Reply To: I’m surprised there is no topic for Personal Mythology
Uncovering the personal myth playing out in our lives, which may differ dramatically from what we think or want our myth to be, is indeed the genius of Joseph Campbell’s mythological perspective. Though the giants in the field who preceded Joseph Campbell studied myth to understand other cultures and add to human knowledge, he was one of the first to grasp that mythology has relevance in our lives today (building on that foundation Jung laid).
I have met a few in the field of mythology who look askance at the idea of personal mythology. One scholar with a depth psychology orientation recently suggested that the concept of personal myth deceptively provides “honey-sweet ‘positive’ content for our lives”; his criticism is that one adopts a personal myth (as if it’s a conscious choice), which he sees as no more than a pleasant lie we tell ourselves.
Many of the same critics have no trouble with Jung’s recognition, after writing Symbols of Transformation, that he did not know by what myth he was living, and they applaud his subsequent determination “to get to know ‘my’ myth,” which he regarded “as my tasks of tasks . . . I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me, from what rhizome I sprang.”
Nevertheless, even though Jung uses the term “personal myth” several times in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, and elsewhere, in the exact same way as does Campbell, some (though far from all) I know with a Jungian bent dismiss the term, preferring to refer to this exclusively as the “process of individuation,” or “the symbolic life” – terms which also apply – but the implication is that Jung’s approach is distinct from Campbell’s perspective.
I suspect that is based on the perception (or perhaps projection might be the more appropriate term) that “personal mythology” has become a New Age mantra – sparkly, glittering, “honey-sweet,” and lacking in intellectual rigor.
That is far from my understanding and experience of the process of uncovering and plumbing the mythological dynamics driving and shaping my life, which turn out to be at odds with my ego perspective. “Investigating the subjective contents which are the products of unconscious processes . . . to explore the manifestations of the unconscious” (again borrowing from Jung’s description of his personal myth) can be uncomfortable and emotionally wrenching – not at all the “happy happy joy joy” misunderstanding some critics have of what they think Campbell means by personal mythology.
Your original post landed just days before we planned to unveil this new forum category, “Exploring Your Personal Mythology.” We’ve moved yours and a few relevant threads from other categories into this forum, but your comment is the one that most specifically addresses the topic. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.