Seminar Dates and Locations      Articles      Joseph Campbell      Site Map      Search

Workshop Review

The Wisdom of Mythic Stories and
The Psychology of Creativity

by Linda Thorson

John William Waterhouse, Head of a Girl

separator scroll

Early in November I attended both of these one-day workshops over a weekend. I was attracted to the idea of gaining CE units while listening to a good storyteller. Jonathan Young, Ph.D. was an assistant and archivist for the late Joseph Campbell and has traveled in the company of authors like Marion Woodman, Rollo May, Robert Johnson, James Hillman and Anne Lamott. Jonathan and his associate, Anne Bach, M.S., have been presenting these and other seminars throughout California for the past couple of years. (Two additional seminars have been designed and will be introduced early next year.)

Jonathan is indeed a good storyteller. Despite the many times he has walked an audience through this material, he seemed spontaneous, enthusiastic, and engaged with the participants (the group each day was about 30 people). The topics of these two days were a nice break for me from the usual DSM-oriented workshops we've all attended - and I was surprised at the end of the weekend at the impact of this experience on my own life. (I guess when you allow the unconscious to attend a workshop focused on symbols and personal journeys, the unconscious will respond.)

In the Wisdom of Mythic Stories workshop, Jonathan mapped the hero(ine)'s journey via the story of the Wizard of OZ. He proposed that each of us is "called" at least once in life into the chaos and fears of the unknown, with the task of self-redefinition. In fact, he proposed that this mythic journey happens in each developmental life - stage whether we heed the call or not. We bring back to Kansas the gifts from OZ, changed by the experience. The invitation offered in this perspective is to view our own and our clients' lives as a series of important disorientations and stretches.

In the Psychology of Creativity workshop, Jonathan focused on the creative process ("making the familiar strange and the strange familiar"), creative blocks (fear of rejection, fear of losing self in the chaos, etc.), and techniques for overcoming the inertia of the block. He again attended to both the inner processes of the participants and to the struggles of the professionally-creative client. He concluded the day with a recognition of the importance of balancing expressive work with the practicalities of daily living.

In this Psychology of Creativity format, there were several 10-minute creative writing exercises after which people were invited to read aloud. Given that this type of event pulls for creative-types, the pieces read were sometimes breathtaking.

I found benefit in doing the seminars together in just this order - I ended the weekend with an appreciation of life as a creative process, and an appreciation of the creative process as a series of life journeys.

I found the eight hours of each day to be managed pretty well - I have little complaint. The only point I found uncomfortably slow was an extensive slide-show biography of Joseph Campbell. Perhaps Jonathan, in his "story", is still paying homage to a remarkable mentor. I think Jonathan himself has something quite formidable to offer in the realm of symbolism and psychic transformations.

From - The San Francisco Psychologist - January, 2000 a publication of the San Francisco Psychological Association, a chapter of the California Psychological Association.

Linda Thorson, Ph.D. is a psychologist who has a private practice in downtown San Francisco (where many a mythic journey gets explored during lunch hour). Her office phone number is 415 563-2892.