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Reply To: I’m surprised there is no topic for Personal Mythology


That’s good to hear, Marianne!

The first time I heard it described that way was in a MythBlast this spring, and again referenced in passing in the follow-up COHO conversation after I pointed out Campbell’s usage of personal myth wasn’t “honey-sweet” pablum, but was grounded in Jung describing and doing the same. “Individuation” and “the symbolic life” were both referenced in the response to my post.

But since then I’ve had a conversation with a different individual, a practicing psychologist who expressed similar discomfort with the term “personal myth.” He didn’t so much substitute terms, but just dismissed the idea of personal myth as a distraction from the hard work of individuation.

I don’t believe either individual has trouble with the process Campbell advocates, which again mirrors Jung’s experience; their argument is with the term itself. Seems “personal myth” suffers from the same popular misconceptions as “follow your bliss” – many touchy-feelie New Age adherents seem to have embraced that as a magic mantra, a sort of “choose your own myth and make it so” approach. Campbell himself had a problem with that. Here is a response to a question he was asked by John Lobell in an unpublished interview:

We have a lot of those, and the women who suddenly discover the goddess, they know all about the mythology of Greece and Rome and everything within all of 20 minutes, because they are themselves “the goddess” and they know by intuition all these things.   I had two lectures last night from two women who grabbed me at a party and talked me to death . . . on this subject.”

I suspect those who dismiss “personal myth” are really expressing their discomfort with popular misunderstandings of what Campbell means (much the same as Jordan Peterson’s antipathy toward the idea of “following your bliss” – what he describes isn’t how Joe uses the term, but how some lazy thinkers believe about it; turns out he reinforces those misconceptions, and is a bit of a lazy thinker himself, as he too misunderstood Campbell on this point).

I too have trouble with that – but I don’t see the solution as dropping the concepts of “personal myth” (or “follow your bliss”), but to go to greater lengths to clarify what Joseph Campbell meant.