Human Dimensions - Part 2 : Narrative Dimensions

April 17, 2017

So we continue exploring our panorama of rich and diverse human dimensions with the second part of our reflection that is, the narrative dimensions. Each dimension is introduced, related to existing scientific disciplines and portrayed by potential questions it may entail to properly assess and address the situation at hand.




We, our environment, our vision, our projects, are directly or indirectly products of the past, a past that comprises all of the phenomena and people that led to here and now. This entails a fairly sizeable amount of information to make sense of, so we build narratives. Now, by narratives, we do not mean linear stories where we can shoehorn every piece of information that vaguely looks related. By narratives, we mean threads that connect people, situations and dynamics into a diverse yet coherent sequence that span a definite period of time. The stories of the past that we build can never be fully objective and as such their content vary greatly depending on who invents them, who transmits them, and who understands them. That does not mean that all tales of the past are valid and true, but one should always look at them with a critical mindset. A clear picture is not the full picture.



Historical refers to the recent and distant past of the individual and the entities they are involved with. Rarely, if ever, does anything happen out of thin air, so it is best to take a few steps back to see what lead to such or such phenomenon.  Just as the current situation of the individual can be put in the broader social, cultural, geographical context, so can the story of the individual be put in parallel with the wider history that surrounds it, but also be connected with the history that precedes it. Everyone carries with themselves their own history and their own understanding of it, along with that of their social group, culture, nation, and so on. All of those past events, people and dynamics act as points of reference to decipher current events, people and dynamics. We need to bear in mind however, that not all history is happily shared and transmitted, and the forbidden areas of the past exert the same influence on the present as the public ones. This perspective is best explored by history and archaeology which explore, compile and analyse past data, knowledge and information.



  • How does the history of the individual, of their social group, culture, and country, shape their understanding of the world?

  • How distorted is their perception of past events?

  • Are there major events, people or dynamics that they or their social group has no knowledge of? What is the influence of these unknown elements on current events?


Genealogical refers to the distant past of the family groups the individual comes from. Families tend to be the most prominent group surrounding the individual in their younger years, and in that sense, have a great influence on him. An individual may have one or several family groups, depending on whether they have been adopted, or placed in foster care. Both biological and affective ties are important to consider in that sense. The genealogical side of the familial matter is concerned with the structure within which the individual is born, the family traditions that inhabit this structure, the knowledge, beliefs and skills that are passed on through generations, the shared or untold secrets that cannot be expressed in public, the revered or cursed ancestors that the current family members compare themselves and others to. This perspective is best explored by history and genealogy, along sub categories of psychology such as psychogenealogy and systemic therapy.



  • What are the family beliefs and traditions that have shaped the paradigm of the individual ?

  • What stories and portraits have been passed on through generations? What are the forbidden topics, characters and events that have never been mentioned?

  • What are the family figures that the individual compares themselves to, which do they aspire to become? Which do they try to avoid?


Familial refers to the comprehensive sequence of family events and dynamics that have directly involved the individual since their birth. When the individual is born, they are from the first moment the object of many expectations from their relatives.  Indeed, parents and siblings are bound to anticipate and predict up to a point how the newborn child will grow, and these anticipations cannot evade their personal desires and biases. However, it is vital to keep in mind that these expectations are not enough to influence the individual as they grow up. They are only influential from the moment that they are translated in words and actions. It is normal for a parent to have a certain inclination to see their son or daughter embrace a corporate, artistic or scientific career, but that does not mean that they will act upon it and explicitly influence their child. Beyond expectations, this dimension also considers the affective interactions within the family, exploring the emotional links between the individual and its siblings and parents, understanding how these are manifested through words, actions and emotional display, and how this emotional cluster influences the individual in their interaction with the wider world. This perspective is best explored by family and systemic therapy that considers the family as a both dynamic and stable system trying to cope with constant change.



  • What were the family expectations that surrounded the individual when they were born? How did these expectations evolve through time?

  • What was the role of the child in the family? What role did they fulfil for their parents? For their siblings?

  • What kind of emotional interactions did the individual engage in with their parents ? Did these interactions change through time? How can they be related to the way the individual interact in public or with people of other social groups?


Thus we can see that the past is filled with multiple narratives that we rarely explore or rarely question, some because we cannot, some because we do not want to. The stories of our nations, ancestors and families have shaped us as we came into this world and continue to shape us as we grow into it. They create a stream that we can chose to either follow or go against, and that choice is left to our best judgement, so the more we know, the better we can decide. Because we are not just the on the receiving end of these narratives, we are the actors and writers who continue to shape them to create the stories of tomorrow.


Next are coming the Biological Dimensions.

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