Creating a Coherent Life Story

Dr. Keith Witt Editor's Picks, How can I feel happy and fulfilled in my life?, Intrapersonal, Perspectives, Psychology, Self-Identity, Video, Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith 3 Comments



r. Keith and Corey discuss the primary goal of psychotherapy — to help people experience themselves every day as living a happy ending to their life so far, and at the very beginning of a wonderful and exciting new chapter. This goal, of course, requires a more integrated self in order to meet the inevitable challenges, triggers, and opportunities that we will encounter on the path of growing up, and for us to be able to create a cohesive and coherent life story for ourselves as we move forward.

But what is an “integrated self”?

One definition of an integrated self is never losing contact with our wise self. Wise self is the fundamental moral core of our being, just this side of our origin point (soul, atman), and just before our personality (types, attachments, habits, etc.).

Your best self–your wisest and most compassionate self–exists right now in you.

You may be embodying your wisest self as you read this. Your wisest self is a fundamental part of you that wants to choose goodness, love, courage, and commitment to people and goals. Our wisest self is our best interior guide to the universe of relationships.

I’ve observed very young children being more drawn to love and kindness than to anger and fear. I believe that our wise/compassionate self constellates early in development and never leaves us. Even more, every time we choose love over violence, truth over lies, compassion over criticism, or self-awareness over self-deception, we strengthen our wise self.

Starting from a very young age, children, in relationship with caring others, develop capacities for love and wisdom, and can often feel the differences between compassion and contempt, truth and lies, generosity and selfishness. These virtues cumulatively constitute a wise self that most humans carry deep in their adaptive unconscious (the nonconscious part of us that processes information and sends us impulses, feelings, memories, and stories in response to experiences). This wise self is curious, calm, confident, courageous, creative, and compassionate. All any of us have to do to grow well is consistently invoke and trust our wise self, which deepens and expands it.

When you develop to the point that you never lose contact with your wise self — even in extreme distress — you have an integrated consciousness and have passed a crucial developmental milestone.

Music by Justin Miles and Stuart Davis

Previous  Episodes  of  Witt  &  Wisdom
Mastery, Collaboration, and Finding Your Unique Healing Style

Mastery, Collaboration, and Finding Your Unique Healing Style

Cognitive Interpersonal Psychology Values Video Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Dr. Keith Witt and Corey deVos explore the multifaceted nature of integral psychotherapy, emphasizing the importance of therapists finding their...
Watch Now
What Makes Us Happy? Growing Toward Anti-Fragility

What Makes Us Happy? Growing Toward Anti-Fragility

Cognitive Defenses Emotional How can I feel happy and fulfilled in my life? Premium Psychology Video Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Join Keith and Corey in this enriching dialogue, as they bring forth an integral perspective on the pressing issue of...
Watch Now
+View All
Dr. Keith Witt

About Keith Witt

Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.

Notable Replies

  1. I so loved this topic today and as always found great value listening to the podcast a second time. Dr. Keith and Corey both share such great pearls of wisdom in a short time. My favorites (and i might be paraphrasing here…) :

    “i expereince myself living a happy ending of the story of my life…so far and being at the beginning of something good or wonderful happening” . I am putting this one at the top of every page in my daily diary!

    "…when we are aligned and we have a coherent autonomous autobiographical narrative (story) and committed to purpose, surrendered to be in service we have access to downloads from other places " - great motivation to stay connected to our wise self!

    (paraphrased i am sure…_) - 'An integrated consciousness never loses connection to its wise self - my interpretation … that part of me writing the great story. ’

    When i think about the times in my life when not great things happened with a prolonged slump occuring, it was because i had difficulty getting back to my postive story or instead of anticipating something wonderful happening next spending far too much time anticipating something worse. In hindsight (as pointed out in the podcast) that was me being totally disconnected from my wise self that knew better. I did not have many strategies for getting out of it.

    The advice to be in touch many times throughout the day with our wise self - just checking in is a simple and effective way to stay aligned with a life that is working out well. Since the podcast, I have been practicing that more throughout the day and feel more relaxed and somehow reassured.

    When i am in the middle of subjectively experiencing something unexpectedly aweful, Its hard to remember to reach for this more positive response but …I wonder if now that I KNOW what to do when life happens not as expected… if I will more readily remember to go there. I guess integration is the key so i am making this new practice a habit and am keeping tabs on me! :slight_smile:

    Thanks for another helpful Witt & Wisdom

  2. This was helpful for me. (Viewed today as part of the introductory Build Your Integral Life course, which is why this comes so long after the original video). Three ideas stand out for me:

    • Recently I read Van Der Kolk’s trauma book The Body Keeps the Score. Keith’s discussion of how trauma must be integrated into life story was spot on with the discussion of trauma in that book, and it helped me to draw those ideas more closely into an overall Integral framework.

    • Recently I’m been wrestling with the problem of transcending postmodernism, to allow for the reemergence of meaning-making narratives. The way I approached it in a recent historically-oriented essay was “in our current era, there can be no master narrative, yet every person must have a story to tell.” The vision behind that is perhaps the pluralism of personal stories can blend harmonically. Perhaps the “symphonic” or “choral” narrative at the collective level. Anyway, loved Keith’s POV on why each healthy person needs a story.

    • the humour about “integral d^^^ measuring” was very, very welcome. Keith and Corey do a great job keeping things light, real, and grounded, and I’m very grateful for that!

  3. Thanks for the reflections, so glad you enjoyed the discussion Robert! I hope you enjoy the rest of the BYIL course as well.

Continue the discussion at