The Sage Mythology:
The lives of Sankara, Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo are all typical of the sage mythology. A sign, a call comes from outside of one’s existence – Spotting the beggar (Buddha), the bite of a crocodile (Sankara), the paralyzing fear of death (Ramana) that invites and propels them towards a journey and search for the ultimate truth.
There are various other mythologies, which we are in the process of exploring and some of them are listed below. These myths deserve more detailed examination in the next few papers:
- The orphan
- The crusader/revolutionary
- The ruler
- The joker/trickster
- The villain
- The artist/creator
- The muse
Liberating and limiting aspects of the Mythologies
|Objective||Gift||Fear||View of World||Potential Explorati ons|
|Hero||Compete and Win||Energy, Drive, Courage||Losing, Weakness||Battlefield||Healer Sage|
|Healer||Alleviate Pain and sorrow, Help||Empathy Generosity||Loss of harmony, Aggression||Filled with Pathos and sorrow||
|Wanderer||Exploration of different worlds||Curiosity, Wonderment Understanding||Loss of Anchor Non aliveness||Magical and diverse||
|Lover||Deep Intimacy||Love, Passion||Loss of Intimacy and connection||Interconnected web ofRelationships||Hero|
|Sage||Search for truth||Wisdom Detachment||??||“Maya” or Illusory||??|
Old myths, old gods, old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our mind, waiting for our call. We have need for them… Stanley Kunitz
A couple of case examples in the exploration of client myths and reframing their myths may help in understanding the coaching applications for the above. We have used two caselets – one in which understanding one’s myth helps deal with the limitations of that mythology and the exploration of another. The other deals with the liberation one experiences in understanding and living one’s own mythology.
Case Example I
He came storming into the room, distracted and in a fairy pensive mood. Usually, a person with boundless energy and enthusiasm, something clearly was amiss. He got to the point straightaway – he had just had a feedback session with his team members as we had discussed during the previous session and by the looks of it – it had not gone well.
He was certainly disturbed – he and his team had virtually pulled off an “impossible” project and an improbable deadline and the entire organization had lauded their achievement and yet the team’s feedback suggested that they were not happy with him.
As we explored further, I suggested that he look at some of his metaphors for himself and the world he inhabited. He began to quickly discover that his world view consisted of “victories” and “defeats”. Associating it with his childhood, he quickly began to see the patterns emerge. The hyper competition spurred on by his father during childhood. The continuing “story” he told himself was that, if he didn’t win, he would not survive in this big bad world – a world view his family strongly held Clearly, he saw that he carried this through in his work world as well. Winning was all important. At all costs. He could immediately see that the feedback emerging from his team were the “wounds from the battle” he had led them into.
Upon asking, what he saw, as the possible options he could explore, the energy in the room shifted. Suddenly, he seemed to see and feel what his team felt. As we spoke further, it became clear to him, that he had to let go of the battlefield metaphor and the move towards the view of a caring and compassionate community.
The external actions were almost immediate. As he started his journey, it also became apparent to him, how much, he enjoyed the role of a loving and nurturing boss. The Hero who invoked the healer within to make this dramatic transformation possible.
Case Example II
It started as a repeat of the last coaching conversation. Everything was going well. The organization had just promoted him. The new role was challenging. Family was doing well. Yet, something was missing.
We had been exploring this sense of incompleteness during the last session and it had not gone far. He had expressed happiness with his current reality. Life was going as planned. He was achieving the goals he had set out to achieve. He had a wonderful wife and a daughter who always brought a smile to his face. So what was missing?
Deciding to use mythology as a possible trigger in this conversation, I began to explore with him stories, legends that resonated with him and as he spoke, I began to see the wanderer mythology coming alive. His awe and fascination with multiple worlds and a deep sense of loss about the worlds that he did not inhabit.
As we explored further, the client began to see where his own sense of loss came from. His heart and soul was about exploration whereas his current context was about the “ruler” – in maintaining balance and bringing order. When asked why he was not out there exploring, the hidden assumptions about how one must live one’s life began to surface. The need to provide family with financial security, the need to be steady and responsible, the need to keep things in order. Exploration was seen as “chaos”, letting go and being irresponsible.
Challenging his own assumptions, the client was quickly able to identify ways to rekindle his explorations and live his “wanderer” mythology without compromising on some of his deeply help beliefs for responsibility for the family.
The very understanding of his own mythology of the wanderer was liberating for him. Realizing that he was trying to live a “ruler” mythology whereas the wanderer was always sitting in the background and beckoning to him changed his perspective about how he was living his life. Today he lives his life exploring fearlessly, trekking, traveling, skydiving while staying anchored – feeling much more fulfilled than before.
Perspectives and Process
Our experience with the human system suggests that during a coaching conversation, a coach can help the client to explore the limiting or the liberating nature of a mythology system. The coach would need to do the following in order for the client to reframe and let go of limiting assumptions.
This is especially helpful in life coaching but is equally relevant in corporate situations as well:
- Enable the client to discover his mythology: Exploratory question with a basic understanding of the framework will enable the coach in moving the client towards this understanding.
- Exploring the limitations of the mythology in self expression and actualization: This is a crucial exploration and deserves time and energy to look at the reality of the client deeply.
- Exploring other Mythologies that can be invoked to liberate and transform the clients world view: This requires looking at other myths and metaphors to create a world view that will actualize the clients potential.
Some closing reflections and further explorations:
The world of myths by nature is very large and subjective. Hence, any effort at categorizing can neither be comprehensive or complete. We intend this paper to be a trigger for coaches to use mythologies especially when they sense that a transformation of world-views and deeply embedded patterns is needed.
The more we use this perspective, the more interesting facets we discover about the same. We realize that different mythologies are evoked at different life stages and this has a deep resonance with Erikson’s life stages theory. Unlike, most frameworks and typologies, this must not be seen in reductionist frame. Given the expansive and liberating nature of myths, we see it as our life’s journey and purpose to live, feel, act, reframe and actualize our myths.
The journey to the center of our beings perhaps lies in a deep understanding of our own personal mythology.
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press, 1949
Jung, Carl. The Undiscovered Self: The Problem of the Individual in Modern Society. (2006)
Jung, Carl. Man and his Symbols; Random House.(1968)
Pearson, S, Carol. Awakening the Heroes within; Harper Collins (1991)