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Record Type: Review   ID: 735

Personal Mythology: The Psychology of Your Evolving Self. Using Ritual, Dreams, and Imagination to Discover Your Inner Story

Feinstein, David, & Krippner, Stanley

The authors define personal mythology as "the vibrant infrastructure that informs your life, whether or not you are aware of it. Consciously or unconsciously, you live by your mythology" (p. xi). In the Foreword, June Singer observes that Feinstein and Krippner "challenge you, through the use of ritual, dreams, and story, to become aware of the mythology you are living, to confront it, and in the end to gain some mastery over it" (p. xi). She likens personal mythology to a flowering shrub: each flower is someone's personal myth. The branches are composed of family myths. The stem (or trunk) consists of the conventions of society. The human condition forms the root. When one lives mythically one becomes aware of one's collective, as well as personal origins.

The book is an outgrowth of a project conducted by Feinstein at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He compared several personal growth systems with several more traditional forms of psychotherapy and found that each tried to show people how to construct their view of themselves and their role in the world. He gave the name "personal mythology" to these constructions.

In a Prologue the authors provide an introduction to personal mythology and the aim of the book: to provide "a guide for learning to live more mythically and for dealing more effectively with the mythic dilemmas that are central to adjustment and personality development" (p. 11). Various personal rituals, such as keeping a journal, and guided imagery are described. In the first chapter the authors set forth their assumptions about personal myths and show the reader how to journey back to his or her ancestors. They describe figures and issues that are likely to arise and present a ritual for introducing the reader to his or her "inner shaman." Chapters 2-6 present 5 stages in developing one's own mythology. These stages are indicated by the chapter subtitles: "Recognizing When a Guiding Myth is no longer an Ally," "Bringing the Roots of Mythic Conflict into Focus," "Conceiving a Unifying Mythic Vision," "From Vision to Commitment," and "Weaving a Renewed Mythology into Daily Life." In Chapter 7 they provide a theoretical framework to go along with the experiential work. It synthesizes psychological information on the four sources of personal myths: biology, cultural, personal history, and transcendent experiences. An "Epilogue" is about the necessity, in order to develop oneself fully, to "engage with forces that are beyond yourself" and "a reflective involvement with the community in which you live" (p. 212). There are 3 appendixes: (A) "Enhancing the Program," (B) "A Primer for Working with Your Dreams," and (C) "When the Program Becomes Unsettling."

The section on "transcendent experiences" is very relevant to the concerns of this Journal. The authors say: "When a transcendent episode occurs, the individual is challenged to incorporate into his or her existing mythology the new understandings or inspiration that episode bestowed" (p. 196).

Publisher Information:New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988. 268p. Chap. bibl: 249-254; 9 illus; Index: 259-268; Suggested reading: 255-257
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