Myths have long been influential upon the various depth psychotherapy traditions. Freud, in his early writings, often referred to the famous Greek myths and incorporated much of their symbolic language into the psychoanalytic thought (i.e., Oedipus and the Oedipal Stage). Jung followed in line with a much more in depth analysis of many of the famous myths in his archetypal psychology. Rollo May, the father of American existential psychotherapy, also explored the importance of myth is his powerful book, The Cry for Myth.
For May, myth is not merely symbolic and certainly not something that is not true. Rather, myths are beliefs which cannot be proven to be true. We must rely on faith, belief, trust, and the unknown when dealing with myths. Myths become problematic when they are no longer seen as myth, but are believed to be factual truth.
Myths are also the way we organize meaning in our lives. They give purpose, direction, and comfort. It is in this context that May states the loss of myth in American society is one of the primary sources of our culture’s problems. What we need is a return to myth.
More information about The Cry for Myth is available at the book review located on this site.
Original Version added 2004; Updated December 2005