As we struggle to overcome the realities of life, myths can show us that it is often better to leave the battlefield rather than continue to fight.
The battlefield is symbolic of the field of life, where every creature lives on the death of another. A realization of the inevitable guilt of life may so sicken the heart that, like Hamlet or like Arjuna, one may refuse to go on with it. On the other hand, like most of the rest of us, one may invent a false, finally unjustified, image of oneself as an exceptional phenomenon in the world, not guilty as others are, but justified in one’s inevitable sinning because one represents the good. Such self-righteousness leads to a misunderstanding, not only of oneself but of the nature of both man and the cosmos. The goal of the myth is to dispel the need for such life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will. And this is effected through a realization of the true relationship of the passing phenomena of time to the imperishable life that lives and dies in all.’
Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces
‘Metaphorically, the distinction between the function of a psychological disorder and the form it takes in one’s life can be likened to someone standing in a battlefield fighting a war. The war is not going well. The person fights harder and harder. Losing is a devastating option; but unless the war is won, the person fighting it thinks that living a worthwhile life will be impossible. So the war goes on.
Unknown to that person, however, is the fact that, at any time, he or she can quit the battlefield and begin to live life now. The war may still go on, and the battlefield may still be visible. The terrain may look very much as it did while the fighting was happening. But the outcome of the war is no longer very important and the seemingly logical sequence of having to win the war before beginning to really live has been abandoned.’
Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith. Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
* In a series of posts I call mythology Monday, I look at quotes from the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and consider them alongside extracts from books and papers on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and related publications.