Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on December 16, 2013

I am not shy about daring to coin new words, such as the verb, “neologize”—to create neologisms, which means “new words.” Today I’ll put out for your assessment the word, “mythification,” meaning to generate mythic-type ideas or mages.

I see a trend in our culture towards mythification that has been advancing especially since the mid-1960s. Yes, drugs may have accelerated this, but really it was born from the post-war world of science fiction and comic books, accelerated by Tolkien, fed by Disney, and in the ‘70s, Star Trek and the first of the Star Wars movies. It was accelerated further by the Harry Potter series and a multitude of knock-offs in the children’s literature, by the Monsters, Inc., and other movies. I dare say it’s a trend that gives more energy to fantasy than ever before.

Of course, humans have always generated myths—I daresay it’s a human thing to do, an archetype. There was a surge of fairy tales and paintings in late 19th century Victorian England, a fair number of faery books and stories, culminating in the Peter Pan stories of the early 20th centuries. The two World Wars and the Depression in the middle seems to have diverted overt mythification, but the actualities of world events and the propaganda associated with these events as really rather replete with mythic activity, taken as real. With more affluence, there has been more room for this archetypal function to re-emerge.

(Indeed, much of history has been infused with myth, if we broaden our perspectives to imagine the rhetoric and imagery behind many popular worldviews ranging from liberation talk to the romantic-ization of royalty and tradition, from the underlying economic and religious rationalization for colonialism to the many and varied social trends throughout the ages, etc.)

I do think that the imaginative mind channels archetypal dynamics, and the inclination to dream, pretend, sublimate into writing stories and making movies, and in other ways expressing these workings of the mind is what I mean by “mythification.” Now even self-help books such as Colette Baron-Reid’s 2011 book, The map: finding the magic and meaning in the story of your life (Carlsbad, California: Hay House), which integrates magical thinking with self-help. What intrigues me is that the author is not inviting us to “really” believe her techniques. They’re presented as useful metaphors. She speaks of goblins and other figures, as if they were complexes that may be imagined as entities that can be dialogued with or turned away from. It’s a way to externalize and cope with dynamic functions of our own minds, obviously. But this evident fiction makes these techniques no less effective.

Baron-Reid speaks of the goblin as facets of the wounded, fearful ego, and relates this to what Jung called the “shadow” complex. On page 60-68, she describes these dynamics, and then re-frames a number of psychiatric conditions, quasi-addictive disorders, as types of goblins. Bulimia, Ancestral, Chatterbox—these “goblins” are described on pages 68 – 76.

The author of this self-help book that uses mythification also mentions helpful allies such as “the bone collector” or “the gentle gardener.” Several others are named on pages 86-88. Thus she populates an “inner landscape and its inhabitants.” Good for her! In the next chapter she encourages conversations with these characters.

Another book that has a similar edge is titled A Master Class in Gremlin-Taming, by Rick Carson (2008, Collins ), which is an entirely different book that updates a 1984 book he wrote, Taming Your Gremlin. Same literary device: imagine some elements of your neurosis as an external character who you happen to more or less buy into.

I see analogies to a number of psychotherapeutic and para-therapeutic activities that involve mythical interactions, psychodramas, and such—people enacting that which could never happen in reality, but strangely enough, generate results that are taken into everyday life. Thus, in this book, Baron-Reid offer a variety of transformational strategies for getting around the blocks that hinder your progress: mythification in the service of self-help.

I have dared to innovate in this way, calling my tendencies to cling to stuff the “Gollum” complex, for example—taking that from the gremlin-like character in the Tolkien stories and, more recently, movies.

In summary, we are opening the discourse to use a kind of mythic or imaginative metaphor to relate to what had previously been framed as a form of twisted thinking. It’s so common, really, that sickness is not a good frame: Buddhist writers are closer, I think: It is human to become caught up in illusion and human to try to think of ways to liberate ourselves.

One Response to ““Mythification””

  • Sheila Rubin says:

    Hi Adam Interesting ideas- Mythical, story and Psycho therapeutic becoming your new word – mythification as a just named way to include and integrate stories and myths into daily life and therapy- really like this new word am excited to use it when teaching!

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