I developed personal mythology as a philosophy on how to live life. It grew from my desire to give life greater meaning and as a way to give value to the people, places and things that enter our lives.
At the basic level, it is a case of perceiving your life as a novel or movie, but also as a life history as important as any other. If we see the collective reality as a story that is constantly unfolding, keeping up with news and current events to see how things develop and happen, why not do the same thing on a personal level?
In a novel or movie we see characters. Often there is a particular character in a story we relate to on some level. We look at the protagonist of a novel and see elements of ourself in him or her. Identifying with a character in this way makes the story more personal and gives it greater meaning. If we can relate to a character in a fictional story, or even a story based on actual people and events, why can we not see ourselves as the protagonist in our own life story? The following are the steps I use in understanding and building my personal mythology.
Foundations of Personal Mythology
We all have a personal mythology, whether we are conscious of it or not. We hold certain people, events and things in reverence. Some things live in our memory as either key turning points in our lives or as particularly happy or unpleasant times. My focus is on building a conscious personal reality where one actively pursues its construction, which follows my belief that if you build a house you need a plan and an image of what it will look like when complete. The difference between conscious and subconscious personal mythology is, to me, the difference between constructing a house with all the blueprints, tools, supplies and personnel needed to do it right and taking a hammer, nails and some lumber and trying to make something without knowing what it is you are making. The first step is the foundation.
- You are the protagonist. The first step is to develop a mindset that you are the protagonist of your own life story. While this may seem silly to some or maybe even egotistical, the purpose is to find focus. The protagonist of the story must survive, overcome obstacles and challenges, experience success and failure, and most importantly, must develop as the story moves forward. In some ways I consider living my life as character development with myself as the character being developed. No matter how much you care about other people, and no matter how selfless and giving you might be, you remain the most important person in your story. Nothing you do for other people can be done if you are not there. "If you give up, then what are the rest of us supposed to do?"
- Setting. Your surroundings are important. They establish focus and help define the story of your life. If you live in a northern climate with cold, snowy winters, your story will have different aspects than someone who lives on a tropical island. The snow and the cold are aspects of your setting and are part of your personal mythology as a result. If your surroundings are impacting your life in a negative way, then efforts can be made to see the setting as an issue, helping to foster efforts to change. My seven years in Florida serve as an example of the need for a "change of scenery." Weighed down by my own past and the perceptions people had of me made it difficult to move forward.
- Characters. No one is an island, and it is very difficult to write a story with only a single character. It is even more difficult to live a story where you are the only character. We have the ability to choose what kinds of characters appear in our story, but we cannot really pick them out specifically. Some people find themselves spending time and energy with people they do not really have any kind of connection with, simply out of a sense of duty or the feeling that this is what they need to do. We agree to go to events, parties, or gatherings of any kind even if we have no real interest or purpose in doing so. Personal mythology steers me away from this, just as it steers me away from endless small talk and spending hours acting like someone I simply am not. I seek out certain characters in my life, people I can relate to and with whom I can develop meaningful connections. I do not exclude people, I simply do not pursue the roads I know will not take me where I want to go. It is important to remember that you cannot write any character in your story other than yourself. You cannot make others act as you want or expect them to act, but you can change your perspective and focus to accept them as they are and to see them as important for reasons other than what you might have initially expected. Consider others as being the protagonists of their own stories and treat them with the same respect you would ask of them.
The plot. Your life is a collection of storylines, some of them longer than others. When events begin to unfold, personal mythology directs me towards seeing the events and determining where I want to take them. Unlike writing a novel, you cannot decide on where the scene is going, or what route events will take. Once again, unless you are dealing with events completely on your own, you have to be flexible and adapt to changes and the influence of others. You can see an available job and decide it is the perfect job and become determined to get the job, but even if you do everything right with your resume and interview, the decision about who is hired for the job or not is not yours. When a decision is not ours to make, we must accept this and move on. Essentially, we must revise the plot in accordance with the decisions and actions of others, which is the art of reinterpretation. Accept what is not meant to be and move on. Do not waste time chasing dead storylines.
Elements of Collective Reality
Once you establish the basics of plot, character and setting, it becomes important to understand the medium in which you are working. Every medium has its limitations and its strengths. In writing, we must create visuals with words, whereas a painter must convey meaning through visuals alone. Our medium involves personal reality and collective reality and the negotiations that must occur between the two. The collective reality is broken down into the following three elements, or levels:
- Collective Core: The core beliefs of a collective reality. Those things which cannot be truly questioned unless you break with the collective reality. The sky is blue. People drive cars on the roads. It is raining outside. If you drink that jug of paint thinner, you will die. Breaking with the collective core is dangerous. At best you get labelled as odd. At worst, you find yourself institutionalized or being beaten to death by an angry mob. In order for individuals to function within a collective reality, they must accept the collective core as the foundation on which construction begins and not mark it for demolition. The exception is pioneers, those who have the vision and ability to change the collective core. At one time the collective core accepted that the world was flat until pioneers changed that perception. At one time the collective core held that manned flight was impossible by any means until pioneers changed that perception.
- Collective Mythology: Beliefs shared by a collective of people, often organized, like a religion or other established group. These elements are not universally accepted as truth by the collective reality as a whole. The collective mythology is generally accepted or tolerated by the collective core even if the entire collective core does not accept it as truth. The need to eat to stay alive is part of the collective core, but fasting is accepted when it is part of a collective mythology on some level. While religion is the most obvious example, there are many other varieties of collective mythologies. People who think Bob Dylan is a genius are part of a collective mythology because there are many who either think he's an annoying babbler or never even give him a moment's thought. Those who embrace him as a genius of his art become part of a collective that holds a socially acceptable view that is not universally recognized as truth.
- Shared Mythology: Elements accepted by individuals other than yourself that may not be believed by any recognized collective. A family legend, something experienced by two friends while together, a secret kept between certain individuals, anything on this level. Being in love is creating a shared mythology. This category covers elements of a personal mythology that are supported and understood by other individuals. People on my mother's side of the family always seem to look much younger than they are. My grandmother claims this is the result of a strange Norwegian gene passed down from her ancestors. This is a shared mythology, since we have no other explanation for our inability to look our age and this reasoning is as good as any so we more or less accept it as truth. The adventure you went on with two friends when you were in grade school that ended in disaster and a vow to never speak of what you did to others is a shared mythology between the three persons involved.
Your negotiations with the collective reality need to take into account these different levels of the collective reality. If you are able to identify elements of the collective reality within these categories, you can grow to understand how they may be negotiated with. For best results, leave the collective core alone, respect collective mythologies instead of challenging them, and enjoy the shared mythologies people weave tales about over a beer or two. Do it all without losing sight of yourself.
Elements of Personal Reality
While the collective reality consists of elements we must be able to relate to on some level, whether it is acceptance of the collective core or understanding that there is nothing wrong with people having perceptions that are different than your own, personal reality consists of what we accept within ourselves as our truths. While these elements will drive us towards seeking others who can understand and those who share these perceptions, they are first established within the self.
We often allow others to dictate our personal reality. If you are brought up in a home where everyone is a devout follower of a religion, you are influenced by this and are likely to develop the same kind of beliefs. If you are around people who listen to a specific kind of music, you are likely to get interested in that music yourself.
The reason for personal rebellion, which happens to a higher degree in the teenage years because we are still forming our personal reality, is the need to shake off beliefs and perceptions that we feel we are being forced to accept. As we get older we learn to rebel in less obvious and less blatant ways, but we still rebel. If everyone in the office where you work loves to listen to the country music station and you cannot stand the sound of country music, you will eventually rebel. How you rebel becomes important, whether you throw an absolute fit and demand they turn the music off or you try to negotiate a solution that everyone can live with.
- Personal Core: Just as the collective reality has core elements, so does personal reality. These core elements are made up of those things we believe in as individuals that cannot be changed or abandoned. They can be changed, but I believe that only very traumatic events can bring about such change. My death experience was a profoundly life-changing event and permanently altered my personal core. The personal core is the source of most of our arguments and fights with others because we are unwilling to bend in our belief in them. The key is in understanding that another person's personal core reality is just as valid as your own.
- Learned elements. The people, ideas and beliefs we are exposed to and taught play a key role in constructing our personal reality. A person who experienced humiliating sexual harassment in the workplace will have a different reaction to a story about sexual harassment than someone who experienced someone making false claims about such harassment. I once worked in an office where a female co-worker had a habit of drinking on her lunch break and coming back to work drunk. As she was about to get fired for it, she filed a sexual harassment claim against another co-worker that had no basis in reality. This, combined with the fact that I've been falsely accused of attempted rape, makes me skeptical of such claims because of my experience. It is important that I look objectively at such things, but my first reaction is one of doubt, simply because of learned elements of my personal reality.
- Shared Mythology: Just as in the collective reality, personal realities have shared elements. If you believed a house was haunted and others shared in this belief, this would be a shared mythology because it cannot be proven to be true within the collective reality. People who experience "miracles" together have a shared mythology. Beyond that, friendship and love is a shared mythology between two or more people. If Bob is in love with Barbara, he cannot prove it to Sam. Bob may do wonderful things for Barbara and be devoted to her, but the love itself cannot be proven to exist to the rest of the world.
The differences between personal and collective realities have a number of dimensions. At the extremes, you can see the pure collective reality, what is accepted as real by everyone, as well as pure personal reality, what is accepted as truth by only one person. There are a number of levels, which can be seen through the divisions above. Consider a terrible famine on the other side of the world. You read about it in the paper or see details and pictures on the evening news, but you do not experience it. To you, it is an abstract concept. You may feel great sorrow for these people and feel a desire to help them, but it is not real to you. It is real to them. It is their collective reality, the one experienced by those who are directly impacted by the famine. The collective reality of people living in New York City or San Francisco is not the same as that experienced by people living in Ethiopia or Iraq. There is an overall collective reality, but within different settings the experience of that collective reality changes. You might be annoyed when you can't get a cup of iced coffee with extra cream and extra sugar one morning, this is your reality, and for you this is a major problem. It is something a person living in a small village ravished by disease and famine cannot possibly comprehend, just as you cannot comprehend their experience.
Where we often go wrong is with the nature of the old "finish your dinner because there are starving kids in China" mentality. If you have eaten your fill and there is plenty of food available, cleaning your plate means very little. It is important to appreciate what you have and to count your blessings, but we blur the lines when we either assume to understand or claim to understand that which we have not directly experienced. Academic people make this error on a fairly consistent basis, something that becomes obvious when you see wealthy, educated people claiming to understand the plight of the poor people using statistics and documentation to ascertain an understanding of actual events and problems in the world. Look at how many college graduates come out of college thinking they have the solutions to the world's problems and imagine they are to be found in books. You have a right to an opinion on all things, but you cannot understand anything you have never personally experienced. No matter how much reading and research I do and how many images I see, it is impossible for me to understand what it is like to be pregnant. This is something we often lose sight of.
Construction of Personal Mythology
Having awareness of your personal mythology is the first step in construction of a conscious mythology. The second step is accepting the equal validity of the personal mythology of others. Once you accept that your beliefs, views and truths do not apply to all people universally, you are on the right track. The foundation has been poured and construction can begin.
Understanding your capabilities and limitations is the next important step. We all have certain talents, things we have a "true calling" for that we are very good at doing. Some people are creative and artistic. There are those who are good with tools and have skill with mechanical things like cars and appliances. Focus on your skills and talents, honing them and using them as effectively as possible. Your skills and abilities are your gift to the people around you. If you have a strong aptitude for fixing cars and enjoy working on cars, then focus on becoming better at it. If you have little aptitude for working on cars and hate getting your hands greasy, then it isn't something you need to focus on doing. Find your talents and what you enjoy doing and seek a way for this to be a benefit to your life and those around you. Frustration occurs when we work to do or achieve something we simply either lack the aptitude for or that we do not enjoy doing. It isn't always possible to avoid doing things we do not enjoy and struggle with, but in our life focus we can steer ourselves away from wasting our time on roads we would rather not travel.
- Memory. Memory is far from a perfect recollection of events as they happened. Our memories tend to omit or forget details. They tend to merge with other memories, confusing details from each, as well as being subject to our own perspective and our limited capacity for storage. How we relate to memory is important, even if the memory is incomplete or incorrect. Memories become like fables, based on real events and shaded by how we process and remember them. They are not absolute truth. If we could see videotape of our memories as they really happened, we might be surprised at how actual events and details unfolded. If you have ever talked to someone about a memory, someone who was a part of the events that comprised that memory, they are likely to remember it in a different way than we do. In personal mythology, memory is used as a tool. It is our imperfect image of the past, but it is how we believe events transpired. Memory becomes the land of legends and fables, the stories of what made us who we are today. Whether we remember things as they really happened or not, we believe in our memories and therefore they are completely valid in a mythological sense until someone shows us otherwise.
- Eras. Seeing our lives as a collection of eras is a valuable tool for sorting memories as well as understanding the roads we have travelled. An era can be marked by many things, whether we refer to our college years, relationships, jobs, or what car we were driving. You can mark an era by where you lived, "The Blue House Era," is just as valuable as "The Diane Era" or "The Pontiac Era." By breaking down the past into eras and marking them as we go along, we can understand their significance. We miss the blue house. We miss Diane. We miss that old Pontiac. It was an era, and eras are meant to pass, but they are not meant to be forgotten. What was it about the blue house we miss? What was it about Diane we miss? You can't go out and buy a blue house, a Pontiac and comb the personals for someone named Diane. It won't be the same. There was something deeper in these eras that made them special.
- Relics. A relic can be an important reminder of the significance of a memory or era. We hold onto things for sentimental reasons and some of these things hold greater meaning than others. If you've ever found something you saved in an old drawer or closet and you no longer remember why, the significance has likely passed. Other relics are very dear to us and we would never knowingly part with them. There are those we display proudly and share with others and then there are those we keep to ourselves. I am a relic collector, but each time I move, there are those I leave behind and then there are those I would never dream of parting with.
- Parables and Lessons: The past gives us the structure for interpreting its meaning in the present. What we learn over the course of our lives deeply impacts the decisions we make in the present tense. Someone gives you advice when you are a kid and thirty years later it influences a decision you make. You took a sharp right turn too fast one day and went off the side of the road. Today you take those corners a bit slower. You can consider anything that goes wrong in your life to be a lesson that will help you in days to come. When things go wrong it is not defeat, it is a challenge to rise up to. We learn from the people we meet and the experiences we have. Sometimes instead of realizing we need to learn from our experiences, we put all our weight on them and attempt to make flowers grow in the desert. Anything that has already happened no longer matters. It is a lesson to be learned if we wish to make the best of the present.
- Obstacles and Quests: Obstacles appear in our lives that keep us from attaining or reaching our goals and aspirations. Sometimes these obstacles are difficult to overcome and sometimes we give up. Our commitment to our goal determines how willing we are to commit more time and energy. When something is important and means enough, it can become a quest, an aspiration to climb towards. A quest is honorable and important, but it must not impose itself on others. Going on a quest to win the love of someone who hates your guts isn't going to get you anywhere. Going on a quest to get a promotion you aren't qualified for is a waste of time unless fulfilling the qualifications and proving yourself worthy is part of the quest. A quest must meet the challenge, not ignore its conditions.
- Accepting Limitations. We all have our talents and skills as well as limitations. Part of living in the present tense is that we must accept that we have these limitations. Someone I know once told a friend of mine that he could do anything, so my friend asked him, "Can I play in the NBA?" He was 5'6" and fifty years old. You can do anything you have the right skills, talents and aptitude for, but you cannot do anything. Some limitations can be overcome, but there are times when you must accept limitations for what they are instead of fighting against them. Swim with the tide, not against it. This also involves realizing that once you have done all you can do, there is no point in "crying over spilled milk." If you can't make it to the party in time, or you can't pay a bill or you can't get your car started, the quicker you accept your inability to do these things, the quicker you can evaluate the alternatives. You'll be late for the party. No one wants you there that early anyway. If you can't get the car started, maybe there is another way to get to work. Many years ago I spent a great deal of time frustrated, trying to get my car to start on a very cold winter's day in New England. I was so determined to get it to start and get to work that I waved off a co-worker who lived down the street who was offering me a ride. The longer we wait to find alternative solutions and paths, the more pass us by.
- Alternative Paths. When we meet obstacles and challenges, we tend to focus on how we are accustomed to dealing with such problems. If we are able to step back, take a deep breath and analyze the situation, we may find that there is something we did not see in the heat of the moment. Think outside the box. Think outside your own box. Expand your horizons and open yourself to all the possibilities. When one door closes, another opens, but you won't realize this if you spend all your time banging on locked doors. Use your past experiences and the teachings you have received from others to find an alternative path. Sometimes we need to escape our own way of doing things and examine how others who are more successful at the same aims are finding that success.
- Reinterpretation: The dangers of a personal mythology tend to run along the lines of obsession and raised expectations. An easy mistake to be made while following your personal mythology as a map to your life is that you will attempt to force situations to work out and grow frustrated with efforts to remove obstacles and overcome limitations. With or without personal mythology, you will hit road blocks and brick walls in life. This is the nature of the game. Not every road can be followed and not every path leads where you want it to go. You must know when to fold your cards and stop putting money on the table. When you reach the point where you see that your quest cannot be fulfilled, you tend to see yourself either as a quitter or a failure, but sometimes it is not meant to be.
To overcome such issues, and to see beyond obstacles and limitations, you need to reinterpret your personal mythology. It is yours and it can be retabulated at any time. In essence, the outcome that resulted from the situation you faced, whether it was the inability to fulfill a quest or an obstacle you could not overcome, must be accepted. Everything that happens was meant to happen or it would not happen. Therefore, what happened is the correct outcome of the situation. You tried to get the promotion, but it went to Mr. Gonsalves. You tried as hard as possible to walk again after your accident, but it was physically impossible. You tried to run that marathon, but you passed out on the first hill.
From one perspective, you failed, but from the perspective of reinterpretation, what happened was the only possible outcome. It now becomes a lesson, and maybe the lesson will help you overcome similar obstacles or challenges in the future, or maybe the lesson is that the obstacle can never be overcome and you must learn to live within your limitations. In any event, there is no point in being upset over what was the only thing that could have possibly happened, but a period of mourning is always respectable within personal mythology, whether you mourn the death of a loved one or you lose your favorite baseball glove after wearing it in every game you've played since high school.
- Mysticism and Metaphysics: Whatever you truly believe in exists within your personal mythology. Once you have internalized anything as "truth," it exists. You know that you had a chili dog that afternoon you went to the park on your lunch break. No one you know saw you eat the chili dog. If they were to challenge you and tell you they did not believe you ate a chili dog in the park at lunch, you would not change your belief simply because they did not accept it. Everything is a chili dog. Once you truly believe in something and accept it as real, it becomes real within the context of your reality, whether it is eating a chili dog, believing in God or that you can predict your future through tarot card readings. Your truth determines your path and our beliefs are the backdrop for our continuing life experience.
There are a wide variety of tools already in existence that can help us shape the more mystical side of our experience. At some point in their lives, most people go on a quest to understand "what it all means." Sometimes they will comb through all existing beliefs and methods used by others. A person can develop a faith in astrology or palm reading, come to believe that Jesus of Nazareth died for their sins, or any of a million options in existing belief systems that cannot be proven true within the collective core.
It is your faith that makes it real. The true skeptic will see nothing in explorations of mystical elements, as the nature of his perception of reality has already discounted them. Using astrology as an example, believing in something gives it power within your personal mythology. If you plan your life by the positions of the planets and stars, following a course mapped out by your astrological chart, this becomes ensconced in your reality. In this sense, it becomes real. It becomes truth. You will begin to filter it, automatically rejecting what does not compute in your reality and focusing on what does compute. You absorb the element, in this case astrology, into your personal reality and shape it by your own perception. Your faith in astrology is different than that of another person because you are internalizing it in a different manner. You may use it as a component in making decisions, part of a collective of mystical and metaphysical systems used in chorus with each other. When a major decision or crossroads is faced in life, you may use all the elements at your disposal and utilize them in the fashion in which you accept and perceive them. Maybe you find astrology amusing and interesting but have little or no faith in it as truth, but when things go wrong in your relationship with the pretty red-haired girl, the incompatibility of your astrological signs can be helpful in letting go. "Well, it looks like astrology was right on this one, old chums."
Where we often make the mistake is in thinking with an "all or nothing" mentality. There are those who strongly believe you must fully accept any religion, philosophy or belief system you embrace. To these individuals, constructing your own belief system does not compute. Limiting yourself to an all or nothing approach to belief systems is severely restraining, and may require you to accept, on the surface, elements of that belief system you do not believe in simply because the other elements make sense to you. It is of no benefit to individuals to feel they must accept elements of belief simply because they are tied to elements they accept and relate to. In order for individuals to advance and to understand their own perspective and reality, our thinking must change to discount the all or nothing mentality. I personally find great power in the words and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and yet when I discuss elements of his teachings with others, I often run into a brick wall. This brick wall is comprised of responses like, "Well, I'm not into that whole Hell thing and the coming back to judge the world crap." Is it worth losing so many people who could benefit and learn from these teachings over an all or nothing mentality? We need to welcome everyone to our table. Consider a large group of people sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. Not everyone likes cranberry sauce. Not everyone wants a slice of pumpkin pie. There may be someone at the table who is a vegetarian and therefore will not partake in the turkey. Do we exclude them from the table because of this?
- Faith-Based Initiatives: An individual may experience, see, or believe in something they cannot prove to others. It is part of their life experience as an individual and their belief and acceptance of these elements is based on their faith in them. These are elements that are directly related and descended from one's strongest and most sacred beliefs. Someone who believes God spared their son from death is dealing with faith-based initiatives. Their son was about to die and suddenly revived. They believe God is merciful and just. Combining the events with the faith creates a connection whereas they can explain what happened through their personal mythology. It is a more vibrant and meaningful experience than that of the person who does not see a miracle, but instead says, "I guess the meds worked."
- Relationships: Our orbit of others over the course of our lives develops relationships with them of some kind. The word "relationships" tends to mean a romantic coupling in the modern day, but I prefer to think of it as meaning how we relate to and connect with any of the people in our lives.
In personal mythology, our relationships sometimes require that we negotiate and reinterpret. In order to relate to people, essentially we must be able to relate to them. Just as it is dangerous to withdraw from the collective reality, it is dangerous to attempt to orbit with and connect with someone who doesn't understand what you think or feel. Basically, we need to make sense to each other on some level.
We see people through our personal mythology. We see them as meaning something, no matter how conscious we are of our own mythology. A woman who sees herself as a princess seeking a prince within her mythology will not be satisfied being with someone who is not a prince. It isn't a literal question, but one of interpretation. The people we become closest to in life fulfill an aspect of our mythology, whether we are talking about the need for a best friend who gets our humor or the prince and the princess, we place them in a predefined role. If we don't have the characters to bring the story together, we have no story. At the same time we must accept the limitations and the differences in the individual compared to expectations or images. If you are seeking to connect romantically with a person who has determined their partner on that level must meet certain criteria you do not meet, you will have to attempt to overcome their personal mythology to do so. Remembering this keeps us from beating our head against the wall.
We will, in some way, whether it is conscious or not, seek fulfillment of our own mythology through other people. We may see it as self-fulfilling prophesy, but we are gravitating towards those who appear to meet certain criteria.
Balance and Ceremony: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." For peace of mind, and in order to reduce stress and conflict, one must find a sense of balance in their lives and their personal mythology. A thousand unfulfilled quests leaves an individual without real focus and in a constant state of striving, in a sense, burning them out. What you devote yourself to and attempt to achieve must be within your limitations or it will overwhelm you. With this in mind comes the concept of ceremony, a celebration of achievements and milestones and a call for a break in the action. Reward yourself as well as others, reminding them as well as yourself, that we deserve to be rewarded and recognized. "Celebrate the moments of your life," as the old instant coffee commercial used to tell us. If we simply jump from one project to the next, from one quest to another, from one rung on the ladder to the next without taking pause, we lose perspective, balance and rob ourselves of the chance to understand why we aspire to these things.
Your perspective is important and it determines how you utilize and process personal mythology. It may be easier for some to see it as a role-playing game where you play the role of yourself. This is your life and it is ending one day at a time. Make it an adventure.
Utilization: Once you have put all the elements together, the big question remains. How can I utilize all these components to create a meaningful and useful personal mythology? Being conscious of your personal mythology and manipulating it in order to focus on what is important to you in life can be a powerful tool. It can help you let go easier when you need to let go. It can help you channel grief and disappointment. Personal mythology can take many flavors, from the totally fantastic to a sensible and quiet tale. It is how you wish to perceive it, in a way that you can relate to and understand. Sometimes people will compare themselves to a character in a film and use the model of that character for their own call to perseverence.
In a sense, personal mythology can be any number of things and can work for anyone in any belief system. A highly religious person can more deeply embrace their faith and treat it as something truly personal. The type of person who accepts nothing without proof and considers themselves rational and logical can use it to process memories and use examples from the past as building blocks for the future. A creative and imaginative person can create fluid and adventurous stories and images that make up what he or she loves about their life's history. The tale of how you and your best friend went into the woods that night and found that tree fort the older bullies built and stole back the book bag they took from you at school is as exciting within personal mythology as any of the heroes of novels or stories from history. Your hearts were racing, you were nervous and afraid. What if they showed up? Would they kill you for breaking into their tree fort? What else was going on in these woods? What if there was a psychopath lurking in the dark? That night was one of the most exciting and dangerous of your life, but instead of relegating it to the rusty file drawers of yesterday, it can be a thrilling element of your personal mythology.
Beyond that, personal mythology can be utilized to enhance memory. Consider how fans of certain movies or television series will know every detail of the story and the characters. Look at fans of Star Trek and Star Wars who know every last detail of the universes these stories take place in. If you apply the same method of memory and understanding to your own life story by seeing it in the same way, you are able to remember more details because you are remembering for more reasons. Like the collection of stories that make up the Arthurian legends, your life can be broken down into tales that are more than one scene from memory. "The tale of how we made it through the summer of 1985 without any money," becomes part of a collection of tales that are interrelated. A reunion of old friends becomes like a Star Trek convention and you don't want to have details from the old stories wrong. You've met to celebrate your shared life experience and what you have meant to each other over the course of your independent personal mythologies. Whether you make your life a rich tapestry or a dirty facecloth is up to you. It is all good. Rock and roll.