Personal mythology

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Origin of The Phrase[edit]

In 1926, Carl Einstein used the term "private mythology" to describe the worldview of the painter Paul Klee, especially as Klee formulated it in his world. The term "personal myth" was first introduced into the psychotherapeutic literature by Ernst Kris in 1956 to describe certain elusive dimensions of the human personality that he felt psychoanalysts need to consider if their attempts to bring about change were to be effective and lasting. Carl Jung (1963) began his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections by writing, "Thus it is that I have now undertaken, in my eighty-third year, to tell my personal myth".[1] In 1965 Arthur Warmoth wrote about the way certain memorable human experiences may become personal myths, fulfilling on a personal level functions that cultural myths have historically performed for entire societies. Warmoth's colleagues Sall Raspberry and Robert Greenway (1970) spoke of "the personal myths of one's dreams," observing that dreams and myths arise "from the same places... in the human psyche" (pp. 54–55). James Hillman (1971, p. 43) used the term in his psychological commentary on Gopi Krishna's autobiography.

Sam Keen and Anne Valley Fox (1973) produced the first comprehensive self-help book that enabled its readers to "tell their own story." In addition, the concept of personal mythology resonates with Eric Berne's (1961) notion of "scripts," Albert Ellis' (1962) description of irrational belief systems, George Kelly's (1963) personal construct theory, Theodore Sarbin's (1986) emphasis on narrative psychology, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's (Csikszentmihalyi & Beattie, 1979) concept of "life themes.".

In 1973, Rollo May remarked that "the underlying function of psychotherapy is the indirect reinterpretation and remolding of the patient's symbols and myths" (p. 342). And in 1975 he added, "The individual must define his or her own values according to personal myths...Authentic values for a given patient emerge out of the personal myth of that patient." According to May (1975), psychotherapy can best be described as the collaboration between therapist and patient in the adventure of exploring the patient's awareness of himself and others. "The person can then cultivate his own awareness of his personal myth, which will yield his values and identity as well as give him some shared basis for interpersonal relationships" (p. 706). McLeester (1976, p. 8) applied the concept to dream interpretation, stating, "In dreams we can discover our "personal myth." the story... underlying our daily lives." Ullman and Zimmerman (1979) applied the personal myth concept to dream interpretation, writing that it is the nature of dreams to expose and puncture dysfunctional myths while illuminating the self-deceptive strategies one uses to avoid initiating a more functional pattern of behavior.

Since the early 1970s, David Feinstein has been operationalizing the "personal mythology" construct, having developed a five stage model for teaching individuals to systematically examine, evaluate, and transform their guiding mythologies (Feinstein, 1979). Expanding on his study of the underlying mythic contents of forty-six systems of psychotherapy and personal growth (conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), he has been advancing the term "personal mythology" in describing the individual's evolving construction of inner reality.[2]

Working with consciousness researcher Dr. Stanley Krippner PhD, Feinstein and Krippner's 1988 book, Personal Mythology, guided readers through the program they developed in workshops taught throughout the world. Its 3rd edition[3] was the U.S. Book News 2007 Psychology/Mental Health Book of the Year.

Krippner describes personal mythology as "... an approach to personal transformation using the development of participants' personal stories about existential human issues for self healing and personal growth. There are also cultural, institutional, ethnic, and familial myths which influence our personal myths. We use our stories as personal myths. Often they can be found through our dreams, where we are often informed long before we know intellectually. There are four factors that influence personal myths: biology, culture, interpersonal experiences, and transpersonal experiences and how to work with them. By identifying, evaluating, and transforming dysfunctional myths, beliefs, and worldviews, and working with them you can transform them. "[4]


  1. ^ Jung, C. G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1963),3.
  2. ^ Personal Mythology, Psychological Perspectives, Journal of the Division of Humanistic Psychology, The American Psychological Association, 1990, No. 2, 139-140.
  3. ^ Feinstein, D. & Krippner, S. Personal Mythology (Energy Psychology Press, 2008)
  4. ^ The Interior Dialogue by Stanley Krippner, Transitions 2009 No. 1 pgs 4-7