Myths we live by
Resetting your personal myth
In the Eye of the Storm
An individual response to the Global Crisis
May 16, 2020
Ashok Bedi, M.D., Jungian Psychoanalyst
Robert BJ Jakala PH.D., Jungian Psychotherapist
In a storm, the safest place is in the eye of the storm. My colleague BJ and I will share our daily reflections on this centering process from an Analytical perspective, sharing from the repertoire of our personal and professional experience. BJ is a psychologist and a photographer and will pick an image of the day that catches him in this collective crisis. I will amplify it from a Jungian Analytical perspective. We hope that this may offer you a baby step on the path to your own unique response to this chaos.
The unconscious helps by communicating things to us, or making figurative allusions. It has other ways, too, of informing us of things which by al logic we could not possibly know. Consider synchronistic phenomena, premonitions, and dreams that come true. (Carl G. Jung, 1961, p. 302)
The wooden framework is in place before the concrete is poured. A landscape designer drew plans to be followed by the workers. They gathered supplies and made a structure that gives shape to liquid concrete. Once properly poured, it will stay within the boundaries and harden in place. Years from now, the prep work will be forgotten.
During the pandemic, my life has elements that have been destroyed or deconstructed. There is space where something used to exist, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually as well as physically. It Is my responsibility to decide how I am going to live with or fill that space. How do I deeply listen to the various voices of life offers me? In this time of a slowed down life, how do I design my future, or do I follow someone else’s design? I have time now to build a new foundation or add structures that create space for the life I desire. It begins now, in the present, not after the pandemic is over.
In the future, I can look back on this time, (just like the photo) as a time of creating a new foundation/structure/freedom in my life.
All crisis, catastrophes, trauma is the end of the existing order. The old personal program and goals we live by become redundant in the present situation. The personal myth we had lived by has now outlived its relevance. Each one of us has a personal myth or program we live by. You may call it the Archetype you live by. It is the pacemaker of your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, choices and their outcome – creating both good and bad Karma. Good Karma aligns us with our Soul. Bad Karma deviates from our Soul’s plan and intention for us. We can live the numinous aspect of our myth or the demonic side of our program. If your personal myth is the Trickster or Hermes, you can be great negotiator in service of a win/win outcome or a great manipulator in service of you win/they lose.
During the crisis, the old archetypal program may become redundant to adapt to the situation. However, this is also an opportunity to tune into a new personal myth. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to go looking for it; it comes looking for us. This is a call or prescription from the unconscious in form of a dream, symptom, relational turbulence, a synchronistic event, a movie, poem, art work, a book – something that barges into our consciousness with intensity and a sense of numinosity and compulsion. Until we respond to it, it continues to manifest in one of these forms with increasing intensity, valency and turbulence in our life order till we pay attention to it. A Medical or a Psychiatric symptom, an accident or relational breakdown are such high voltage manifestations of this Call from our Unconscious to redirect our life using a new destination and a reset in our GPS. (Campbell, 1993; Campbell, Brown, & Cousineau, 1991; Campbell, Moyers, & Flowers, 1989)
Let me share a composite case story from a long- long time ago. Michael was a sex addict. Charming and persuasive, he had made seducing vulnerable women into an art form. Finally, he met Sara and really fell in love with her. As a sex addict his personal myth was a trickster/master manipulator in love and other sectors of his life. While superficially successful, he was not at peace with himself. The old program was not working, since Sara was a soulful, independent physician and a relationship with a man was not a central priority of her life. She was not easy to manipulate. His old program as a manipulator was not helping. For the first time in his life, he felt an authentic attachment to a woman. He had the following dream:
I am in a Harley motorcycle accident. I am conscious but am told that I have few minutes of consciousness and then I will be in a coma and die. I request my E.R. physician to donate my heart to a transplant recipient. She agreed. I feel peace. Then I lost consciousness.
Paradoxically, this dream had a profound soothing impact on Michael. One interpretation of this big dream was that his old program/myth of a Trickster/Manipulator was dying. But this was replaced by the new myth of a Lover archetype – willing to sacrifice his Heart for love of a stranger. The E.R. physician was the Anima, soul guide- she helped him to make this crucial transition to a new program of his heart Chakra – the Anahata Chakra. His option now was to abdicate the manipulator archetype and embrace the lover archetype – setting the stage for a life focused on self-sacrifice rather than self-gratification. Our personal myth is in the driver’s seat of our life trajectory. Jung calls this the Archetype of the Self discussed extensively in numerous of his writings. (C. G. Jung, 1959)
Some Points to Ponder:
What foundations are in your life?
How do you know when a foundation needs reinforcement or replacement?
How do hunches inform you? Do you follow them or ignore them?
How does your foundation add to the community?
What is your present personal myth or program? E.g. Hero, Lover, Trickster etc.
During a crisis in your life, did this program work for you?
If it did not work well for you to adapt and master the situation, did you get inner guidance about a new myth or program?
How did you receive this instruction? E.g. via a dream, synchronistic event, a symptom?
How did it change your life trajectory? What changes did you make in your life goals?
How did you implement the ingredients of this new program?
Photo taken in Los Angeles, California
Campbell, J. (1993). The hero with a thousand faces. London: Fontana.
Campbell, J., Brown, S. L., & Cousineau, P. (1991). The hero’s journey : the world of Joseph Campbell : Joseph Campbell on his life and work. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
Campbell, J., Moyers, B. D., & Flowers, B. S. (1989). The power of myth. New York ; London: Doubleday.
Jung, C. G. (1959). Aion, researches into the phenomenology of the self, Volume 9 – Part 2 (Vol. 9, pt. 2). New York: Pantheon Books.
Jung, C. G. (1961). Memories, Dreams, Reflections (R. a. C. Winston, Trans. April 1989 ed.). New York: Vintage Books.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D.