Myths from the pair bond

In General by Dr. Keith Witt


We humans take the drives and turn them into art, and arguably the oldest art forms we have are the mythic stories beginning with the ancestral tribes. I believe the human pair bond is the fundamental driver of much mythology.

Why do so many myths from around the world have to do with two enduring themes--the hero's journey and romantic love? The pair bond that emerged 5 million years ago is a big part of the answer. When we came down from the trees on the savannahs of ancient Africa, a woman with a child could no longer easily leap into trees with an infant or young child. The pair bond evolved so there was a man who would risk his life to protect her and her children. The human species evolved as pair bonded families, living in tribes bonded by blood kinship.

Since we are the story telling species, humans have generated endless stories of romantic love and individual sacrifice for family and tribe. These stories have progressed over the years into the mythologies of all cultures everywhere. The Iliad and the Odyssey, the Arthurian legends, and the Greek myths are all examples. The themes of romantic love (including seduction and betrayal), service to the tribe, and sacrifice for the greater good emerge again and again.

We see it today in our art and music. All you need is love, love makes the world go round, When Harry met Sally, and on and on. The pair bond is at the core of what makes us human.

I invite you to check out this conversation I had with Kevin Bates on his Truth Junkie podcast a few weeks ago. We explored the evolutionary roots of the Hero’s Journey, what Integral psychology has to offer psychotherapy, and how people grow and change. I l love what Kevin’s done with his Truth Junkie podcast and was honored he invited me to contribute. You can hear our conversation here.

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