My last post was a bit of mythmaking. Something I have been doing for years, not always aware that it was that. I have mentioned, in other posts, that in the course of trying to find a safe and peaceful place inside my own being, I encountered spontaneous imaging, which resulted in several wild creatures who came to tell me their stories (actually echoes of my own). See A Tiger Named Pain in the list of categories on this site.
I did understand that I was dealing with my own imagination, and that the creatures I met there, represented pieces and parts of my own personality and psyche. Joseph Campbell, the leading Mythologist of the past century, once wrote that we are fascinated with myths and legends because they resonate within us, we relate to the echoes of our own experience, but also find guidance and usable knowledge within them.
What I do is called Personal Mythology. Exploring the myth hidden within my own ongoing experience. All myths are based on, or have some element of truth within them. A story with a purpose, a lesson to be learned, choices to be made, or that have already been made, whether good or bad. They often also include changes in thought or perspective, that might lead to changes in attitude as well as action.
For example, my last post was about a slavering monster named Joseph. He certainly wasn’t born a monster, but somehow in the course of the story, he got lost, abandoned, and reverted to primary coping mechanisms in order to survive his immediate reality. In other words, he was operating on the need to survive without a lot of thinking and posturing, just making it through his day and hoping he’d be breathing the next.
There is a great deal of symbolism in mythology, whether it be universal, cultural, or personal. It is that very symbolism that resonates within us, feels and sounds like an echo of something familiar or experienced. Something we know, but that is often blurred, made fuzzy over time and even forgetfulness.
And yes, we can forget pieces and parts of our own story, sometimes deliberately because it is too painful or uncomfortable (guilt, just one of those feelings, can be more than a bit uncomfortable) to carry within us, and sometimes because we just have too much to do, and be, in the present moment. Or, like Joseph, all of our energies are engaged in survival and there is no time or energy to reflect on what anything means at all.
Just like dreams, myths often contain several layers of meaning. As I wrote out the story, here, I was writing completely off the cuff. It was all coming from my imagination, but there were key notes inside the story itself. I was playing, relaxed, and simply enjoying myself. Until Joseph mentioned the leopard. I knew him, that leopard. Had met him years ago, as I sat silently meditating in my bedroom one day.
His name was Simon, which means “To listen with mercy”. But, the leopard I knew would not only listen, he was a sly creature and often suggested other meanings, darker twists on whatever story was being told. He frightened me, at first, but over time, I learned to listen to him, and understood that his wisdom was of a different order than that which I was acquainted with. That didn’t mean it was to be ignored simply because of the difference. It just meant that there were other possibilities that hadn’t occurred to me.
So when he waltzed into Joseph’s story, I knew I had to pay extra attention, and that this would be very important for and to me. I was already aware of that, but then realized that Joseph stumbled onto the sleeping leopard. That meant there was no intent on either part to do or cause particular harm or pain. It just happened and both of them were startled and acted on that element of self-preservation.
I had already, during the telling of the story, found a rather nasty dislike of that older sibling in the story. I had jumped to conclusions, and Simon was there to remind me that I might have gone off on a tangent that wasn’t at all a part of, or true to the story.
This whole experience, entering the swampland, confronting Joseph, going back again to explore his story, was coming from inside of me. And just as in a dream, it originated from within me and all of its pieces and parts were about me, pertained to me and to no one outside of that reality. Which meant, uncomfortably so, that the older sibling within the story was some aspect of my own person. OOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPsss.
I was the one who had sent Joseph off on a wild goose chase. I was the one who gave him that map, and the sack of candy bars. Oh my. That certainly changed all the parameters. Maybe it changed the whole experience. I so wanted to find the culprit, let him or her know the consequences and the deep pain that their actions had caused and created. And now, I am faced with knowing I was the culprit. Damn.
Mythmaking is fun on so many levels. And I do it rather well, even if I have to say it myself. One of the more important aspects of keeping a journal is that the pieces and parts of our own personal mythology are there, right there inside those pages. Carved out in words that we ourselves choose and create. Words that can and do point us back inside of our own being, as well as helping us find the pieces and parts we have lost over the years, or sent away on a wild goose chase.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian Analyst, has written that nothing is ever completely lost from the psyche. It remains, possibly hidden or buried, but it is there. Our journals are simply a means of keeping those pieces and parts, of being able to locate them far more quickly, and maybe, in that process, create a myth, a story with layered meanings, symbolic imagery, that we might finally learn from. The myths are there on its pages.
The most important person we need to meet and know is our Self. Our journal is only one of the keys. Dare you unlock it and begin that exploration?
I find Personal Mythology fascinating and non-existant in my personal experience. I do not know wether or not the myth-making is deliberate fiction, unconscious, subconscious, whatever: I just do not know. I would say I do not have the imagination, but….I probably do. Thank you for a very clear introduction to Personal Myth-making. More classes, please.
I think a class would be a terrific idea. However, I’m not sure it would be other than yourself and me. I’ve been doing it, as you know, for many years and find it an invaluable tool toward self-knowing. And I assure you, that you do not lack the imagination. There are many other issues involved, among them, self-trust, a desire to know about ones inner workings, and a bit of risk-taking energy. I assure you, that when I began this particular adventure, I didn’t see much of those elements in my being. However, the longer I continued, the more of each of them, plus others, grew. I really like the idea of a class, maybe we can work something out. It’s worth thinking about,
I was writing to you a comment. About laughter as part of Native American ideas. The comment disappeared, but I sent you a link.
Got the link and read it. I am familiar with the clown societies, but even more so the history of the jester in court life, and again The Fool of the Tarot deck. They all call us to not take ourselves quite so seriously that pride becomes more important than relationship with others.
Although I am often surprised when the trickster element shows up in my own personality, it really does help to keep things in balance and on an even keel. I see it as an important element of good health and sometimes even sanity, lol.