Thursday, June 25, 2009

Self -Mythology: What Myths Do You Tell You About You?

We need stories, stories about others, stories about things smaller and bigger than we, and stories about ourselves. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves can help us reach goals and live the best life possible or they can keep us locked in fear and self-defeating behaviors. In our stories are the seeds of faith for our futures. What story are you telling you about you?

Are you the tragic victim or damsel in distress in your life's tale, waiting for the white knight who may never come, or are you the heroine who will save herself? Are you the person who is least likely to have anything amazing happen to her or him who believes that dullness is your destiny based on past life experience? Listen to your thoughts, the ones that play on loop when you're busy with daily chores. What gossip do you spread to yourself about you, what's your self-mythology?

We need not shun myth when it engages and inspires, but when a myth keeps us trapped and on the path to negative self-fulfilling prophecies, we have to let it go. One myth that I think I've told myself about myself without being consciously aware that I tell myself this story is that I am Job. Well, at least I'm half of the Job myth, the first half in which Job has boatloads of tribulation.

For no reasons other than to test me, goes the embedded thought, God's going to look down and let evil forces rip my life apart to see what I'm made of, and I believe this despite knowing I am not righteous like Job is said to have been. I've adopted the scarier side of the Judaeo-Christian God as my God partly. What does this do for me but set me up to expect the worst and by doing so I possibly do not perform at the highest level because I think I've got this Job cloud, limitations to my success? Why aim for the sky if you're only due valleys? (For those who read literally, I'm not telling you that Job is a myth. I am using the word "myth" to mean a great story that contains truth.)

However, while I've adopted Job as part of my mythology, I am drawn back to the Metis myth, the story of a goddess, Zeus's first wife, whom he swallowed because he believed a prophecy that said Metis's children would surpass him in greatness. I see in the Metis myth the desire of the controlling male to prevent the female he fears may be his superior from reaching her full potential. If you know this myth, then you know that after Zeus swallowed Metis, he developed a tormenting headache, and later the goddess of wisdom, Athena, sprang fully-grown from his head dressed in full armor.

Given some very personal experiences that I will not share here, I think there's a lesson my subconscious is trying to teach me through the Metis myth. If I embrace it, then I will have triumphed over the Job myth that haunts my mind and accept that no matter what befalls me, my dreams will bear fruit. In other words, my subconscious begs me to embrace a personal hope, not for what may happen in the afterlife, but what will happen in the physical life. A now hope.

Self-mythology, like world mythology, is rarely based on fact but suspected truths. That you are smart may be a fact. That you can achieve great goals may only be a feeling you have that motivates you to keep going, belief in a suspected truth. Have you noticed that some people take a notion to do a great thing, something others would not believe they could achieve, and they just do it? What kinds of stories do you think such people believe about themselves?

Yes, I now this will sound kind of far out and mystical to some readers, but it's as much about psychology as it is about spirituality. Others will recognize my line of thinking as not new but ancient.

In the comments section below, if you're comfortable enough to do so, please share a self-myth that you suspect holds you back. Sometimes telling our fears and the negative stories we tell ourselves about ourselves frees us to walk in clearer self-knowledge. I would be equally pleased to hear the self-mythology that has helped you to be a success.


lilalia said...

What a wonderful provocative piece. I am trying to understand whether in the writing of myths it is possible to write one's own myth. Or, are all myths written by others out of an inner need and through their personal perspective?

You write of your own Job myth, and yet I wonder if your children and family would write another one; where challenges were met and adversity faced square in the face. Writing our own myths introduces so much opportunity for inflated righteousness or exaggerated self-deprecation.

I know that we only have our stories and we need to tell these stories out loud and incessantly. You ask what sort of stories are we telling ourselves about ourselves… I’ll have to think on that one.

Thank you for such a thread to contemplate on.

Heartstrings said...

Thought provoking but it's what I've come to expect from you, Nordette. The whole thing about stories is that we get so we believe them. Shame on us. The better strategy is better said in this quote by Norman Vincent Peale: "Change your thoughts and you change your world."

jules2julie said...

My self-limiting mythology is not necessarily one that is well known, or even pre-written, but it DOES stem from the Bible. I was once very involved in Christian "work" and "living for God and proclaiming it"... every thing the new testament tells new believers to DO. But something felt too much like acting, without my heart being fully, 100% involved. I felt I spent too much time telling myself I was wrong...meanwhile, there was this urge to be able to fully embrace my own, true self and being. Wouldn't God??! The last few years I have struggled, STRUGGLED to make ends meet,and I have been extremely depressed. My MYTH is that I have wandered off the path, or away from God, so obviously, God is making it really difficult for me. I watch sermons on TV where the preacher says there is a purpose so big for me, but I cry because I feel so alone and the truth is, I don't WANT to go to church. My myth is that if I don't follow the traditional ways of my religion, then my life will be an epic failure and I will miss true joy and purpose in my life. The constant myth I tell myself is that I am missing my greatest life. :-( I hope one day to share that I moved through this and was the heroine of my own tale. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

How challenging. To begin by realizing we don't know really who we are - and then to try to find out.
I googled 'self-myth' and found you, so you know I've been thinking about this, Casteneda and Thomas Merton(!) and Neil Young 'in the desert, you can remember your name' all say something to this.
I've only so far as knowing I don't know. Oh, I used to know - everything - used to be so smart.
Now humility, surrender, and love help me to step more tenderly.
Namaste, Nordette. Thank you.

msladydeborah said...

My self-myth that has true hindering power is centered around me being truly capable.

I believe that I have a level of developed talent and untouched raw talent. The idea of connecting with the raw talent to develop it is actually the path that I am on in my real life. That does not stop me from questioning if I start to work on developing my raw talent, will I discover that I am not capable?

Now my common sense tells me that unless I make a move in that direction there is no true answer to that question.

It is a myth that can be broken down and dismantled. I have done this for the past three years of my life. Making sense of different pieces of the content has helped me to realize how big it was in my mind.

I think that it is not wise to just believe it can be easily removed. These types of myths can be hindering or empowering. I believe that is dependent on the individual response.

My language about the myth has altered over the past three years. I am in a space at the moment when the lack of is an area that needs development. I am okay with that aspect of reality because it is true. The myth is only powerful if I fall straight into the I am not capable mode of thought. It becomes empowering when I sit down and draw up a plan of development.

My self-myth is nourished on a rather lean diet. That has not always been the case. However, I realize from the existence of the myth that I have been driven to prove it is not true.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this very insightful post. As you, as well as the other commenters have shared, we all struggle with the greater and fallen angels of our psyches, the inner voices that cheer us on or hold us back. I think that this is particularly true of African American women who are forced to wear so many public masks and wear so many different shoes:-)

While you relate to Job, I tend to identify my personal mythology more with the "bad girls" of genealogy of Jesus:-) For me the most amazing women in the Bible are the women who face adversity, have a few skeletons in their closet, are often misunderstood yet overcome their circumstances to live lives of dignity & grace. I think that we can all learn from the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, Mary Magdelene and the woman with the alabaster box. In my own mythology, I try to emulate their focus and determination.

Two books that I recommend to all my friends, especially Christian women who are struggling with feelings of condemnation or feelings that God is angry at them are Marianne Williamson's, "A Woman's Worth" and Joseph Prince's book, "Destined to Reign". They will change your life. And if you're like me, you will read them annually.