Personal mythology and reinterpretation
Personal mythology is the development of your life as the story behind who you are today. Consider your life to be as valuable and precious as any legend. Some of the stories of your life take on greater value and influence as time goes on. Sometimes we spice up the stories a little, but sometimes we don't need to. When you embrace your personal mythology as something valuable and true, something you can build the present on with an eye towards the future, then you have power and purpose. It is your purpose to fulfill the promise of personal mythology and realize the meaning of your hopes and dreams.
You can find value and meaning in all of the people, events and things that have been in your life. It can be as easy as celebrating the memories of your life as it has been lived up to the present moment of time. What about the sad moments? What about the angry moments? What about loss, regret, disappointment and failure?
These things have their place.
Reinterpretation is a term I use to describe the phenomenon. The moments that seem to go wrong in life never really went wrong. We just interpreted them as having gone wrong. Everything is determined by perception. Everything we come to understand follows our own perception, whether it is personal perception or a collective perception. It is wrong when a person dies young. Losing a lot of money in an investment deal is a terrible thing. Getting divorced is a sign of failure at being married. We lament and grieve over these things, but do we need to lament and grieve loss and disappointment?
Within the context of personal mythology, where your past life is looked on in a mythological context, these things find their place. The major highs, the major lows, the minor highs, the minor lows and everything in between take their position. Whenever you tell a story of events from the past, you are storytelling within the context of personal mythology. These are the things that shaped you. Even random odd things that have happened shape personal mythology. Wisdom, it is said, is the sum of personal experience. How would we learn anything if everything always went right, or as planned? Are mistakes and failures just as important as victories and successes?
What reinterpretation does is go back over events that have happened. We do not have the power to change the past. We cannot undo something that was done. The move was made. Let the pieces fall as they may. You may be able to react to the aftermath of the decision that was made, but you cannot undo it. Things that happen stay happened. It is up to you how you will now perceive the events from the perspective of the present moment. Something embarrassing or humiliating may have happened to you at some point in your life. Do you still cringe when you remember it? When you reflect on the experience, do you realize that in the present time you are less likely to fall into the same type of embarrassing behavior? If you were taken in by some kind of sales scam in the past, lost a lot of money and thought yourself a fool, do you realize that you are now likely much more discriminating when it comes to these kinds of decisions? At the same time, your experience, when put in a positive perspective through personal mythology, can be of benefit to others. Others in your orbit may face similar circumstances and your knowledge and experience could be of benefit to them.
Get back: The present tense
"If only I could go back and do it again with what I know now..."
A lot of people lament and obsess about mistakes and bad moves they have made in the past. Fantasies about going back and "making things right" travel through our consciousness from time to time. One change here and another one over there and life is so much better right about now. The truth is that you have that chance. Situations will rise again. What you know now, as a result of things that have happened in your personal mythology, will help you make different decisions the next time.
If there is a hole in the sidewalk between your workplace and where you go for lunch, how many times are you going to step in the hole? Sometimes it takes more than one misstep into the hole in the sidewalk before you start avoiding it. The repetition of the situation will burn a memory in your mind. You might find yourself easily sidestepping a larger and more dangerous hole in the future. Life works on this same principle. You must learn how to deal with situations before you are able to face them confidently. Mistakes teach us. Success elevates us to a new level. The new level brings with it a new set of tests and trials. We're working our way through a maze.
Fear of failure keeps us from jumping. Fear of loss and of death keeps us from taking risks. We don't move with the kind of authority and daring that we could be. Those that do find themselves either living behind the dumpster or walking with the rich and famous. Either brings with it a new set of tests and trials. We're taught that fame and fortune are success personified. This is just another level of tests. So is being down and out and living on the streets. Life continues. It just hands us a different test sheet.
Wherever you are, that's where you are.
You can't be anywhere other than where you are right now. It is the only place you could possibly be. Sure, you could have taken that invitation. You could still be with that love interest who walked out on you last Tuesday. However, you are where you are right now. This is where you are. You cannot be anywhere else. You could never have been anywhere else. You are where you are right now because that is where you are. The past doesn't change. It brought you here. You are here because here is where you are.
The path not taken doesn't exist
Dismiss the thoughts of other paths you could have taken and what you could have done differently. Just be in the present tense. Be who you are, where you are, right now. Nothing else is possible. The present always is exactly what it is. The decisions you will make in the present will define where you are in the future, but they cannot change where you are right now. The only decisions you have made are the ones that have brought you to right here, right now. Accept where you are. This is necessary before you can embrace personal mythology and reinterpretation.
It is important to break ourselves of the habit of trying to change the present tense. We're always trying to figure out what else we could be doing instead of being where we are right now. It is important to drink in the moment and reflect as we plan forward movement. Why are we where we are right now and where are we going in the future?
One of the leading causes of depression is an obsession with perceived failures of the past coupled with a habit of repeating the same mistakes while sensing you are your mistakes. The inability to deal with loss or unwanted change sends an individual on a self-defeating spiral. The loss has happened. The unwanted change happened, but while that change may have been unwanted, there is other change that can happen that may be more positive. Sometimes one event creates a chain reaction. If one thing didn't go wrong, something else would not have gone right. There is a chain of events throughout our lives. One element impacts another, and that impacts another, onwards into infinity. Loss must happen. Things cannot always go as planned, but this doesn't mean that somewhere down the road the chain reaction will not set us on a course we would have not otherwise discovered.
Reflection through reinterpretation steps beyond harping on failure and loss and changes the perspective. The perspective is simple. I am where I am right now and I cannot change that. What I do from this moment on will shape where I go from here.
Personal mythology: The rise and fall of key players
In my early twenties I was involved in a relationship with a woman that lasted three and a half years. The first two years were very good. In the third year things began to change. We became distant and needed more space. We moved in to together, for financial reasons more than as a decision that we were ready for such a step. The final six months were a nightmare. There was no trust. There was suspicion and paranoia. Eventually, I caught her with another man. For years I hated her and cursed her name because I felt she had done me wrong and violated what was between us.
For years I harbored anger and resentment. I had been done wrong. She screwed me over. She was having sex with another man in our living room. She left me high and dry. It deeply impacted how I related to other women over the next five years. Fear, paranoia, suspicion and insecurity plagued my relationships with women after the split with Lisa.
After I had been through many personal changes, I reinterpreted our relationship. Lisa had become a part of my personal mythology. The story of how I met her, by leaving a rose and a note on her car windshield, acting like it was my car hitting on her car, has become a legend. Sometimes I wonder if it really happened that way because almost twenty years later it feels like I read it in a book. The mad early days of our romance made me feel alive. I was truly happy during the first year of our relationship. It was as if nothing could have gone wrong. It was the time when I thought I could lead a normal life.
Personal mythology takes into account two things, the personal and the mythological. It was an era of my life. During that period, from the spring of 1986 through the end of 1989, much of my life was framed through my relationship with Lisa. It is difficult for me to tell any story from that time period that does not in some way involve or relate to her. Most of the changes and key elements of my life during that time period would not have been possible if she had not been there. I would not be where I am right now if she had not played her part in my personal mythology. Maybe I would have been "better off." Maybe not. Maybe I would simply be somewhere else with a different set of beliefs, ideals and goals. Her impact on me over that time period cannot be written off as meaningless simply because our relationship ended badly. This is the mistake we make. We write off too much of our personal mythology because we are hurt, disappointed or angry about the end result.
The negative focus on events of the past tends to zero in on the "what other people did to me" victim meter. Most people, when they tell stories from their personal mythology, will in some way credit themselves for things that go right. The same people will focus on the negative impact other people had. "We would still have that account if it wasn't for Brenner's fuck up..." meets "...and that's how I saved the account."
People like to tell stories that make them look good. They like telling stories that make other people look bad. When they tell a story about their own gaffes in life, they'll give it a humorous spin. For years, when I told the Lisa story to people, I layered it heavily in a tone of her deceiving me. I was an innocent victim, or so I portrayed myself. I was anything but. For the previous year I had been chasing after other women, from the soccer coach at the college I was working at to a former girlfriend who was in the Air Force. In our end game discussions, we openly confessed that the end of our relationship had become a case of knowing that eventually one of us would get caught. We both knew what was going on but had yet to catch the other "in the act." For years I conveniently left out all mention of my dalliances. My complete lack of interest in the relationship, which I made clear to her, was irrelevant.
I put this moment here.
Personal mythology validates events of the past. They have value for what they are as well as for what they were. What happens is that we forget we are carving the personal mythology for our future within our present. We forget that things are temporary. We forget things change. The problem is we wake up every morning and expect everything to continue as it was, except when we are hoping for some kind of positive change to take place. People leave the workplace. People move away. People pass on. Things break. Cars get sold or scrapped. Houses are sold. You lose the lucky charm on your key chain. You get sick. Everything changes. Nothing really ever stays the same. The moment, in and of itself, is personal mythology. A perfect moment is worth ten thousand static lives.
It is that moment.
Count the moments of your life you would most like to revisit. I'm talking about those memories that linger forever. The moment is key, not the relative importance of the particulars of the moment to anyone else. This is your personal mythology. Other people's opinions don't mean anything. That summer you got a bomb pop from the ice cream truck every afternoon can be just as meaningful a memory as any other. It is perspective that matters. It is what it means to your soul, not how you measure its importance in the relative scheme of the collective reality. Personal mythology is yours.
Bask in the moment.
Recall personal mythology
Feel the story within yourself
It is alive within you
Embrace it with passion and a smile
Now that you can feel it you can reinterpret it
Bring the positive moments of your personal mythology up to bat first. What do they mean? Why were they so special to that they linger in your consciousness so many years later? How come when I get a bomb pop now it doesn't taste like the ecstasy I knew during the summer of 1977? Things have their time and their place. The desire, the craving, and the waiting made the daily bomb pop special during the summer of 1977. It was a time that came and went and was special for so many reasons and yet all you really remember of it is the bomb pop. It was only a piece of that time in your life, but it is the strongest memory of that time you had. It became the signature for that point of your personal mythology. A happy memory that dominates what you can recall from the summer of 1977.
Signature memories from personal mythology are interesting creatures. Some of them seem pertinent to the story of our lives. Others, like the bomb pop, seem to be almost silly in retrospect. The way memory works, the bomb pop ritual may have only gone on for a week or two, but you now recall it as something you did every day for the entire summer. Maybe you have clouded memories of other events that summer that you cannot remember very clearly. The bomb pop is the most powerful. The signature memory doesn't always seem to make sense, at least on the surface, but within personal mythology things like the bomb pop of 1977 have symbolic value. Only you can determine the meaning of its symbolism.
The positive moments are ones to recall and savor, but there is a dangerous side. Some memories can reinforce negative behavior. You can cling to a memory in an effort to keep it "alive" in the present tense. A man whose wife dies unexpectedly may be unwilling to let go of her in the present tense and let her become a key element of personal mythology. This sounds cold on the front burner, but it does not need to be. He isn't being asked to forget and invalidate her, but in the present tense he cannot have what he misses and longs for. It is not possible. Would his wife have wanted him to spend his time lamenting and mourning her absence? Would she want to remain the powerful memory that inspires him forward through the rest of his life? This is the choice.
Moving on, moving up
Thought: No one can compare to her.
Reinterpretation: No one needs to compare to her. That time has passed. It was a beautiful time worth remembering, but the present is now. That era has come to a close. This is a different era. Create the new era.
Reinterpretation sees no reason for revenge. It is a useless act. If someone commits a wrong against you, it does not need to be avenged. The wrong has happened. It cannot be changed. Moving forward involves learning how to avoid allowing someone to do such wrong again. You learn how not to be the victim. Everything you face in life will not be sunshine and lemon drops. There will be the bad cards. You have to learn how to avoid letting them be played against you. These wrongs can make you stronger. They can also make you weaker when you destabilize the system in order to seek vengeance.
The death of the man's wife can become a negative element in his personal mythology. "Why did she have to die? It isn't fair." The present tense does not allow for this to be changed. It has happened and nothing can be done to reverse what has happened. He can either continue to be upset and angry about her death or he can reinterpret. When a person graduates from life, they leave behind the life they led. They leave behind their shared personal mythology. If the man can accept that the life he shared with her was good and worthy of memory, then her purpose is fulfilled. The mark she left can shine on him in the present tense. The memory can be one of negative energy, regret, mourning and anger. The memory can be one of positive energy, happy memories, valuable lessons and strengthening of character. This is the choice. The original interpretation or the reinterpretation, which will you choose?
You are permanent.
Everything else is temporary.
Understanding and accepting this is important before you can embrace the art of reinterpretation. The only person, place or thing that you have control over is yourself. You can attempt to exert control over other people and things, but this control will always be temporary. Change happens.
The tendency to attempt to extend positive eras in our lives causes them to burn out rather than evolve naturally. A passionate summer romance sours when we try to keep it going. A regular Friday night ritual we followed every Friday for three months suddenly loses its magic. The most delicious pie you ever tasted doesn't taste so good when you try to force one more slice into your stomach after you're full.
We want the moments to last longer, even when we accept that they won't last forever. We try to squeeze one more drop of wine out of the wine sponge. Things run their course. Things end. How we handle that ending is important, but how we view the events through personal mythology and our reinterpretation of their meaning in the present tense is what really matters.
The most simple form of reinterpretation involves waiting until you put a moment from the past into perspective and looking at it in a positive light. More advanced reinterpretation can create situations where a single moment, person or series of events in one's personal mythology is reinterpreted numerous times.
Some people are very static. They are set in their ways and refuse to change their opinions or statements even as new information comes to light. The conservative personality is one that attempts to keep change from happening. It is a reactionary personality because it reacts to change rather than enabling it. A change of perspective or the introduction of new knowledge can alter an interpretation. This may require you to admit you were wrong about your previous interpretation. Some see this as a weakness. They feel you need to cling to your statements and your beliefs, even in the face of evidence that shows the original interpretation doesn't hold up.
You can be wrong. It isn't a weakness or a fault. You worked with the information and knowledge you had at the time. You believed your interpretation was correct at the time, but now that interpretation takes its place in your personal mythology. You must reinterpret again in the face of this new information. The new reinterpretation may need to be re-evaluated and changed in the future. New knowledge and information you are not currently aware of may become known at that time. Mistakes are the teacher. If you don't make any, you don't learn anything.
You can invest yourself in initial interpretations. You can do this because you know this interpretation may change and you accept this. You can give life to your personal mythology by seeing things in vibrant colors and energy. If they don't become what you interpret them to be, you can reinterpret. I do this with relative ease these days. The end result is that I'm almost never disappointed. When I am the disappointment rarely lasts longer than one night. A period of mourning is granted for these times of disappointment and loss. It is within the period of mourning that I most often discover the new interpretation. For me, the period of mourning is important, but it is always brief. It is a time to collect energy, reinterpret the event and move forward. Once I process and reinterpret the data, I am energized and ready to move forward.
To be successful, you must accept a wide range of end results to any situation. You must be willing and able to accept whatever course the situation takes. You can walk away. You can stay the course. It may be what you want it to be and take you where you need to go. It might not. As the situation evolves, takes shape and changes you must be willing to reinterpret along the way.
Everything is always what it is in the present tense
The present tense moves into personal mythology very quickly
The anticipated future becomes the present tense
It begins again
Your personal mythology created the present tense
See it for what it is and move forward