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An excerpt from Grow a New Body, by Alberto Villoldo, PhD
The right side of the neocortex, the higher brain, operates on stories and myths, not facts. The success of TV series like Game of Thrones, and the Harry Potter books attest to our fascination with fantasy and myth. These affect us at a far deeper level than we realize. From a very young age, we fall under the spell of powerful fables that influence the way we perceive the world and, consequently, the choices we make every day.
The myths of the ancient Greeks centered on the antics of the gods on Mount Olympus and the exploits of heroes like Hercules and Achilles. A classic American myth is the rags-to-riches tale of the self-made man who rises to fame and fortune through determination and hard work. Along with that is the story of the plucky orphan who overcomes a challenging and loveless childhood thanks to her courage, dignity, and winsome charm. Like all good myths, these end in triumph, with virtue rewarded.
The Judeo-Christian traditions have left us with powerful myths that operate in the psyche like computer programs running continually in the background. We’re not even aware of them, but they drive our basic sense of self-worth and our vision of the world, coloring the way we live from day to day.
One of the first Bible stories we learn as children is that of Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God, were banished forever from the Garden of Eden, and can no longer commune directly with the Almighty—or with the rivers, rocks, trees, and animals. But indigenous people, whether sub-Saharan Africans or Australian Aborigines or Native Americans, hold no such belief. In their mythologies, they were not kicked out of the Garden. In fact, they were given the Garden and entrusted with maintaining it, as the caretakers of earth.
Another persistent myth we labor under is a belief in evil as an independent principle in the universe. But far more compelling to me is the view that we live in a benevolent universe that will go out its way to conspire on our behalf—when we are in right relationship with it and when the hardware in our brain is able to sustain the experience of Oneness.
The values and beliefs contained in myths are so strong that once you find your personal guiding myth, you feel compelled to change your life to conform to it. Transform the myth and your values and beliefs are transformed—and the facts of your life change accordingly.
Just as the invention of the printing press altered our worldview in the centuries that followed, the world wide web and AI are a transforming narrative of our age. We do not know the new myths that will emerge in the coming decades, but we do know that the old myths have exhausted themselves.
At this point in our history, it’s clear that the human species needs to be more collaborative, creative, and cooperative—qualities that are aspects of the archetypal Mother figure. To bring balance back into our relationship with Mother Earth and with one another, we need to improve on the masculine mythology of domination, conquest, and hierarchical power. And on a personal level, we need to overcome the self-focused, power-hungry, battle-fixated, dominator mindset.
Changing your personal myths requires interacting with familiar stories in new ways so that you can use those energies more wisely. You could revise how you engage with your inner warrior, for example, by giving up judgement toward yourself and others—and reserving your adversarial energy for only the most essential battles and the athletic field.
Readers of my new book, Grow a New Body, will find tools to help them identify and transcend the guiding myths that keep them tied to a disempowering world view, and find a new, more empowering personal mythology that supports their ability to dream a new body and a new world into being.