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Gullestad, S.E. (1995). The Personal Myth As A Clinical Concept. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:1155-1166.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:1155-1166

The Personal Myth As A Clinical Concept

Siri Erika Gullestad

The author argues that the concept of personal myth is taken to refer to a universal mythification process, and that such a broad definition is too imprecise for clinical purposes. Previous contributions to psychoanalytic understanding of myths are reviewed. The author concurs with Green's (1991) conception of the personal myth as a heroisation of the self, providing liberation from the mother. By means of a clinical vignette, it is argued that the myth may have additional functions. The myth is a multiply-determined psychological product, offering ‘solutions’ to insoluble human dilemmas, such as that of separation. Self-images embedded in myths may be organised as stable structures reflected in attitudes and personal styles. The author argues for the clinical usefulness of the concept of personal myth. The myth may act as a point of reference in the analytic process, and may serve as a reminder for the analyst to focus subtly embedded narcissistic aspects of character that may otherwise remain as an unanalysed resistance. It also has the property of evoking self states rooted in infantile modes of experience. It is argued that unveiling the myth is not contrary to safeguarding its creative side, but that the defensive, wish-fulfilling and illusory aspects of the myth should be uncovered.

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