The Hero’s Journey was a story pattern identified by Joseph Campbell. Think Harry Potter, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Buddha, or the story of any other enlightened being. The story of the hero follows an ordinary, unassuming person who goes outside her comfort zone and achieves great deeds that can benefit not only herself but many others as well.
The idea is that the reason we have stories that follow this pattern is because this pattern mimics the trials and tribulations of our own lives. Or it can. There is a certain “truthiness” to the thing. We can choose to follow the call of the hero’s journey and grow as a person. Or, I suppose, we could choose to ignore the call.
The stages of the Hero’s Journey are as follows. Raise your hand if they begin to sound like your life:
THE ORDINARY WORLD: The hero, who is initially in a state of unawareness, is faced with a dilemma. The hero begins her journey in the “comfort” of home or the familiar.
Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress. (In my case it was, “Why is my husband not looking for a job and why, when I come home from work, do I see the car of my friend out front yet do not see friend in the house when I go inside? This feels stressful, but I am too tired to question.”)
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE: There is a shock. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of great change. (In my case it was the realization of the affair after the year+ of couple’s therapy in which my ex was lying through his teeth, trying to make me feel guilty about my past actions and draining our finances to zero. A connived tactic.)
REFUSAL OF THE CALL: The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure. Friends and family may express the uncertainty and danger ahead, advising that the hero refuse the call and perhaps not believing that the hero has what it takes to answer the call. (In my case I consider trying to repair a marriage with a man I can now see has more ruthlessness in him than I’d ever imagined possible.)
MEETING WITH THE MENTOR: The hero comes across a seasoned traveler who gives her training, equipment, or advice that will help on her journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom. (I think this was a group of divorced women I met through Meetup.com.)
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD: The hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values. (I officially enter the world of the divorced mom.)
TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES: The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the unfamiliar world. (Some old friends drop away. New friends are made. Some old friends prove how awesome they are.)
THE ORDEAL: Near the middle of the journey, the hero enters a central space in the unfamiliar world and confronts her fear of death or faces her greatest fear.
Out of this moment of “death” comes a new life. (In my case I had one 48-hour period of time in which one child went into the ER, one child graduated high school, one child went to France, I had a yard sale, our house got burgled, my ex challenged my custody of the kids and I moved house.)
THE REWARD: The hero takes possession of the “treasure” won by facing “death.” There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again. The “treasure” could be wisdom.
The treasure does not have to be a material kind of treasure, but could be some thing or idea of value. (Man, I am still trying to work out what the “treasure” is from the above ordeal. I think it was seeing myself in action and being forced to recognize in myself some serious grit, not to mention the raw strength of love.
I am not sure I ever really bought into my strength or the strength of my love until I was forced to see it. I began to take a look at the tools I was using in my life that made me so strong.)
THE ROAD BACK: About three-fourths of the way through the journey, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the unfamiliar world to be sure the treasure is brought home.
Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission. (I have had my strength tested over and over again, finally pounding it into my head that I am one tough cookie, plus I am able to maintain the love I have in my heart for just about everyone, even the ex and the friend now living with the ex. My heart is not broken. My heart is whole.)
THE RESURRECTION: At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.
By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved. (Compared to the “beginning,” when I was trying to make up for past wrongs and prove myself as a loving and devoted wife who could support her family through thick and thin, but not really believing it, I now know without a shadow of a doubt I am that person.
There’s nothing to prove to anyone or to myself. By having my ass kicked, I know who I am and I am pretty kick-ass awesome.)
RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR: The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed. (I now help others discover their awesome. I love my life.)
So now that you see the stages of the hero’s journey and see how I matched my divorced mom experience with it, do you see how you have embarked on a similar path?
Events and people may differ, but do you see that you are the hero of your own life? What stage are you in, within your own tale, and what is your treasure that you will share with others? Whatever it is, I know it will be great! If you don’t see that yet, just wait for it. You will see it…eventually.
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