In class, we were asked the following question, “How might writing change our perceptions of things?” Discussing this question through a dialogue with two other students, I propose the following scenario: imagine you experienced a near death experience, say you were in an automobile accident, and afterwards you are terrified of the road and exile yourself to the sidewalk. Now, what if you read a memoir about a string of car accidents that ends on a beautifully positive note, prompting the writer in you to produce a ten page, nonfiction essay that does the same thing? You have, in a sense, “healed” emotionally, but how?
In chapter six of Damasio’s “The Feeling of What Happens,” Antonio identifies an “autobiographical self,” which is based on “autobiographical memory which is constituted by implicit memories of multiple instances of individual experiences” occurring in the past and anticipated future. (Page 174) Antonio also tells us that this particular kind of self grows with each life experience and is “thus more open to refashioning.” (Page 173)
In other words, being in a car accident is a life experience that changes our autobiographical self in the form of fear for automobiles, but the great thing about this notion of the autobiographical self is that it can and does continually change as in the way writing heals in the scenario I proposed earlier. Writing can be used as a tool for refashioning our autobiographical selves.