Here are case studies in which myths have helped Dr. May's patients make sense out of an often senseless world.
It happens almost daily in a therapist's office. A patient, recalling a person, an event, an emotion, quite unexpectedly supplies a link from a life in the present to one of the durable myths of our culture. In this moment, the myth becomes a mirror, revealing to the patient the source of disturbance and pain in a pattern of behavior that often stretches a year or longer. The healing process begins. The myth, "eternity breaking into time" in Rollo Mays's words, becomes the focal point of recovery.
Through tracing myths – whether from classical Greece and Dante's Middle Ages, European legend (Faust and the prototype of Sleeping Beauty), or contemporary American life (Jay Gatsby) -- and relating them to the dreams and associations he encounters in his own practice, Dr. May provides meaning and structure for all who seek direction in a morally confusing world.
In this, perhaps the finest achievement of a great therapist, Rollo May writes with "the grace, wit, and style: for which he recently received the Gold Medal of the American Psychological Society.
Psychotherapist May ( Love and Will ) believes that America's abiding myths--of home, homeland, rugged individualism, the frontier, the seduction of the new, etc.--no longer serve as guideposts. People are rudderless, anxiety-prone and seek meaning in their lives, he claims. But some of May's patients tapped into primal myths, such as Charles, a lapsed Catholic with writer's block who saw himself as a ``rebel of God'' in order to allay neurotic guilt, and Ursula, an agoraphobic actress who recalled a dream echoing the birth of Athena from a slit in Zeus's forehead. May's interpretation of Freudian psychoanalysis as a cluster of myths lends resilience to his exploration of the existential crises of birth, adolescence, love, marriage, work and death. He blends clinical material, cultural commentary and examples of mythic figures ranging from Proteus, Greek god of change, to Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby. May's enormously stimulating, down-to-earth approach avoids Jungian jargon as he links the mythic to the everyday.