Aug 17

Meeting the heroes – Walking With Heroes Part 1


So here we go – the first part of ‘Walking With Heroes’. I’ve found that looking at our lives through the eyes of myth and story to be really helpful, and so I am really looking forward to passing on to you what I’ve learned – so you can take that and build on it, use it and adapt it to your situation.

I spent a lot of time in big corporate organisations, and so I have done a lot of work with personality assessments: wonderful titles like ‘Myers-Briggs’ and ‘Belbin’, the Enneagram, Creativity assessments and more. One thing always frustrated me though – they all wanted to put me in a little box, to define how I behaved based on a questionnaire. And immediately someone tries to put me in a box, I tend to find ways to leap out of that box and defy their expectations.

So this work on what Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell called ‘mythic archetypes’ and we’re going to call ‘heroes’ as a form of personal analysis allows me to look at my life and respond to life at an emotional rather than an intellectual level. It allows me to find out what my heart is telling me, rather than what my head believes should be true.

(Time for a comment on terms – I’m going to use the word ‘hero’ for both male and female rather than talking about ‘heroines’ – it makes writing easier, and it feels more in keeping with modern usage)

In creating this series, I am hugely indebted to those who have come before me – to Carl Jung for his work on archetypes, for Joseph Campbell for his work on the hero’s journey, for Jean Houston for her work on myth and legend, and to Carol S Pearson, whose work ‘Awakening the Heroes Within’ was the beginning of my adventure in these ideas. I’d also like to thank storytellers everywhere, in particular some of those who have taken time to tell me shamanic stories out in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Tibet and Hawaii, or tales of magic and other worlds, of angels and beings of light, of heroes and wise men….

Story time

Once upon a time, story was the way that truth was passed on from generation to generation.. and even now, whether in the written word, on TV, in movies or in the tales told around a campfire or a dinner table, stories have the power to change, to transform, to captivate, to heal, to set free.

Did you have a particular story that you loved when you were younger? Was there a particular hero of those stories that you loved? Somewhere in those stories, there’s a resonance about who you are. You see, particularly when we’re younger, the expectations of the world haven’t started to crowd in on us. Anything and everything is possible. We haven’t started listening to the demands of our teachers, or the rules of our religions, or the expectations of our parents. We’re allowed to be free and to imagine, to live a life where anything is possible. And (if you believe in these things) we are more connected to our life’s purpose and our true being when we are younger than when we get older and the pressures of making a living and being successful, of conforming and fitting in start to pressurise us.

So when we read a book or watch a movie or a TV show, or when our parents or grandparents read to us, or tell us a fairy tale, then we find in those stories the echoes of a deeper truth, a reality that calls out to us. And somewhere we connect to them.

I used to fascinated with stories of magic and wizards, with worlds that lay beyond our world – and as I have grown older and wiser I have reconnected with those stories, and begun to understand the true nature of what those myths and legends hid in plain sight. Heroes like Merlin, Gandalf, Estarriol – tales of magic and dragons. As I grew older I became intrigued by stories that took us out of our current abilities and into a new level of human evolution – stories of the Tomorrow People, the X-men, or people like DareDevil who had developed new abilities beyond their own humanity.

And those stories have stuck with me, helping me to understand that part of my gift is to help others reconnect with their own true magical power, to learn and grow and develop – to become, if you like, super human – more truly human than they knew.

So what’s your story? What did you love when you were younger? What stories truly resonated? What did you ask your mother or father to read to you over and over? What books would you pick up again and again? What did you play – what models did you make, what did you build out of Lego or out of clay?

Take some time to think back, and then imagine what that might mean. What parts of that story are you living out? What have you let go of?

About heroes

When we start to look at our stories, there seem to be a number of heroic characters that keep popping up. The king, the hermit, the fairy godmother, the wizard. The princess, the jester, the joker, the warrior. The adventurer, the wise woman, the innocent. All these are archetypes – models of particular traits and characteristics, forms of behaviour. Each of these find different ways to deal with the world around them. Each one of them has a different way to deal with the dragon that faces them – the difficulty to overcome, the challenge, the battle to be fought.

Each of these characters has unique strengths, unique talents and abilities that help them be heroic. And each of them has weaknesses too, their own Achilles heel that can cause them to falter.

One of the reasons why we’re unhappy or frustrated is that we don’t allow that heroic nature to be expressed. It sounds too, well, heroic. It sounds like a million miles away from the daily commute, from the office, from housework and home repairs, from hobbies and church and the factory floor. Yet each of us carries within us those elements of heroism. Not one of us is left out. We are, each of us, powerful beyond measure. We are, each of us, brilliant, talented, brave, heroic. Sometimes it might be a bit hidden… and now it’s time to get the armour out of the cupboard, shine it up and step into the truth of who we really are.

Because the world needs heroes.

It needs men and women who will step beyond the mundane and the ordinary and demonstrate their greatness. It needs you. We’re each one of us coded for it, by the way. Deep in our DNA is hidden a greatness, a wonder, a gift that we bring. And without your gift, the world is poorer.

Over this series, we’re going to look at each of the mythic heroes one by one, and look at their response to the world. We’ll look at their mythic story, and we’ll find echoes of those stories hidden in our own lives. You’re not restricted to one particular character, by the way – many of us are combinations of characters (I resonate with at least four!). You’ll also perhaps find characters that you don’t resonate with – or where you have been forced to behave in a certain way – yet that doesn’t feel ‘right’. For example, I have tried many times to act as the Ruler in my life, and it’s a pattern of behaviour that doesn’t suit me. I’m far better letting go of that and exploring what it might mean to be an Adventurer, where every day is taken as it comes, or finding the Magician – leaving the day to day running of the kingdom to others and allowing magic to heal the things that matter.

Oh and, by the way, even if you do find that you’re clearly behaving according to one of these characters, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you deciding to change character mid story. This is your story after all. The orphan Luke Skywalker became a great warrior and eventually a great magician.

Meeting the heroes

You might not see yourself in this list yet – although one of them might reach out and speak to you, and you’ll say ‘of course. That’s who I am’. We’ll introduce each one of them to you and at some point you’ll say ‘yes, that’s me’ or maybe just ‘I can see a lot of that in my character’. So as you read it, just let your soul take in each one and imagine what they might be..

So here they are:













Any of those suddenly leap out at you? Doesn’t matter if it didn’t – you’ll find a resonance with at least one of these as we go through this programme.

Yet as we go, you might find yourself drawn back to a book you hadn’t read since you were young, a TV programme that you’d forgotten – or you might find your dreams suddenly and strangely peopled by new characters and threaded through with new adventures. Because story releases truth.

Next time, we’re going to start to look at the hero’s journey, the cycle of our lives.

Until then, enjoy what comes up and what appears in your life – it might be more significant than you think…


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Aug 14

Walking with Heroes


A while back, I spent a lot of time exploring the idea of the Hero’s Journey and Mythic Archetypes. and it feels like a good time to dust some of that off and share it here for a wider audience. (My clients and newsletter subscribers got access to this programme on line, but I felt it was worth reviewing it and sharing a bit more widely).

The Hero’s Journey describes the key elements of every good story – how our hero leaves the realm of the ordinary world when she receives the call to adventure. a call which he initially refuses, but through a meeting with a mysterious adviser, steps into a new world full of tests, trials, allies and enemies.. and eventually make their way back into the realm of the ordinary, forever changed and with a magical gift that will transform the world.

We see the echoes of this story in many of our fairy tales, in the great sagas of our time. It is of course, the story of Star Wars:

In act one we find our hero Luke Skywalker, stuck on the ordinary world of farming on Tattooine, when he receives the call in the form of a mysterious message stuck in R2D2s memory. On a quest to understand the message, he meets the strange and mysterious Obi-Wan-Kenobi, who takes him under his wing and introduces him to the power of the Force.. initially refusing the call, he finds his bridges – and his farm – burned and he reluctantly heads off into the unknown. He meets new allies along the way, and encounters new enemies, yet confronts death and returns triumphant – transformed by the ordeal from simple farm boy into Jedi warrior and ready to take his place in a new world.

The same story runs through Lord of the Rings, our hero replaced by an unassuming hobbit, who encounters Gandalf the magician and the Fellowship on his journey to save Middle Earth.

I am sure you can find your own echoes of it in your favourite stories and sagas.Aladdin. Cinderella. Arthur and Merlin. Jaws. the Wizard of Oz. The Lion King. The Hunger Games. The Matrix. E.T. and so many, many more.

(I love this comic book version – click through to see a larger view)


Disney themselves made this the core of their storywriting when Chris Vogler summarised Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in a famous memo which became the backbone of the Disney’s storywriting process. The characters change, but the one great story remains.

And the reason why the story works is that it’s the story of each of our lives, in some way. It resonates with the truth of who we are, that for each of us there is an adventure ready to unfold. or an adventure that each of us is already walking. It might be a romance, or an ‘against the odds’ struggle, yet for each of us, when we recognise it, the story rings true.

The characters in the play have their own story to tell, too. the famous psychotherapist Carl Jung created the concept of an archetype, suggesting there were twelve broad patterns of behaviour:

  • Sage
  • Innocent
  • Explorer/Seeker
  • Ruler
  • Creator
  • Caregiver
  • Magician
  • Hero/Warrior
  • Outlaw/Revolutionary
  • Lover
  • Jester/Fool
  • Everyman

Carol S Pearson took this work further in her programme for individuals and for businesses, and in her amazing book “Awakening the Heroes Within”. I can only scratch the surface in this series, but I hope it will provide an accessible introduction that motivates some of you to dig deeper and pick up her book.

I love this work because unlike many of the psychological tools available today (Enneagram, Belbin, Myers Briggs and so on) this one doesn’t seek to put people in a box so much as become aspirational.

When I first did the analysis to show which the primary heroes were active in my own life, I found that the area I was weakest was as the Warrior – I was not good at enforcing boundaries and fighting for what I saw to be right. I could look at that and decide to change it. not to change the core of who I am, but to strengthen an area that I saw weak.

And as I did the work, and looked at the stories for each of these Heroes, I could see the unfolding of some stories that mirrored my life experience and helped me to understand the context, what to avoid and to see what would come next if I continued on the journey.

I and the people I have worked with have found the ideas wonderfully helpful.. and so I thought I would open it up, share it all on the blog, and let others find what catches fire for them..

So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to publish the episodes of the ‘Walking With Heroes’ programme to the blog every few days. There’s a lot of content so I don’t want to give you indigestion! I hope you enjoy it – and I suspect that at some point, if you’re paying attention, one or more of the characters will resonate with you and you’ll suddenly realise ””That’s me!”

And at the end I will share the tool I have used to work out where people are on the Hero Spectrum – to see what’s working in their lives, and perhaps understand a little more of what’s going on.

Enjoy the journey…


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