Experience with Angels: The Value of Myth-Making in Adapting to Neurological Illness

By Butt, Robyn-Marie | Humane Health Care International, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Experience with Angels: The Value of Myth-Making in Adapting to Neurological Illness


Butt, Robyn-Marie, Humane Health Care International


Correspondence and reprint requests: Robyn-Marie Butt, R.R.#3, Woodstock, Ontario, N4S 7V7

The art of healing lies not always in its ability to suppress a condition, but sometimes simply in its ability to understand, elucidate, and name a condition. Happily named and secure in the name, a patient may then decide to go on his or her way, and medicine has yet been perfectly well served, because the soul of the patient has been well served. Medical "success" need not be measured solely by whether or not treatment is accepted, undertaken, and executed.

Suppose you are suffering from an illness. Suppose you are not a physician, and you do not know what sort of illness you are suffering from. Because the diagnostic process takes time, for some weeks you are left hanging as to the name and treatment for this illness; in the meantime, your imagination begins offering up images and stories about your condition. These stories and images constitute your metaphorical or mythical condition; in the absence of a medical diagnosis, the images offer to infuse your illness with meaning.

It should interest every healer that the metaphor (story, myth) which a sufferer supplies for her illness may enrich both her own experience of suffering and her physician's experience of healing. Transforming an otherwise purely medical affliction, a myth moves its teller and its hearer from the sometimes over-whelming dictates of quantity of life to the ineffable experiences of quality of life. This being so, healers do well when they encourage patients to make metaphors while coping with their afflictions. Then, whether as healers or sufferers, we fulfill our primary responsibility as human beings, namely, to make meaning. Meaning need not be ponderous or solemn. It can also be comical, light-hearted or absurd. However, contrary to our prevailing Western assumption, meaning is not made in the intellect; true meaning is made in the soul, using the experiences of the body.

The rationalist Western bias asserts that a "myth" is something fanciful and untrue. As Robert A. Johnson explains, this arose "because of the misguided idea that myths were the childish way ancient (humankind) had of explaining natural phenomena that science explains so much better." (1) However, he adds, "certain psychologists and anthropologists are now helping us see myth in another light, to understand that mythology reflects underlying psychological and spiritual processes taking place in the human psyche." (2)

Myth has an additional value. (3) Jung believed a myth should be analyzed, but a gentler and more humorous view asserts simply that a story is always more valuable than silence. A metaphor does not need to be explained. At its deepest level--that of enjoyment and enrichment--a myth yields its treasure once it has been told and heard. In and of itself, storymaking carries soothing and healing properties.

My own story began with symptoms that were compromising my ability to study for university finals...

Feb. 3, 1985. If, when we're our usual selves, we're like a radio station perfectly tuned in, lately my brain is a box where the Strauss waltzes and Talking Heads songs slip off into crackle, as if some Trickster was playing with my dial. Because I'm not a radio, I think of It as "playing," but maybe these fluctuations are only a matter of fine tuning; maybe, when the voltage shoots up and my consciousness fades, it's Someone fiddling to improve reception. I think of the Talking Heads song:

Transmitter, oooh--

Picking up something good--

Radio Head

The sound--of a brand new world...

Feb. 8. Radio ME still hums and crackles. But this week I've been having headaches, with the odd dizzy spell and nausea, which afflict my ability to read and write. I forget things, lose my sense of direction, and watch my hand write words with letters missing. Yet as the spells get worse, I also attend with pleasure the demise of a more nervous self.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Experience with Angels: The Value of Myth-Making in Adapting to Neurological Illness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.