We live with so many myths around us that we often forget that’s what they are. And we’re forever creating and recreating them too, especially when it comes to people.
We grow up with them for a start; the boogie man, the tooth fairy, etc. and they quickly become embedded in our consciousness. Jung’s psychology is full of mythical figures he calls archetypes, and he analyzed in great detail the way in which those mythical figures in our collective unconscious affect us.
As children we also create our own myths; some completely imaginary and some are centred around real people: our parents and guardians are often the first subjects of our personal myth creations. When we are kids, we see our parents as gods in many respects. Eventually, that illusion is broken and they fall from grace. However, that personal myth creation doesn’t stop there.
We just have to take a closer look at our lives and see that we continue to use myths in various ways in our everyday lives. They are all around us; whether in books of fiction such as The Lord of the Rings, or films such as Star Wars, where the battle between good and evil is playing itself out through mythical representatives of those forces. And these are the just the obvious ones.
The Myth of Celebrity
Look at the myth of celebrity; we have elevated people with no specific talents to such heights in the media that all they can do once they are up there is fall — and badly! You hear people complaining all the time that a certain celebrity is famous for being famous, and that they don’t deserve to be where they are. I don’t think deserving has anything to do with it.
There is a lesson for us from this cycle of putting people up on pedestals and then tearing them down.
I believe we do that in our daily lives, in a much subtler way. I think of how much I’ve projected on to people I meet for the first time, who might have characteristics to which I aspire, like a talent for music or art, or who have status, and before long, I’m making them out to be something they’re not: perfect.
Perfection is at the core of this myth situation of putting people on pedestals and tearing them down.
The perfection we seek is that of our spirit-nature. That spirit-nature is at the core of all things and it is indeed perfect. However, through lack of understanding we confuse the quest for our perfect spirit-nature with physical expressions that might touch upon it. Hence our admiration for physical beauty.
When we tear down people we have placed on pedestals, we are in many ways subconsciously recreating when our parents or guardians fell from grace, the day we realized they are not gods.
I do think if we are to grow, we need to be responsible for the myths we create and be aware of their limitations and implications. We can continue to use myths positively, for guidance, inspiration, dreaming, or just for the sake of it. But when we start to build people to be something they, or anyone, could never be, that’s where we have to draw the line.
That process can be destructive to our relationships.
In psychological terms, they say that it takes up to two years to get to know the person you are having an intimate relationship with. Just think how many people get married long before two years of knowing each other. Then think of the high divorce rate in most Western countries. That illustrates to me how being unaware of our personal myths results in projecting false expectations of others around us, with negative consequences.
When we meet people we are interested in having as friends or lovers, it is our sole responsibility not to project false ideals on to them, and to nurture our inbuilt need for myths through more creative means such as writing, art, music, or whatever is appropriate to us, and to be aware not to make set unreasonable expectations of others. By invalidating others, we invariably invalidate ourselves.
By becoming more aware of, and hopefully more responsible for our personal myths, we can learn a lot about what moves and inspires us, and give us an insight into our deeper nature. And that can only be a good thing.