Transcending Your Personal Mythology


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In case you missed the conference, this Handout is an excerpt from my book, "Body, Mind & Psyche" and explains the concept of personal mythologies and the steps to institute change in the myths that one lives by.

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Transcending Your Personal Mythology

  1. 1. Handout for “A TRANSPERSONAL FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING CODEPENDENCE”Presentation by Dr. Sharon Joy Ng at the Evolution of Addiction Treatment Conference, Los Angeles, Dec. 8-11, 2011 Transcending One’s Personal Mythology Excerpted from “Body, Mind & Psyche: Transpersonal Approaches to Self Growth By Dr. Sharon Joy NgIdentification of Our Prevailing Myth The myth that currently guides our attitudes and behavior could be called ourprevailing myth. It is the most recent version of the developing myths that emerged fromthe integration of our experiences. "Basic postulates in...(ones)...personal theory ofreality are generalizations that were...derived...from emotionally significant experiences"in childhood and exert a significant influence in the development of later beliefs(Feinstein, et al, 1988). Human beings are often resistant to change. Stability and consistency help us tofeel safe and comfortable. The problem resides in the fact that change is inevitable. Lifepresents us with challenges, and we must meet those hurdles with the knowledge andskills necessary for this accomplishment. New information that runs counter to ourcurrent myth is either subject to defense mechanisms or is assimilated oraccommodated into our current schema--our prevailing myth. If we are attempting toassimilate, we distort events to prevent disturbance to our prevailing mythic structure.Accommodation requires that we update our previous beliefs in order to adapt moresuccessfully to the present circumstance. In the process, our old myths are refined orcompletely replaced by newly formed ones. This process is similar to Piagets theory ofschema development (Papalia & Olds, 1988).The Dialectical Process and the Emergence of a Counter Myth A dialectic is the practice of "discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a method ofintellectual investigation; the Socratic techniques of exposing false beliefs and elicitingtruth; the Platonic investigation of the eternal ideas" (Websters, 1973). This process is arudimentary element of mythology. Mythical thought flows "from an awareness ofcontradictions towards their resolution, attempting to mediate opposites and resolvethem" (Feinstein, et al, 1988). When our outer experience does not match our inner perception, conflict and itsresulting anxiety ensue. We use defense mechanisms to protect our current operatingmyth, but these actions create another potential threat--we repress the emotional energycreated from this battle and it festers within the unconsciousness. The greater ouranxiety, the more rigid our posture becomes so that we can maintain the old ways ofbeing and believing. We hold onto our old beliefs but desperately need a new answer.This psychic tension created by the polarization of two extremes and the unequaldistribution of our libido, or psychic energy, towards only one side of the picture createsthe "snap" in our minds. The more highly charged material from the unconscious flows
  2. 2. Handout for “A TRANSPERSONAL FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING CODEPENDENCE”Presentation by Dr. Sharon Joy Ng at the Evolution of Addiction Treatment Conference, Los Angeles, Dec. 8-11, 2011into the conscious mind and attempts to burst through. We may begin to act out moreextreme expressions of the unacknowledged or repressed facets of our personality.Think of the times when you did not allow yourself to do or think something because todo so evoked uncomfortable feelings. These emerging thoughts were in opposition toyour current belief system. Eventually, when we cannot stand the psychic pressureanymore, we burst and an extreme version of your former feelings pops out. This issimilar to what happens when we do not allow ourselves to say “no” to others, althoughwe really want to. When we tell others “yes” when we mean, “no” the psychic energybecomes more charged, as described in Jungs principle of entropy. This imbalancecreates a tendency to go to the opposite extreme and when you cannot say yes onemore time, you yell out, “_ell No!!” Does this sound familiar? This emerging material canbe considered the "counter myth" or antithesis to our prevailing myth. Feinstein, et al(1988) stated that counter myths often arise to support aspects of our personality thatare undeveloped because of our current mythic structure. The counter myth thus pushes"toward further expression" but will be an extreme form and must undergo the samescrutiny applied to the prevailing mythos. Symbolism can become a tool for uncovering the opposing forces we are facing atthis time. Dreams have three characteristic functions: reinforcing of the old myth,advancing the counter myth, and promoting a synthesis between the two. Dreams canbecome an avenue to reconciling the conflict. Through dreamwork we can listen to themessages emerging from the unconscious. Because of the compensatory nature ofdreams, they will be an opposing theme to that which we are currently living. Throughconscious awareness of the neglected aspects of our lives, we can integrate andsynthesize to create a mythology that is more personal and functional. Many of the people in our dreams represent other forms of our self. An older male orfemale may be the archetypes of the Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman speaking to us.These archetypes represent the wiser self that is within all of us. The inner guide leadsus to answers that are healing. By tapping into our own inner wisdom we can becomethe mediator between the old and emerging myth. Acknowledging the emerging myth,we can reevaluate our existing myth and synthesize the two to form a new myth thatincorporates the positive, workable aspects of each subsystem of belief. We glean thebest from both worlds and create new pathways for us to follow.The Process of Discovery and Revision Feinstein and Krippner (1988) described a five-stage process that delineates thepath we will traverse when our old mythologies no longer work. One constant in life ischange, and so with awareness of our need to update our mythology to accommodateour changing needs, we can implement the following model when necessary. Stage 1. This necessary first step is a recognition and identification of the conflictthat is arising due to our clinging to the old myth. The prevailing mythic structure mustfirst be identified along with the submerged counter myth. Some of the signs thatprecede this stage are "difficulties making decisions, unfamiliar fears and anxieties,puzzling dreams, self-contradictions, nagging confusion, ambivalence, and evenphysical symptoms" (Feinstein, et al, 1988). Stage 2. At this stage, the prevailing myth is examined noting its history andconsequences. We can then distinguish the illusions we are holding onto. It is a timewhen we must ask ourselves how this illusion serves us. Identifying the counter myth isalso required during this stage along with the wish fulfilling capacity of this opposing
  3. 3. Handout for “A TRANSPERSONAL FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING CODEPENDENCE”Presentation by Dr. Sharon Joy Ng at the Evolution of Addiction Treatment Conference, Los Angeles, Dec. 8-11, 2011structure. Through conscious exploration of the two myths, neither of which is entirelysatisfactory alone, thus a more workable resolution begs to be identified thatincorporates constructive elements of both myths. Stage 3. In stage three, the integration of the old myth and the counter myth begins.Resolution to the conflict identified in the first two stages is focused upon. In thisprocess, a transcendence of the old and the new is achieved. Stage 4. The choice is now ripe for a renewed mythology wherein the new mythicintegration is examined. At this point we would need to articulate and refine the newmyth sufficiently, enabling us to consciously and maturely enter into a commitment to thenewly synthesized myth. Stage 5. In this last stage, a weaving of the renewed mythology into our daily life isbegun. This requires focused attention and commitment to be our own monitor so thatwe can achieve the harmony we have mythically fashioned. We must be the guards toour old ways of "being" and the champions of our newly formed belief system. After exploring the thesis and antithesis of our present mythology, however, our jobis not done. Carl Rogers wrote, "To be what one is, is to enter fully into being a process.”Life is not static. We need to continually assess and re-assess the stories we are livingout. We must take what we have learned and develop a plan or guidance system so thatwe can have a clear path to follow--then we must act.Summary Our personal mythology was formed as we developed. We probably neverquestioned whether some of these values and ethics felt right for us, but simply tookthem on as if they were a part of us. Their influence was felt in countless ways--what wevalued in a mate (or thought we did); what we believed was feminine or masculine; ourcareer goals; biases; opinions; morals; etc. Most of us traveled along our marked pathwith these preset notions of how we should construe the world and never paused tochallenge our assumptions. When we have reached a point of crisis, however, we findan opportune moment to evaluate our goals and beliefs with our external life. Asdescribed by New York based Jungian analyst, Sylvia Perera (1990), we can descend tothe Dark Goddess and "sit, wait and rot" to discover the internal solutions to ourdilemma. Through this introspective process, we generally sense the incongruity thatexists between our gut feelings and what we have been doing. We take first one sideand then the other. We examine the paradoxes and polarities of life. By daring to involvethe dialectical process, we can assess the tasks that remain before us. Introspectionoften requires that we wait for the answers to bubble up from the unconscious, however.Thus, as we sit and wait, we allow that which is putrid to our souls to rot.For further information of how to obtain your Kindle edition of BODY, MIND & PSYCHE go to or contactSHARON JOY NG at