The universe is a chaotic place. If you stop to think about the seemingly unrelated series of events that have led, from the inception of the universe, all the way to this point in time where you’re running your eyes over these words on your screen, it seems nothing short of a miracle that we’re here at all. To even attempt to begin to comprehend the sheer magnitude of even our tiny portion of the world is impossible.
Which is why, as human beings, we have developed a singularly unique method of dealing with it.
We tell stories.
I spoke last week of that little voice of mental narrative that we use to thread together the events of our daily lives. To me, it feels like nothing more then a symptom of something that has been happening on a greater scale from the very beginning of the human race: the development of universe explaining stories to combat the reality of our own insignificance.
As human beings, we crave universal coherence. If you imagine us – as we are – infinitesimally tiny specks roaming a pixel of a pale blue dot:
you will realise just how terrifying the thought of cosmic insignificance is. To exist with the knowledge of little control each of us have over the individual specifics of our lives is just…..it’s impossible to consciously live with, really.
Which is why stories are important.
It is only within the realm of myth and fantasy, within the domains of our own fledgling imaginations, that we are given true power over something completely beyond our control. It’s the same effect we inspire when we name something we find terrifying – suddenly we are given a modicum of control over something that would, without the name, would remain completely uncontrollable.
Stories allow us to indulge our greatest fears within the safe playgrounds of our psyches, and in doing so, find a means to rationally deal with the fear (whether conscious or unconscious). Which, oddly enough, is a process Carl Jung refers to as Individuation.
Individuation, within the scope of Jungian psychology, is the method in which the psyche, or Self comes to reconcile differences between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.
In other words, it’s the manner in which we deal with our dark sides.
Our Dark Sides (Or our Shadows) refer to those portions of our ego that have been repressed – through the stresses of socialisation in childhood – and turned into Complexes.
(Don’t worry, let me make things less clear with this chart)
According to Jung, our minds are divided into five different – but fundamentally intertwined facets:
- The Ego: the ‘id’ (in Freudian terms) of our Psyches. This facet includes both our positive and negative social traits, free from the restraints of the laws or rules of our cultural environment.
- The Persona: The mask that we develop in our childhoods to project out onto the world. Basically, it’s the face we show to the people we meet – formed of the intricacies of social interactions learned in childhood
- The Anima/Animus: The opposite gender specific aspects of ourselves. The female aspect (anima) for men, and the male aspect (Animus) for women, and, finally
- The Shadow: Once again, the portions of ourselves we dislike due to social conditioning, which has been repressed and stored in our unconscious mind – left to fester with its adjoining archetype to rear its head in ugly and unpredictable ways
The development of the Persona during childhood, I feel, is one of the most important aspects of Jungian psychology. To imagine, if you will, the tug between our primal instincts in childhood – counteracted by the socialisation we experience from very young, appears to be one of the major reasons for one universal aspect of everyone’s childhoods that I’m sure everyone will recognise.
The art of Play.
From at least the age of five, we begin, in the infancy of our imaginations, to construct the wild and fanciful adventures that continue to grow and evolve during the entirety of our childhood. (Mullineaux, Paula Y. and Lisabeth F. Dilalla, 2009). It is during out childhoods – during the development of our persona, that the constant act of Individuation through play occurs. We may play ‘House’ to come to terms with the accepted social roles we are expected to play when we’re adults (however much we hate the idea of cooking or cleaning). Small boys will spend countless hours re-enacting the bloodiest acts of war ever conceived between platoons of tiny green men, all in the name of imbuing themselves with the power they do not – in reality – possess in their childhood state.
All through the formative years of our lives, our fantasies develop – well often into adulthood in fact – as a means of escapism and self-therapy.
And it’s not just on an individual scale – this mode of fantasy making – the creation of stories and myths in order to deal with both ourselves and our daily lives – occurs on a global scale as well!
Mythopoesis refers to the unshakable habit mankind seems to have of creating myths and legends as a means of explaining the unexplainable, and of explaining ourselves. We have always had myths: stories that we one used to fill the gaps in our scientific knowledge, to demonstrate a commonly celebrated aspect of human life, or to even escape the harsh realities of it, we have always created stories.
And we still do – regardless of how far we advance into the rehttps://unwritingrehana.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=46&action=editalm of scientific knowledge.
(The Ring: making the case for never having a television in your bedroom. Ever)
CreepyPasta may, at first glance, seem like a uniquely internet based phenomenon. A collection of tantalisingly short horror stories – often based on technological subjects like video games or computers – designed to shock or scare the people who read them.
However, if you think back to pre-internet days you will realise that they are nothing more then the camp fire stories countless remorseless Fathers would tell their kids – but retold in a different medium.
Once again, we are creating stories for something that most of us, on a certain level, suspect actually runs on magic.
In other words, we never really grow out of playing our fantasy games. We just find new ways of introducing it into the real world.
- A little bit of Hulk helps reality go down (Christopher Latham, The Chicago Tribune)
- Creepy + Pasta: Because you didn’t plan to sleep tonight anyway (Creepy + Pasta)
- Foschini, F (2008), “Toy Soldier Cosplay” [image], Flickr: Man of Wax. Retrieved on 26 March 2012 from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/manofwax/2996025576/
- Funny Signs (2011), “Caution: Children at Play” [image], Funny Signs. Retrieved on 26 March 2012 from: http://www.funny-signs.net/funny-road-signs/caution-star-wars-children-at-play/
- Pitt, T. (n.d.), “The Madness of Mission 6” [image], Threadless Tees. Retrieved on 26 March, 2012 from: http://www.threadless.com/product/751/The_Madness_of_Mission_6
- Mullineaux, Paula Y. and Lisabeth F. Dilalla “Preschool Pretend Play Behaviors and Early Adolescent Creativity” The Journal of Creative Behavior Vol. 43, No. 1, 2009
- Sagan, C (1994) “Pale Blue Dot” [audiobook], Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space . Retrieved 26 March, 2012 from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86BPM1GV8M