How to Write a Psychoautobiography Paper
A psychoautobiography differs from a standard autobiography in that you'll be analyzing how you became who you are today through a framework of psychological theory. By the time you're done, you'll have a better understanding of the role of narrative storytelling in psychology and of your own life. Different instructors have different expectations for a psychoautobiography paper; make sure you understand what your instructor wants.
A psychoautobiography should start with a description of who you are now. Be as objective as you can in describing your strengths and weaknesses. It should answer the question: If someone met you for the first time today, who would they be meeting? Your introduction should also state and briefly describe the psychological theories you will apply, such as psychoanalytical, behavioral or humanistic.
Organize Your Story
Choose a framework around which to organize your story. A thematic approach is organized around an aspect of your life, such as your sexuality or spiritual experience, and it sees other experiences through the lens of this theme. A chronological structure is an expanded timeline of your overall experience. Or you could frame the story along the lines of a particular psychological theory or theories. Once you have an organizing framework, you will have a clearer sense of what to include and what to leave out.
A psychoautobiography includes an overview of life circumstances that are often considered important factors in creating personality. This section will describe your parents and their marriage, your siblings, the kind of town you grew up in and your family's role in the community. It delves into your educational and social life outside your family, romantic and sexual encounters, spiritual experiences and early jobs. Think of it as the backdrop or context that needs to be in place before you focus on specific details.
Re-examine your description of yourself and your story, and consider which events are most responsible for the traits you have described. You might be a defender of underdogs because your parent was or because you have vivid memories of being bullied. You might be punctual because the importance of it was drilled into you or because someone's lateness affected your life in a memorably bad way. Narrate these experiences in detail, making connections between them and the person you are today.
Explain how the experiences and the traits that resulted from them fit into a relevant theory of psychology. You might believe you experienced Oedipal trauma. Perhaps you were supported or deprived of help with navigating Erikson's stages of development. A repeated experience might have conditioned your behavior in a particular way. Demonstrate your understanding of the theory you are applying and use specific examples to illustrate how what happened to you and who you were when it happened intersected in ways that support or contradict this theory.
Wrap It Up
Revisit the "Who am I?" section you wrote in your introduction. Summarize the ways in which the stories you have chosen to include created the personality you have described. Bring it current with a reflection on the experience of writing a psychoautobiographical essay.
Anne Pyburn Craig has written for a range of regional and local publications ranging from in-depth local investigative journalism to parenting, business, real estate and green building publications. She frequently writes tourism and lifestyle articles for chamber of commerce publications and is a respected book reviewer.