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Research Article  |   April 1996
Transformative Narratives: From Victimic to Agentic Life Plots
Author Affiliations
  • Donald E. Polkinghorne, PhD, is Professor of Counseling Psychology, Division of Counseling Psychology, School of Education, University of Southern California, Waite Phillips Hall #503, Los Angeles, California 90089-0031
Article Information
Research
Research Article   |   April 1996
Transformative Narratives: From Victimic to Agentic Life Plots
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 1996, Vol. 50, 299-305. doi:10.5014/ajot.50.4.299
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 1996, Vol. 50, 299-305. doi:10.5014/ajot.50.4.299
Abstract

Basic to occupational engagement is a person’s personal power to author choices. Impairment in functioning moves some clients from an agentic identity of self to a victimic identity. The change in identity causes previously self-directed clients to adopt a passive and acquiescent stance toward their lives. The recovery of occupational functioning includes the restoration of the person’s sense of agency. Recent developments in self theory emphasize the self as a process rather than a substance or thing. Narrative is the discourse mode most able to express identity as a process. Victimic identity is manifest in a self-story in which protagonists have lost power to affect change in their lives; agentic identity is manifest in self-stories of active agency. A study of clients’ rehabilitation by Cochran and Laub found that clients’ change from victimic to agentic identity moves through four phases: incompleteness, positioning, actualizing, and completion.