Who am I and what is the purpose of my life are questions that people across the world have asked themselves and each other for thousands of years. You might have a vision of who you want to be and the life that you want to live, but feel unable to change your life. If you are an artist, designer or artisan, you might be struggling to develop your own personal style of self expression. If you are trying to establish a career or build a business, you might be attempting to set yourself achievable goals that you believe will lead to success.
The Human Condition
How well do you understand other people? How well do you understand yourself? Have you ever asked yourself how other people see the world and what it means to them? Do you try to understand what motivates people to say or do something and struggle to find a reason that makes sense to you? Human beings are social creatures and yet we spend much of our life failing to understand each other or our ourselves.
How we interpret and evaluate our experiences and memories is influenced by our sense of self, which has been shaped by the society and family within which we were raised. We will have learned a set of instructions related to what is good or bad behaviour, along with skills that enable us to function as an individual. Our values will influence the decisions that we make and the course of our life.
The rules of society can differ across the world and factors such as social class can effect the home environment within which we are raised. There is also evidence that genetics can influence human development. Patterns of behaviour established as we grow to adulthood can effect how easy or difficult each individual will find they are able to achieve success in their personal or working life.
Perception of Reality
The brain could be described as an organ that creates an internal model of the external physical world, based upon input received through our senses. Our sense of self could be described as a perspective from which this reality is perceived. Our memories are formed from our perception of the experiences that we go through. However, without objective proof that we all perceive reality the same, we might each be living within our own version of reality.
Although we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of external reality, it is rational to assume that there is a real world, beyond our internal sense of self and behave accordingly. When considering the cause and effect of our behaviour, it is also logical to assume that the people we interact with are self aware individuals.
We could think of there being three basic mental models that create our sense of reality. The first being our own sense of self, whilst the other two are our perception of other people and the world within which we exist. These mental models are influenced by our recollection of accumulated memories, that were formed as a result of interaction with other people and the world around us.
Philosophy and Reality
The statement ‘I think therefore I am’ was formulated during the seventeenth century, by the French philosopher Rene Descartes. This provides a minimum knowable fact, based upon the truth that if I did not exist I could not think. We could take the view that beyond this one fact, everything else must be proved by empirical evidence, using the approach provided by the scientific method.
Mythology and Society
People living in pre-industrial societies often struggled to survive in a world which they did not understand. Mythology developed as a way of making sense out the apparent chaos around them. The stories that people passed on from generation to generation influenced their sense of self and their interactions with those around them. The lessons within such stories provided meaning, stable foundations for reality and a framework within which people could build their lives.
In the modern world science enables us to understand the world in ways that our ancestors could not. However, many people today lack an overarching vision that brings them together and gives their life meaning and purpose. Through mythology our ancestors found symbolic rather than literal representations of the world, that they could benefit from. Mythology could give people narratives that provided them with meaning and purpose in their lives. They could also explore their relationships with other people and the world around them.
Changing Your Perspective
Most of us at some point in our life struggle with doubt and uncertainty, as we try to find a sense of self and a place where we feel at home. You might feel as though decisions about who you are and how you should live have been made by other people, leaving you powerless to change things for the better. However, there are many examples of people who through changing their outlook on life have transformed the way that they live, to better reflect their true self.
Although you cannot change past experiences or alter reality, you could change the way in which you perceive past experiences. Doing so might help you to create an improved personal narrative for your life, with healthier mental models. Along with learning new skills and gaining relevant experience, this could lead to a more positive outlook on life, that can help you to achieve your goals.
Creating your own imaginary version of the real world might help you to develop a narrative that would put your life in perspective. Similar to your ancestors, having a personal mythology might help you to find your place in the world. Within your mythological stories, you could represent people and places in your life in symbolic form. This could help you to think about them in a way that is outside of your real world relationship with them.
Writing Your Own Mythology
When writing your mythology, you could include famous, historical or fictitious characters and role models who you want to emulate. Individuals from your past or present could be included, along with magical creatures or monsters, representing positive or negative forces in your life. It can be difficult when confronted by real world problems to find a way forward and it might be easier when they are represented by a quest or journey, that you will undertake in this imaginary world.
When planning a journey, you can reduce the risk of becoming lost, by knowing where you are going to begin, your destination and the path you intend travelling. The journey could be physical, intellectual, emotional or creative, and the more that you understand yourself, possible obstacles in your path and who or what might assist you, the greater the prospects for success. Within your personal mythology you could define yourself as the hero and bestow upon your character qualities that you already possess, or those that you aspire to.
The mythical prize in your mythology could represent some real life goal, such as advancing in your career, becoming a successful artist or starting your own business. You might be dissatisfied by how far apart your idealised sense of self and the life you want to live is from the reality. A personal mythical journey could involve you overcoming demons, representing forces that have held you back, or discovering talents that enable you to make your life what you want it to be.
Benefits of Your Personal Mythology
Creating a personal mythology, to change your life for the better, might seem to be an indulgence or waste of time. However, it is intended to help you think about your problems in a fresh light and from different perspectives. Free from the limitations placed upon us by ourselves or other people in ordinary life, our personal mythology allows our imagination to explore new ideas and find solutions that we might otherwise never have thought of, or would have dismissed as unrealistic. Rather than dwelling upon what you cannot do, focus upon what you can do.
Try to motivate yourself, by finding an approach that works for you. When you represent challenges and problems in your life within a mythical world that you have created, they might seem more manageable and less frightening. Ultimately you must reintegrate your personal myth with your own life, so that you can apply what you have learned to real world problems. This could provide you with inner resources that strengthen your sense of self, give your life more structure and meaning, inspire you to take positive action and help you to live a better life.
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