Friday, July 15, 2011

James Hollis on the Importance of Mythological Knowledge in Analysis

"Myth is expressed 1) through dramatized tribal value systems, 2) through personal histories, and 3) in symptoms and complexes. No analysand will be unaffected—perhaps wounded, perhaps supported — by tribal dramas. Thus, juxtaposing the individuation imperatives of that person within the collective force field is a powerful therapeutic indicia for change, for choice, and for bringing psychic tasks to consciousness.

Who can work with the amanuensis without a sense of mythopoesis, without an awareness that this person swims in a value-laden force field which presents as concrete history but is captive to archaic dramas: the abandoned child, the wounded hero, the sacrificial lamb, and so on? Such acquired force fields usurp the agenda of the Self and bring about recurrent and predictable patterns. If both therapist and analysand are ignorant of such mythic materials, how can enlargement beyond fate occur?

Just as Jung called complexes splinter personalities, so one may call symptoms and complexes splinter, or fractile, mythologies. Each has a core energic structure, each has valence, each has an identity, each has a fractionated agenda. When evoked, each has a tendency toward the repetition compulsion, and yet each is an opening to the dynamics of pathology and a clue to the healing agenda obliged. Again, how can depth psychology be performed without a knowledge of the essential mythopoetic process of psyche?

My experience of training has suggested that most candidates are hungry for this sort of work, because it does touch them in a place where they have always lived but for which little recognition is offered. The others are merely perplexed and opaque. I have often wondered how we as trainers can perform our office if we fail to examine: 1) our personal mythic substructure which has brought each of us to this place, 2) what Hillman rightly called "the myth of analysis," 3) the mythic force field in which we move when we undertake training, and 4) where the gods really are in all this business.

As Jung observed, our work is the hardest of all, to be psychological about psychology itself. This epistemological task is most difficult and elusive for it asks us to reflect on that which consciousness with its limited capacity cannot itself envision. And that is where the study of myth, which originates outside the sphere of consciousness, but not outside the psyche, becomes necessary."
(p. 16)

James Hollis (2004). Is Something Mything: A Question Inviting Re-membrance. Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, Vol. 6, pp. 15-16.


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