You probably do not know why and how you have become what you are today. If I were to bet, I would say your actions, your attitudes and your behaviour are the product of an endless battle carried out inside your unconscious mind. And guess what! You are completely unaware of it most of the time!
This fierce battle started when you were a child, precisely when mummy or daddy (or both) began to tell you “No”. Since then, your unconscious mind has served as a battlefield where two opposing forces fight bitterly. At one side, you have your wants, your needs, your desires and your fantasies. They are the expression of what Freud called PLEASURE PRINCIPLE. At the other side, the norms of public activity and public behaviour dictated by your culture (and that of your parents, for that matter, who effectively ensure it). Freud called these cultural and social regulations the REALITY PRINCIPLE.
Truth is, you would have become utterly intolerable had the REALITY PRINCIPLE lost all the battles since your childhood. In fact, the PLEASURE PRINCIPLE has lost a considerable number of them, forcing you to observe social rules and social conventions. In other words, you have learnt to repress your wants, needs, desires and fantasies. By doing so, you have become mature enough to live according to what society expects from you. It is as if you were a product of losing battles. In the end, the REALITY PRINCIPLE wins and you are left helpless to abide by the contemporary cultural and social norms. You are a product of social repression!
But relax. The degree of social repression would be too high to be tolerated if at least some activities were not left free from its dominion. It is in dreams that you find relief from the constraints of the REALITY PRINCIPLE. Artists in general (actors, writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, etc) usually find their own peculiar ways to escape from the grips of the REALITY PRINCIPLE. Though subject to censorship, art forms are far less regulated than other public actions. Therefore, you will find in plays, literature, paintings, etc different (filtered or not) expressions of the PLEASURE PRINCIPLE. As products of fantasy, such art forms are, like dreams, products of relaxed repression.
But Freud believed that civilisation was gained at the cost of repression. Csapo summarises Freud’s ideas as follows:
“…repression is an agency of culture and committed to the reality principle; fantasy is an individual expression of allegiance to the pleasure principle.” (Csapo, p.93).
Your mum did the right thing when she said no to you years ago! A world without the rule of law would be barbarous and brutal.
At this point, you might be asking: And so what? What difference does it make to know all this stuff?
Well, by getting to know more about your unconscious and by better dealing with the repressed contents you harbour you may find relief from the constraints imposed by your culture. And as an art form, myths can help you do that. Myths are products of fantasy and of primitive cultures – they are products of unrepressed minds. They are therefore a privileged source of information about the contents of the unconscious and how these contents shape your actions, attitudes and behaviour.
“Myths throw light on a large number of symbols which would otherwise be unintelligible.” (Csapo, p. 94).
My suggestion: Grab a good book on mythology and start reading it. You should not be surprised if you come across a story in which a god, a hero or a simple mortal behaves just like you or possesses the same desires and aspirations. The story lines might even make some repressed content in your unconscious mind come to the surface and become conscious again. You may have the opportunity to get to know more about you!
Have a good read! Have a good journey of discovery!
Csapo, E. Theories of Mythology. Blackwell Publishing. 2005.