogger, Amy Dunn, summarizes Miroslav Volf's ideas about a flourishing life.

A Practice: The Transformative Power of Reflection

Reflecting on our experiences reinforces or disrupts our internal narratives about ourselves and our perceptions of the world.

Eras: Attachment doesn’t fade with Age (Part 3)

What can the church learn from the success of Taylor Swift's Eras tour? This is Part 3 of a 3-Part Series.

Eras: No Longer Emerging but not Quite an Adult (Part 2)

What can the church learn from the success of Taylor Swift's Eras tour? Read more in Part 2 of a 3-Part Series.

Eras: What do Taylor Swift and the church have in common? (Part 1)

What can the church learn from the success of the Eras tour? Part 1 of a 3-Part Series.

A Practice: Questioning Beliefs to find Meaning

This practice provides questions to help you explore the beliefs that help you make meaning of life's circumstances.

Learning Who We Are: We Can’t Do it Alone.

Think of a coin—it has two sides, heads and tails. In the same way, individuality and relationality can be thought of as two sides of the same coin.

Meaning Making (Part 2): What Does Spirituality Have to do with Meaning-Making?

In order to assign meaning we must believe in a bigger picture.

Meaning-Making (Part 1): The Power of a Meaning-Making Mindset

The practice of meaning-making involves exploring our belief systems, especially our beliefs around spirituality, which offer a distinct and powerful role in making meaning.

The Gift of Losing your Keys: A Story of Neurodiversity

Finding a good fit between our unique qualities and our environments helps us thrive.

Does your sense-of-self and narrative support healthy spirituality?

What is the story you tell yourself about your life? Does it help you or keep you from thriving?

Want to become more present, healthy, and connected? Pay attention to your body (Part 2)

Our emotions are linked to how we make meaning of our lives, and attending to our embodied emotional selves leads to spiritual health.

Want to become more present, healthy, and connected? Pay attention to your body (Part 1)

Thrive Fellow, Lauren Van Vranken, offers practices for reconnecting to our bodies and asks us to think about our relationship to our embodied selves.

Perfectionism: Turning a Struggle into a Superpower

Why do so many people struggle with perfectionism? Dr. Kenneth Wang explains.

Adolescents and Spirituality: How Transcendent Experiences can Create Resilient Teens

Research with Compassion International yielded results explaining the assets that come from spirituality across countries and challenges.

Living at the Intersection of Joy, Meaning, and Balance

Research indicates spirituality links meaning to joy, and may provide insight into the balance and purpose we seek.

The Divine Individuality of a Thriving Life

Our environments impact how we thrive. If our environments don’t support us, what can we do to support ourselves?

Rethinking Traditional Church for a Modern Age

Pamela King reflects on the church of her youth and how it deeply formed her identity, sense of purpose, and belonging.

Waves forming in the ocean

Next Wave Spirituality: Thriving From Within and From Beyond

As the world continues to languish, Dr. Pamela King emphasizes the need for spirituality as a source of personal and societal transformation.

Father talking to his daughter

The Power of Storytelling: Shaping Future Generations with Our Past

Rodrigo Riveros discusses the importance of life stories in promoting brain development and meaning-making in adolescents.

Coping with Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Process Heartache we Don’t Understand

How can we make sense of loss and heartache? Guest blogger, Dr. Stephanie Trudeau, discusses ambiguous loss, sharing 3 ways we can cope with it.

Cactus Garden at the Getty

Third Culture Kids During Quarantine: Adaptability and Purpose

Who are third culture kids, and what helps them adapt and find purpose?

Father and son walking on road

On the Road to Healing: Meaning-Making and Beliefs

Dr. Stephanie Trudeau continues her discussion on loss, and how meaning-making and beliefs can guide us toward healing.

Ben Houltberg on Performance Based Identity

Ben Houltberg, associate professor of human development, reflects on his own journey away from over-identifying with his performance as an athlete, how performance-based identity can distort faith, and and his passion to help others learn to thrive. He was interviewed by Terry Hargrave, Evelyn and Frank Freed Professor of Marital and Family Therapy.

11 Warning Signs to Performance-Based Identity

Developmental scientist, Benjmain Houltberg outlines the warning signs that show whether an athlete suffers from performance-based identity.

Performance vs. Purpose

Benjamin Houltberg discusses the impact performance and success have on emotional wellbeing on the I Love Success Podcast.

31 Content Resources

A curated content list

Discover more about Thrive's research

Neurodiversity and Thriving: A Case Study in Theology-Informed Psychology

Author: Leidenhag, J. &  King, P. E. Abstract: The concept of ‘neurodiversity’ to speak of conditions such as autism, dyslexia, and others as differences, not disorders or pathologies, relies on a robust account of human flourishing that can incorporate these conditions. Conceptions of illness and well-being are always partially theological, whilst also having to be grounded in the empirical realities of the present time. Therefore, positive developmental psychology is a particularly apt field for developing a theology-informed psychology. This article argues that recent work in theology-engaged psychology of thriving, as opposed to subjective flourishing, is the best approach to securing a vision of well-being for neurodiverse persons.

Measuring Youth Perceptions of Being Known and Loved and Positive Youth Development: Cross-National Findings from Rwanda and El Salvador

The results provide evidence for a theory-predicated measure of youth perceptions of being known and loved and that scores for this construct covary within a nomological net specified in the Lerner and Lerner model of PYD. These findings serve international development organizations seeking theory-predicated measures for use in evaluating PYD programs in low- and middle-income countries.

Thriving with Stone Age Minds

Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Faith, and the Quest for Human Flourishing

Self-Narratives and Emotional Health among Elite Athletes

Ben Houltberg and scholars examine the role of self-narrative profiles in elite athletes' wellbeing.

Thriving Conversations in Clinical Practice

This pilot program by James Furrow promotes initiative and self-confidence in at-risk youth.

Neurodiversity and Thriving: A Case Study in Theology-Informed Psychology

Author: Leidenhag, J. &  King, P. E. Abstract: The concept of ‘neurodiversity’ to speak of conditions such as autism, dyslexia, and others as differences, not disorders or pathologies, relies on a robust account of human flourishing that can incorporate these conditions. Conceptions of illness and well-being are always partially theological, whilst also having to be grounded in the empirical realities of the present time. Therefore, positive developmental psychology is a particularly apt field for developing a theology-informed psychology. This article argues that recent work in theology-engaged psychology of thriving, as opposed to subjective flourishing, is the best approach to securing a vision of well-being for neurodiverse persons.

Measuring Youth Perceptions of Being Known and Loved and Positive Youth Development: Cross-National Findings from Rwanda and El Salvador

The results provide evidence for a theory-predicated measure of youth perceptions of being known and loved and that scores for this construct covary within a nomological net specified in the Lerner and Lerner model of PYD. These findings serve international development organizations seeking theory-predicated measures for use in evaluating PYD programs in low- and middle-income countries.

Thriving with Stone Age Minds

Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Faith, and the Quest for Human Flourishing

Self-Narratives and Emotional Health among Elite Athletes

Ben Houltberg and scholars examine the role of self-narrative profiles in elite athletes' wellbeing.

Thriving Conversations in Clinical Practice

This pilot program by James Furrow promotes initiative and self-confidence in at-risk youth.

5 Content Resources

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Learning who we are: we can’t do it alone.

Think of a coin—it has two sides, heads and tails. In the same way, individuality and relationality can be thought of as two sides of the same coin.

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