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Myths and Psychology

Psychological Perspectives


Ken Silvestro

Often myths are considered nonsense, fictional and useless, and simply lacking in value and truth. As a result, most people can't understand why myths are worth reading.

Myths tell us stories that are filled with images. The stories might be descriptions of the beginning of the world, the beginning of the universe or maybe the beginning of human nature. These stories are called creation myths. Different cultures throughout the millennia all created myths – creation, as well as other types of myths. So, it's important to ask: Why did different cultures develop so many myths? Psychology provides us with an important answer.

Myths come from individuals or a group of individuals. They are creative and meaningful stories for the general culture. More accurately, myths are expressions from the unconscious (hidden) psychologies of these individuals. So, if myths are meaningful, our common, present-day beliefs that myths are fictions, or not of any value, is simply false. It seems that somewhere along the course of human development, we lost the ability to see and understand mythical meanings.

The idea is this: myths are very similar to dreams. Both are expressions from the unconscious; both are made up of symbols and both require an ability to understand the symbols to grasp the meanings. There is one major difference between myths and dreams. Myths are always meaningful for an entire society, while the meanings of dreams are usually dedicated to the individual dreamer. This is why past cultures closely followed their myths, making myths part of their everyday lives.

Clearly, if we become more familiar with the symbols in myths, we are more likely to understand the meanings of the myths. This was helpful to the people in each culture for many reasons. First, the myths provided people with a foundation or base to understand their origins. Second, the myths provided people with a sense of purpose to honor and carry the meanings forward from generation to generation. And, third, the myths provided people with deeper and greater understandings of the mystery called life.

So, take a look at your life and see if you are living with any stories. If so, perhaps you never thought of these stories as myths. Now, and most important, ask yourself about the symbolic meanings of the stories/myths in your life.


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