Self Reflective Reader Response 2
Things got much more fairytale-esque in Stage 2 of Personal Mythology. We are asked to use our mythic shields (within which we have explored the rising and falling story arc of our childhood) to write a fairytale; basically to encode it in metaphor. In years past I called this mythweaving – to weave reality and metaphor together in story with the aim of self discovery, design, and empowerment. This is one of many approaches to personal mythology I intend to expand on in the MyMythos projects.
I really enjoyed this exercise. I felt like the process of transmuting real life memories into fantasy involved rendering everything down into its archetypal essences, and so I was made aware of numerous connections, emotions, and other details that I was not previously aware of. It also seems to do a great job of organizing your thoughts and feelings on very old life events. Putting an old but significant life event into a story format gives it this cohesive beginning, middle, and end, whereas I think we normally chop these memories into many pieces, recalling each of them only on a need to know basis. Lastly, it gives us a solid foundation to being able to reframe – to turn the story around in our mind, seeing it from different perspectives, and the opportunity to choose perspectives that are less limiting to ourselves.
Something deceptively simple that this section of the book helped reveal was that we can attach to self limiting myths just as easily as neutral, or empowering myths. For instance, the fairytale that the exercise has you construct is built from narrative sections of your past including Paradise, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and My Quest, each acting as a sort of chapter name for parts of your life. I think I’ve met many people who are stuck in attaching to their Paradise Lost sections. And while those sections of life are true, they are not the whole story. Positive parts of the same story almost always include having survived Paradise Lost, having learned from it, gaining empowerment from it. But when we focus on what was lost we limit ourselves with depression, ruminations over the past, cynicism about the future, and so on.
One question that has been raised for me is that I am wondering if every value (belief?) a person assigns to themselves or others necessitates that there must be a story (a myth) behind that value, like the code behind a website. For instance, if you see Batman as a dispenser of justice (belief), what story (myth) must have you been exposed to for this assignment of value to occur? Or what about if green represents poison and illness to you? What stories did you experience to embed these beliefs? I’m becoming convinced that this is a powerful formula in the discovery of a person’s mythos.
- Locate beliefs with simple questions: What does green represent to you?
- Look further into stated beliefs to discover the story behind them: What experience(s) have you had that have contributed to these beliefs about green?
- Render the story/belief into a personal myth statement.
This is also a good opportunity to examine what counter myths may have been experienced. For instance to form a myth about justice, one must experience injustice, whether that experience is personal or through an observed story, or other medium. Though I’m not sure that all myth formations must be accompanied by counter myths. For instance the myth that foxes represent cleverness doesn’t seem to necessitate a countermyth, unless perhaps we get (too?) detailed about the subject, as one could argue that you must experience something unclever at some point in your life to be able to measure the cleverness of the fox against.
In the A Body Metaphor of Your Conflict exercise we are asked to take mythic statements from parts 1 and 2 of our fairytale and then imagine placing the myths in our hands. As you imagine holding them in your hands you attempt to sense and feel every aspect of them: are they hot or cold, rough or soft, heavy or light, etc. I found this exercise quite appealing. I felt very acquainted with the mythic statements in a way I hadn’t before, as if I knew them better through this use of imagination; and I felt as though the impact and imagery of the exercise is now a part of who I am. This is important to me. For personal mythology to have a lasting impact on my self empowerment and who I am, I feel like I must be able to carry its imagery, emotions, and logics with me; not unlike an article of clothing or jewelry.
At this point in the book I feel much better acquainted with the process. However I am both intrigued and frustrated with the fact that the exercises are so abstract, so unformulaic, so without patterned structure. It frustrates me because I like things to have defined and repeatable, simple, elegant formulas. But it also intrigues me because it very much points to personal mythology being more of an art than a science. There is only so much formula one can apply to the arts before the product is completely deprived of meaning. However this does not rule out formulae in the arts, such as the rule of thirds, or color theory, in which case you can see my attempts to discover these potentials in the bullet points above.
Something I noticed during the beginning of the book is that I don’t quite recall encountering a straight definition of what personal mythology is. If I remember correctly, it is rather explained in many different angles through what it might do for you, and through anecdotes. This isn’t necessarily bad, and I could just be plain wrong, but a more direct definition might be nice to include during the very first pages of the book. Also my wife, Tosha, and myself thought it strange that during the shield exercise we were asked to create a category for our life story titled A Renewed Vision, yet the details of how or what to fill this category out with never seemed to appear.
Regardless, since having gone through the same exercises over 15 years ago, I feel like I’m gathering far more wisdom this time around. I think this book and the practice of personal mythology are indispensable and can be approached in new exciting ways that could garner larger audiences.