Managing negative personality traits by taking a mythical approach to the ego.
Reader’s Note: Mythos is defined in literature and psychology as a traditional or recurrent narrative theme or plot structure, and is not to be confused with the connotation of a myth as being a set of superstitious beliefs or assumptions about something.
Length: 1,100 words
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Archetypal Psychology focuses on the soul, (AKA the psyche, in psychological terminology), and “the fundamental fantasies that animate all life“. The intersection of the soul and mythical fantasies are considered to be the locus of the deepest patterns of psychic functioning. Archetypal Psychology attempts to recognize the myriad of fantasies and myths that have shaped and continue to shape our psychological lives. Within this framework, the ego is relativized and deliteralized, and treated as one psychological fantasy within an assemblage of fantasies.
In some cultures, these myths are comprised of gods, goddesses, demigods, heroic mortals, and even animals. In other cultures, these myths take on the form of cultural and family traditions, social philosophies, family stories, fables, or fairy tales. Even Christianity presents the archetype of Christ, and how we should to aspire to be like Him. In all cases, there is a mythical archetype that is passed down from one generation to the next. On this subject of generational transmission, the most noteworthy psychologist in Archetypal Psychology stated that,
“The power of myth, its reality, resides precisely in its power to seize and influence psychic life. The Greeks knew this so well, and so they had no depth psychology and psychopathology such as we have. They had myths. And we have no myths – instead, depth psychology and psychopathology. Therefore… psychology shows myths in modern dress and myths show our depth psychology in ancient dress.”Hillman, J. (1990) Oedipus Variations: Studies in Literature and Psychoanalysis. Spring p.90.
This statement is pretty deep and rather poetic (which makes an appeal to mythos on its own), but Hillman is right in saying that the modern generations have dispensed with the mythical truths that shape and guide our lives with a sense of meaning and purpose, and have replaced them with new myths. Put simply, our ancestors failed to impress their own mythos onto our souls, or worse, they made them seem cringeworthy to us. Sometimes this is a good thing, such as dispensing with Chivalry, but other times, good myths are lost (like marital Headship), while the new myth that arises is much worse. The Feminist Life Script is a good example of a new, bad myth which has arisen over the past few decades.
In this post, I want to shy away from cultural-wide myths, such as Feminism, Chivalry, and so on, and take this conversation to the individual, personal level, which may be of help to the reader. In particular, I want to discuss how Archetypal therapy can help us deal with the negative personality traits (and everyone has some) which do not serve us well in life.
Our Inner Daimones
According to Hillman’s concept of Archetypal Psychology, the psyche (or soul) has many directions and sources of meaning – and this can feel like an ongoing state of conflict — a struggle with one’s daimones, or more colloquially, our inner demons.
Here, I’d like to demystify the psycho mumbo jumbo by relating this to my own experiences in life.
Archetypal Therapy and Innate Personality Traits (2019 June 7)
I really have a lazy “quitter” streak, and people who know me well are surprised to see me building a house and blogging.
It’s an internal battle, and I think this is something that everyone struggles with. Maybe not with laziness, as in my case, but in some form or fashion, we all fail to live up to doing what we know we should do.
Here, I want to express my gratitude to my parents, because they taught me how to deal with this part of myself.
Both of my parents were very accomplished in their own right.
Whenever they would witness me starting to choke, they would both express their extreme intolerance of that.
My mom liked to use shame tactics. She would call me a quitter. Her methods were not very effective on me, but that was just her way of dealing with that.
My dad, a true Serbian, just sort of gave me a look of confusion and disgust.
The confusion said, “I don’t know why you’re doing this.”
The disgust said, “You’re not living up to my expectations of you as my son – a Klajic.”
My dad didn’t need to say anything. That look said it all. But at times when I was being particularly hard headed, he would give me a talk something like this.
“Yeah, I guess the Boy Scouts is really hard! Your situation kinda reminds me of when I was a prisoner of war. I remember when I sustained some permanent frostbite damage from when I had to work in the snow in the labor camp with no gloves. Then I escaped to Belgium, and then to France, and eventually made my way to the United States. I started a business and put my boys through graduate school. I often thought about quitting. Yeah, so I can understand how the Boy Scouts can be so hard.”
It was common for my Dad gave me a story about my ancestors, and what they were like, and how they dealt with various challenges in life. This put forth an age-old mythos that I was a part of, and more than that, it was up to me to continue on writing that story. Someone might say that my father was shaming me in his own way, except that it was not a false sense of shame that motivated me, but rather a sense of pride in being a part of his story.
My parents were not the only ones giving me Archetypal therapy while I was growing up. All the men in my family were tough as nails, they never EVER quit, and they always accomplished what they set out to do. Or if they didn’t, then they died trying. They built up the mythos in my mind of the Klajics being winners against all odds, and how I was supposed to fit into that mold.
This is an excellent example of Archetypal therapy. The reason I don’t lay around and do nothing, even though I am innately lazy, is because I can still remember my Dad’s face. I still remember his stories.
I know there are many people out there who are working hard in life, working two jobs to pay the bills, and so on. I’m guessing that they had a father figure who taught them this work ethic. If you are a person like this, maybe you could tell us about the mythos that drives you on.
But not everyone has a tradition of mythos in their family. Let’s suppose you now find yourself as a dad or a husband, and you didn’t have that influence from your father; you didn’t have that internal backstop to push you forward in life when you’re feeling apathetic or hopeless. If you didn’t have that kind of model while you were growing up, but you’re still doing everything you need to do, then where do you go to get your drive? What is your inspiration?