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Reply To: What is Personal Mythology to you?


I tend to follow Joseph Campbell’s explanation here (which, of course, is compatible with Krippner’s):

Mythological images are the images by which the consciousness is put in touch with the unconscious. That’s what they are. When you don’t have your mythological images, or when your consciousness rejects them for some reason or other, you are out of touch with your own deepest part. I think that’s the purpose of a mythology that we can live by. We have to find the one that we are in fact living by and know what it is so that we can direct our craft with competence.

Now, many of us live by myths that guide us, myths that may prove adequate for our entire lives. For those who live by such myths, there’s no problem here. They know what their myth is: one of the great inherited religious traditions or another. In all likelihood, this myth will suffice to guide them along the path of their lives.

There are others in this world, however, for whom these guideposts lead nowhere. . . . There are others who may feel that they are living in accord with a certain system but actually are not. They go to church every Sunday and read the Bible, and yet those symbols aren’t speaking to them. The driving power is coming from something else.

You might ask yourself this question: if I were confronted with a situation of total disaster, if everything I loved and thought I lived for were devastated, what would I live for? If I were to come home, find my family murdered, my house burned up, or all my career wiped out by some disaster or another, what would sustain me? We read about these things every day, and we think, Well, that only happens to other people. But what if it happened to me? What would lead me to know that I could go on living and not just crack up and quit?

Now, what do you have in your life that would play this role for you? What is the great thing for which you would sacrifice your life? What makes you do what you do; what is the call of your life to you—do you know it? The old traditions provided this mythic support for people; it held whole culture worlds together. Every great civilization has grown out of a mythic base.

In our day, however, there is great confusion. We’re thrown back on ourselves, and we have to find that thing which, in truth, works for us as individuals.”

Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

I like your reference to working with your life stories. The way I tend to put it is that personal mythology is not a story that I tell, but the Story that is telling me . . .