Anxiety, Depression and My Own Truth
According to a recent New York Times article, people in North America are finding their lives more and more embroiled in anxiety. This is a social trend that started prior to the start of the economic downturn, and which has been increasing since that time, if the mass media are to be believed.
The Times article cites the example of one woman who found herself more and more in the grip of panic attacks, which impelled her “to read every single economic report” — not an uncommon response. It seems quite possible that this obsession with economic information could create a vicious cycle: in response to her anxiety, the woman might read more economic reporting, which in turn could be expected to further elevate her anxiety. And so on, potentially without end.
This brings us to a very fundamental question. As individuals, are we prepared to accept the assessments of social scientists, journalists and economic and business experts, when it comes to the most basic attitudes that we will have to our lives?
Jung has something interesting to say about this. It is couched in the gender usage conventions of the past (1957), for which I ask your understanding. Nonetheless, his point is clear, and as relevant today as it was then:
“…[A] man is not complete when he lives in a world of statistical truth. He must live in the world of his mythological truth [italics mine], and that is not merely statistics. it is the expression of what he really is, and what he feels himself to be. A man without mythology is merely a product of statistics, as it were, an average phenomenon. Our natural science makes everything into an average … while the truth is that the carriers of life are individuals, not average numbers. And, of course, all the individual qualities are wiped out, and that is most unbecoming…. It deprives people of their specific values, of the most important experiences of their life, where they experience their own value, the creative background of their own personality.”
“The Houston Films” in McGuire, William, and Hull, R.F.C., eds., C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton: University Press, 1977)
What is the dominant story that I choose to live under? If I accept my life story as told by the mass media, I am a very small speck indeed, swept up in the great currents of economics, social trends and technological change. My living and dying will be a matter of negligible significance. I will be only a statistic.
But what if I make a determination to look for my story elsewhere, and to give that story my energy, my love and my trust? What if my dreams impart to me some additional sense of the meaning of my life, of who I am, and what I really value? To attempt to see my own myth, as not something so much consciously created, as a story made up, but as something that I am only partially capable of understanding, that emerges over time from the reality of my own life and my own psyche.
Real therapy, therapy that makes a fundamental difference, connects me to the deep story of my life.
I would welcome your input, comments or any sharing of your personal experience as you seek to encounter your own myth.