So – let’s take another step into discovering some of the heroes and characters that populate the stories of our lives. Last time we looked at the Innocent – and perhaps you wondered if the Innocent can really be a ‘hero’. Well, there’s a tremendous gift in innocence, you know – there’s something liberating and refreshing about that level of trust. I certainly hope I never lose it.
Again, you may find the stories and character of the heroes we meet speaking to you, and when you do, you’ll also find that you find your place on the story line – understanding where you are in the journey.
The stage of the journey
Here we’re still in Preparation for the journey. Remember that we started out in Innocence – and, by the way, to Innocence we will return. (Sorry, plot spoiler there, but it’s worth remembering!). If we remain in Innocence, then nothing will happen – for sure, you’ll be safe – but that’s not what life is about. Somewhere, someone, some event, some opportunity or disaster will push you out of the nest and force you to learn to fly. At some point we have to develop muscles and power – we have to take action into our dreams.
So here’s where we find ourselves when we step beyond the naiveté of the innocent: we discover the Orphan.
The orphan discovers that the world is not always a friendly place – that pain and difficulty are all too real. This sudden collision with reality is what spurs into action – otherwise, why would we leave the peace and safety of our innocence. This is where Luke Skywalker finds his aunt and uncle dead and the farm destroyed. This is where the Sorcerer’s Apprentice finds his curiosity met with disaster.
The nature of the Orphan
It isn’t necessarily a genuine physical orphaning, of course – but that sense that not everything is candy pink in FairyLand – that dragons and demons are only too real and that danger lurks round every corner. Every illusion that the innocent held is shattered as a harsher reality sets in. Often, though, we don’t question whether the painful realities of the Orphan are any more or less real than those of the Innocent. What if the Innocent is right and the world really IS a friendly place?
Yet without the revelation of the Orphan, there will be no discovery and exploration. There will be no understanding that the world is greater than that occupied by safety and security, and that risks will need to be taken. The knowledge that we are incomplete allows us to step into something more – to take on new characters as we develop and grow – for sure, the Orphan knows that she is not enough on her own. Its the energy of the Orphan that draws companions and mentors into his life. These companions and mentors help our new hero deal with the crazy chaos that he’s just stepped into – they help him make sense of this jumbled world and help him to function in a space where danger lurks round every corner.
Another way of seeing the Orphan is as Everyman – the ordinary joe trying to make his or her way through life, often amazed at the difficulties that arise, confused by the chaos and complexity that is uncovered, and yet doggedly determined to simply keep on going.
Having just stepped into the path from Innocence into Orphan, the primary goal of the Orphan is quite simple – stay safe. It’s a natural tendency to run from danger and from insecurity into secure safety. Yet simply turning round and stepping back isn’t an option. The safe harbour is no more – the ‘fruit of the tree knowledge of good and evil’ can not be un-eaten. The cataclysmic event that launched us on the journey cannot be undone. The Orphan has seen that something else is possible… and the dragon stands at her back urging her onward.
In Indiana Jones (and, for that matter, in Shrek and a thousand other films) there’s a rope bridge that spans a chasm. We step onto that bridge running from danger – or seeking the prize – and find ourselves half way across with rotting planks and fraying ropes. The bridge swings precariously while every gust of wind threatens to hurl us into the abyss below. To return or to go on? Yet there really is no choice: in every story, the only way is onward. If we even consider stepping backward to the side we have just left, then the danger behind us begins to breathe fire, while the ropes begin to unravel – always it’s the far side that’s the only safe option… even if it doesn’t seem that way. Safety lies in stepping forward, never in running backward.
The Orphan has discovered that not all is sweetness and light. Suddenly the possibility of danger exists – and with it the possibility of being exploited and victimised. Up until that point everyone was kind and generous – now danger lurks in every kindness. The Orphan sees danger around every corner, and any step forward may lead to disaster. Although the Orphan knows he needs help on the journey, he will have to learn to trust others. And yet, that basic lack of trust will forge the friendships that last, the companionship that will last in the white heat of the trials to come. When Luke meets Han Solo, he is wary and dismissive – distrustful of Han’s motivation and of his boasts in the abilities of the Millenium Falcon. As the hobbits set out on their journey they are distrustful of those who will turn out to be their greatest allies – the mysterious Strider for one.
Response to the challenge
The dragon has appeared, and disaster has struck. The immediate response of the orphan is to seek help and rescue. In our modern world when independence is lauded and individual heroism is praised, it is a brave man who calls for help when needed. If the initial panic and search for a saviour can be tamed, then the Orphan’s response is one of maturity – who can help me, who has been here before, who has the skills I need? Who can I join forces with?
The key to maintaining our power at this point is knowing that we are the leaders of our own destiny – that only by retaining our own desires in the situation can we hope to get the outcome we want. Anything else leads to surrender, to cynicism and to mere meek compliance – led away like sheep to slaughter and surrendering our own dreams to those of another.
A Heroic Task
You might think that this powerlessness has no merit or application. And yet there is an essential task for our orphaned hero – to truly step into the pain and disillusionment of our loss, to truly process that pain, to embrace it fully rather than running from it. Only by truly facing our pain and letting it shred us as fully as it can will we be able to transform it and step beyond into something else. Here, ‘everything is working out perfectly’ is not naïve assumption but something that has to be held in faith – despite appearances, knowing that things will work out and throwing ourselves into recovering paradise.
Stripped of safety and yet not yet grown into power – what gift can the Orphan possibly hold? What will she bring to the journey to aid others? Having stepped into the harsh cold wind of danger and loss, having experienced what it’s like to have all security ripped away, the Orphan is best placed to provide empathy and understanding of how we are all dependent on each other. It’s all too easy to forget how we were once lost and helpless, how we took our first fumbling steps on the journey. The Orphan reminds us to look back in love and support for those who follow us, and reminds us of the need at all times for companionship and those who will simply walk alongside us. Only by overcoming the pain of betrayal and loss can we step into new and powerful supportive relationships.
The shadow Orphan
At its simplest, the Orphan leads to understanding and ultimately to hope. However, the shadow side is always real and can drag our hero down into the darkest places. Without hope, we can become cynical and harsh. We can begin to use our victimhood to manipulate others and to find ways to get our way while remaining thoroughly stuck and entrenched. Often we will not see this as what we are doing – we will simply see ourselves as needy and helpless – and yet the secret of success and recovery always lies within. As Luke discovered, the Force was already growing strong within him and would lead not only to his salvation but to the restoration of peace to the galaxy. Frodo would look deep within himself to discover resolve and power that would save Middle Earth. And you and I will find new resources to allow us to step bravely into the future with the aid of those around us.
Levels of the Orphan
The Orphan is called into being by some trauma in his or her life. That may be as simple as growing up, or by some sense of loss. It may be loss of a job, death of a loved one, or a personal trauma. At some point, everything that kept us safe is stripped away – everything on which we relied for security disappears like smoke.
Initially the Orphan will feel abandoned, unloved, helpless and victimised. Powerless to step forward, we look back to the golden years where all was well, or despair of a future that we cannot see and do not have the resources to reach.
Steadily, though, the Orphan begins to acknowledge possibilities – that there is always hope. Reconciling himself to his plight, the Orphan lays a base for a realistic evaluation of the situation. She begins to realise that the answers lie within rather than some mythical rescuer – and that others have been here before her.
Although a recognition of her own inner core is rising, our hero begins to acknowledge the need for others, and welcomes the assistance and friendship of companions on the journey. No longer is the answer sought in institutionalised authority, in government or in religion, but is understood to be something that we create in interdependent relationships – that we will not be rescued but will join together with others to forge our own pathway out of crisis.
The Orphan’s story
The archetypal story of the Orphan is that of losing Paradise where all is well, and where safety reigns, into a place of loss and abandonment, of fear and alienation. There is no way back to security – the only way is onward into the unknown and those steps must be taken alone. Yet on the journey they discover the power of companionship and of what can be achieved by working with others.
The Orphan begins to see the possibilities of a new paradise – it may be far off, but faith begins to grow and hope is strengthened.
Exercises and dreaming
Think back to places and times in your childhood (or in your recent past) when you found yourself betrayed, or when things no longer went the way you expected. What were the real moments of loss in your life? What have you learned from them that gives you faith for the future? What doe you know now that yields an answer and gives you hope – and if you can’t see that right now, what would it be like if you imagined you knew the answer.
Consider your life at the moment. Where are you resisting the friendships and relationships that will enable you to step forward?
Next we’re going to start to step into the responses of power – to look at the Warrior – but for now, look at where the Orphan appears in your life, and where maybe understanding the gift of loss that brings you hope and faith might help you move forward.
Until next time – enjoy the journey!
Find out more at www.timhodgson.org
PS – If you missed any of the preceding parts of the programme – catch up here: PREVIOUS CHAPTERS