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Survivorship and Discourses of Identity Report

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Updated: Apr 18th, 2019


The article under analysis is called Survivorship and Discourses of Identity. The authors of the article examine the concept of continuity, as well as its role in shaping survival instincts. Being an important part of identity concept, continuity allows individuals to sustain previous experiences, views, and beliefs and preserve consistent flow of past memories and presents experiences.

The author places an emphasis on the importance of considering continuity to characterize self, identity, and memory. Alternatively, individuals who are not able to manage discontinuity will be alienated from the surrounding social environment.

Key Points of the Article

The article provides an overview of the concept of personal identity through the prism of individuals’ survival from cancer illnesses. Specifically, the author refers to the concept of personal identity in the context of continuity of memory. The analysis of the latter emphasizes the significance of introducing embodiment and free will to explain an aspect of personal identity.

Apart from internal consideration of personal identity, the concept also relies on social context. In other words, the authors explain the concept of continuity through interactions between personal identity and social system in which an individual is placed.

Further evaluation of the problem refers to the analysis of connection between identity and narratives of survivors. In this respect, extreme experiences lead to discontinuous attitude in regard to the identity. Little et al. (2000) introduce four types of discontinuity including that of memory, embodiment, existential disruption and the memory of others to define which methods and techniques can be used to maintain continuity.

As a solution, the author proposes a set of principles that could allow individuals to deal with discontinuity. To maintain identity, it is highly important for patients to adhere to the “anchor points” that would allow them to keep thinking of the previously established beliefs. The second approach to treating discontinuity implies accommodation to the extreme experiences through resumption.

This means people should re-construct their identities by envisioning their former lives in the context of the new circumstances. Incorporation is another approach proposed by the authors. It highlights the necessity to incorporate previous experience in order to bring in benefits to a new situation. Finally, future memory and alienation are also among efficient ways of treating discontinuity.

Further in the article, the authors shed light on the problem of identity identification in the narrative of survival. Indeed, survivorship is an inherent component of maintaining identity and continuity with the current moment. Various discourses of survival are represented to meet the challenges of terminally ill patients.

Critical Analysis

The methods of managing discontinuity are congruent with those introduced in the research studies by Price-Lackey and Cashman (1996) who introduces a story of a person experiencing a traumatic injury. It also introduces steps and stages that a patient had to overcome to reinvent her identity through referring to past experiences.

At the same time, the patient Jenny resorted to new patterns of behavior to adjust to critical situations in a more effective way, but with reference to the past. To understand how various narratives can allow individuals to acquire new survival mechanism, it is purposeful to refer to the research investigation introduced by Ezzy (n. d.) who considers mental illness as an extreme experience, a narrative which can undermine personal identity.

While comparing the studies of Little et al (2002) with those of Ezzy (n. d.) specific attention should be paid to the correlation between spirituality patterns and the methods of incorporation and resumption.

Though named differently, these approaches are relatively similar in terms of goals and principles. In particular, terminally ill patients, or patients with serious diseases, should be able to shape a new spirituality, a set of beliefs that will allow them to face reality and continue normal life.

In particular, they should also be able to confront further difficulties and connect their identities to former experience, as well as to adapt them to new situations. Ones again, Ezzy (n. d.) develops the principle of discontinuity through spiritual enhancement.

In the article, Little et al. (2000) focus predominantly on patients suffering from cancer to define how identity can be restored. However, no mentioning is present concerning the roles of mental illness factor leading suicide. In this respect, Owens et al. (2008) widens the context of dealing with discontinuity.

Specific attention is given to the analysis of survival mechanism that could prevent suicide and make individuals grasp sense of their previous experience to face future challenges effectively. Deeper analysis of suicide research allows us to understand how person’s identity is expressed in broader social context.

Using a method psychological autopsy, Owens et al. (2008) suggest that interviews with the victims could generate pictures of individuals’ lives that could explain their decisions to commit suicide. Such an approach can also be used to treat patients with cancer.

The analysis of related researchers has revealed a number of gaps and inconsistencies in the studies represented by Little et al. (2002). In particular, lack of evidence is represented while analyzing various narrative discourses of survival because of absence of explicit examples. Therefore, the theoretical and empirical frameworks introduced in other research articles complement the paper and widen its perspectives.

Personal Response to the Article

In general, the article highlights a set of the problem addressed, along with solutions and recommendations to treat this problem. Specific attention should be paid to consideration of identity and its major components. Enhance focus on continuity and its consequences is justified because touches on other related social and psychological problems that need especial evaluation.

While reading the article, as well as real-to-life examples introduced by the authors, I have found their research quite consistent, detailed, and interesting because of interesting prism through which the concept of identity is defined. I am also impressed at the way authors explain identity formation through maintaining continuity and enhancing past and future memories of extreme experiences.

The article has unconventional approach to treating patients who face discontinuity. In particular, I was interested in the described connection between the ability of individuals preserve continuity and the way this concept is congruent with the necessity to face changes.


In conclusion, it should be stressed that the article under analysis touches on important questions of individual perception of identity, as well as how it influences lives of individuals in broader social contexts. What is more important is that the authors have managed to integrate discourse of survival through revealing the nature of extreme experiences and their impact on personal identity.

Analyzing various solutions and approaches to dealing with discontinuity, the articles refers to various narratives of survival as powerful instruments of managing cancer disease.


Ezzy, D. (n. d.). Finding Life through Facing Death. Exploring Spirituality. 64-80.

Little, M., Paul, K., Jordens, C. F. C., & Saters, E.-J. (2002). Survivorship and Discourses of Identity. Psycho-Oncology. 11, 170-178.

Owens, C., Lambert, H., Lloyd, K., & Donovan, J. (2008). Tales of biographical disintegration: how parents make sense of their sons’ suicides. Sociology of Health and Illness. 30(2), 237-254.

Price-Lackey, P., & Cashman, J. (1996). Jenny’s Story: Reinventing Oneself Through Occupation and Narrative Configuration. Occupational Science Program, 50(1), 136-144.

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