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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:
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…
Find out more at www.timhodgson.org