Have you ever heard of the Hero’s journey? Maybe you’ve heard of it but aren’t familiar with each step exactly.
I recently had an opportunity to learn about it in more detail and found it fascinating to learn all the steps. It was fun and challenging to look at where I am currently on my journey and what it’s taken to get where I am today. I thought I might share Joseph Campbell’s teaching in this week’s blog.
As you read through these steps I invite you to take a serious look at each one, even journal. See if you can recognize where you are on your own journey. Honor how far you have come and which step you are currently on. Remember, we all need support on this journey called life so don’t hesitate to reach out for help along the way!
12 Parts of the Hero’s Journey
1. The Ordinary World: This is where the Hero (you) exists before her present story begins, oblivious of the adventures to come. It’s her safe place. Her everyday life where we learn crucial details about our Hero (you), her true nature, capabilities and outlook on life. This is also where the Hero has limited awareness of the problem.
Take a moment to reflect upon your own ordinary life and the safety of what you know.
2. The Call to Adventure: The Hero’s adventure begins when she receives a call to action, such as a direct threat to her safety, her family, her way of life or to the peace of the community in which she lives. It may not be as dramatic as a gunshot, but simply a phone call or conversation but whatever the call is, and however it manifests itself, it ultimately disrupts the comfort of the Hero’s Ordinary World and presents a challenge or quest that must be undertaken. Here, there is an increased awareness of a need for change.
What call to adventure have you heard or are hearing now?
3. Refusal Of The Call: Although the Hero may be eager to accept the quest, at this stage she will have fears that need overcoming. Second thoughts or even deep personal doubts as to whether or not she is up to the challenge. When this happens, the Hero will refuse the call and as a result may suffer somehow. The problem she faces may seem to much to handle and the comfort of home far more attractive than the perilous road ahead. The hero resists the call for change. We are all human. It’s easier to stay with what we know. What time in your life (or currently) have you had a call to action but ignored it? Was it fear of the unknown or loss of the life you know? Was it due to the hard work you knew was ahead?
4. Meeting The Mentor: At this crucial turning point where the Hero desperately needs guidance, she meets a mentor figure who gives her something she needs. She could be given an object of great importance, insight into the dilemma she faces, wise advice, practical training or even self-confidence. Whatever the mentor provides the Hero with, it serves to dispel her doubts and fears and gives her the strength and courage to begin her quest. Look back or even look at a current situation in which you are receiving or have received the guidance needed from a friend, teacher, coach or mentor? Is it time to find that person? If so, who might best support you?
5. Crossing The Threshold: The Hero is now ready to act upon her call to adventure and truly begin her quest, whether it be physical, spiritual or emotional. She may go willingly or she may be pushed, but either way she finally crosses the threshold between the world she is familiar with and that which she is not. It may be leaving home for the first time in her life or just doing something she has always been scared to do. However the threshold presents itself, this action signifies the Hero’s commitment to her journey and whatever it may have in store for her. She commits to the change. Where in your life have you committed to change? Were you pushed there or did you go willingly?
6. Test, Allies, and Enemies: Now, finally out of her comfort zone the Hero is confronted with an ever more difficult series of challenges that test her in a variety of ways. Obstacles are thrown across her path; whether they be physical hurdles or people bent on thwarting her progress, the Hero must overcome each challenge she is presented with on the journey towards her ultimate goal.
The Hero needs to find out who can be trusted and who can’t. She may earn allies and meet enemies who will, each in their own way, help prepare her for the greater ordeals yet to come. This is the stage where her skills and/or powers are tested and every obstacle that she faces helps us gain a deeper insight into her character and ultimately identify with her even more. Where have you felt tested? Have you chosen what seemed like the right “path” only to feel tested every step of the way creating doubt in your mind? What allies have you met along the way? What enemies have you encountered?
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave: The inmost cave may represent many things in the Hero’s story such as an actual location in which lies a terrible danger or an inner conflict which, up until now, the Hero has not had to face. As the Hero approaches the cave she must make final preparations before taking that final leap into the great unknown.
At the threshold to the inmost cave, the Hero may once again face some of the doubts and fears that first surfaced upon her call to adventure. She may need some time to reflect upon her journey and the treacherous road ahead in order to find the courage to continue. This allows the hero to prepare for a major change.
Where have found respite? Have you had a moment in your life where you entered a threshold of some sort? Did you prepare yourself for the changes in some way?
8. Ordeal, Death, Rebirth: The Ordeal may be a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis that the Hero must face in order to survive, or for the world in which the Hero lives, to continue to exist. Whether it be facing her greatest fear or most deadly foe, the Hero must draw upon all of her skills and her experiences upon the path to the inmost cave in order to overcome her most difficult challenge.
Only through some form of “death” can the Hero be reborn, experiencing a metaphorical resurrection that somehow grants her greater power or insight necessary in order to fulfill her destiny or reach her journey’s end. This is the high-point of the Hero’s story and where everything she holds dear is put on the line. If she fails, she will either die or life as she knows it will never be the same again.
Attempting big change can sometimes feel like life or death. What ordeal have you come through? Did you feel as if there was a type of death you went through to come out the other side?
9. Reward: After defeating the “enemy”, surviving death and finally overcoming her greatest personal challenge, the Hero is ultimately transformed into a new state, emerging from battle as a stronger person and often with a prize.
The Reward may come in many forms: an object of great importance or power, a secret, greater knowledge or insight, or even reconciliation with a loved one or ally. Whatever the treasure, which may well facilitate her return to the Ordinary World, the Hero must quickly put celebrations aside and prepare for the last leg of her journey. What rewards have you received from the hard work?
10. The Road back: This stage in the Hero’s journey represents a reverse echo of the Call to Adventure in which the Hero had to cross the first threshold. Now she must return home with her reward but this time the anticipation of danger is replaced with that of acclaim and perhaps vindication, absolution or even exoneration.
But the Hero’s journey is not yet over and she may still need one last push back into the Ordinary World. The moment before the Hero finally commits to the last stage of her journey may be a moment in which she must choose between her own personal objective and that of a Higher Cause.
At what time in your life have you begun the road back and came across some resistance or new challenge? Where might have you been tested as to your dedication to this new path?
11. Resurrection: This is the climax in which the Hero must have her final and most dangerous encounter with death. The final battle also represents something far greater than the Hero’s own existence with its outcome having far-reaching consequences to his Ordinary World and the lives of those she left behind.
If she fails, others will suffer and this not only places more weight upon her shoulders but in a movie, grips the audience so that they too feel part of the conflict and share the Hero’s hopes, fears and trepidation. Ultimately the Hero will succeed, destroy her enemy and emerge from battle cleansed and reborn. Looking at your own life, where can you see your final attempt? Where have you been asked to make a decision from a place bigger than yourself?
12. Return with the Elixir: This is the final stage of the Hero’s journey in which she returns home to her Ordinary World a changed woman. She will have grown as a person, learned many things, faced many terrible dangers and even death, but now looks forward to the start of a new life. Her return may bring fresh hope to those she left behind, a direct solution to their problems or perhaps a new perspective for everyone to consider.
The final reward that she obtains may be literal or metaphoric. It could be a cause for celebration, self-realization or an end to strife, but whatever it is, it represents three things: change, success and proof of her journey. Ultimately the Hero will return to where he started but things will clearly never be the same again.
Where have you mastered the problem in your own life to then receive your gifts, your elixir you share with the world?
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the hero’s journey and have taken the time to recognize your own hero within. This is a journey every human being takes if they choose. Although scary while in the midst of it, we do come out the other side.
Where ever you are on your own hero’s journey stick with it! It does get better. So much better.
And when you come back with your elixir it makes it all worth it!