What is a Hero Journey? You may have read about it from movie reviews or in creative writing articles or classes. The term was first penned by the late mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book “Hero with a Thousand Faces”.
After studying many years of myths across different cultures and ages, Campbell recognized a pattern or structure of the myths and he created the term a Hero journey to describe the transformation our hero experienced before reaching his ultimate destination. From a spiritual perspective, a Hero Journey is a Soul Adventure.
Our life story can be viewed as an adventure with challenges, lessons, tears, laughter and probably most importantly, opportunities for growth to become more than who we are.
Many Hollywood movies have followed this structure of storytelling. Most notably is perhaps The Star Wars (George Lucas has publicly acknowledged Campbell on many occasions as his mentor in storytelling), the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potters, they all have the Hero Journey structure in them.
I got fascinated by Campbell’s work and he inspired me to start contemplating my own myths and my own Hero Journey as I began writing my books.
Goddess Myths and Heroine Journey
I love goddess myths, in particular, as I found them more relatable and can be highly empowering for women. Some may suggest we should call it a Heroine Journey as we are the Heroines in our stories. I don’t think it matters all that much, the most important part is for us to understand as a woman or man is that we have choices in our life, and through cause-and-effect, our actions will lead to different consequences.
From time to time, our heart will stir, and we know that something needs to change or we have a dream or desire that got ignited in our inner world. Then the question becomes, are we willing to take a risk and answer the call? Or do we play safe and refuse to get onto the adventure?
Inner and Outer Transformation
A Hero journey essentially is a transformation. There are two parts of this journey, one part is the external journey, say a Hero in a mythical story went on a mission to rescue the princess from the dragons or finding an elixir to save his mother. There is an endpoint. In our life, it may translate into finding a career that is meaningful to us or leaving a toxic relationship or a destructive pattern. There is a goal or solution we seek.
The other part is the internal journey. It is about the transformation of the psyche, the way we think and sees the world around us, our way to respond instead of to react. I wrote about that through the goddess myths in my book “Goddess in Many Faces”, the maiden goddess Persephone is a great example. Through her kidnapping into the Underworld, she has gone through a dramatic experience in which forced her to grow into a mature goddess. She found her voice and direction. She has become who she is meant to be.
Certainly what happened to Persephone is a traumatic experience and many of us do not experience that and there is no need to go through such pain in order to evolve and grow into a stronger version of ourselves.
The idea is clear, however, we need to learn from our life lessons or mistakes in order to reach our destination or the solution we seek. Your lesson may be about patience, compassion, honesty, worthiness, forgiveness, self-love or something else. Your lesson is uniquely yours and it is different from mine as each of us have a different journey and destiny to fulfilled.
Stages of a Hero Journey
In my interpretation, there are 4 stages in a Hero Journey and they are briefly illustrated in the following diagram:
Stage 1: The Call to Adventure → DISCOVERY
Stage 2: Initiation and rite to passage —> DEVELOPMENT
Stage 3: Transformation —> DEEPENING
Stage 4: Reintegration —> EMPOWERMENT
At each stage, we will face different challenges and gain a certain lesson and grow from that.
What I love about this philosophy or perspective in life is that it is all a journey with challenges and gifts, there are ups and downs throughout but nothing stay where they are forever. All that shall pass. It is about attaining our spiritual centre, resilience and an optimistic outlook that will get us through these adventures. It is about meeting our challengers, lovers, helpers, teachers and students that would help us to realized we are whole, not broken and divine.
Each of us can make our life rich in experiences and with joy. I love coaching my clients with the Hero Journey as well as Goddess Archetypes. These tools help us to understand “Where Are You?” and “ Who Are You?” and perhaps more importantly, “ Who You Want To Become?”
It is not about which archetype is right or wrong, better or worse. It is about understanding our strength and weakness, room to grow or capacity to share with others. It is about getting a better understanding of our relationships with ourselves and others. It helps us to accept and love who we are and with others more open-heartedly.
In a way, it also helps us with gaining courage, as we know we must embrace our vulnerability or shadow sides in order to emerge stronger and wiser.
Follow and engage with your heart, that’s your inner compass. Be honest and honour who you are right now. Take heart. Trust that you are evolving.
Our focus is not about living a life with its length but with its width and depth as well.
Learn more about your own Hero Journey
If you are interested to learn more about each stage of the Hero Journey and go deeper with this powerful tool, for example, we can map out your Hero Journey and get some personalised coaching with your own journey. You can begin this work with a 60 minutes Discovery and Mapping Session with me here.
Think about the Hero’s Journey – look at your current life stage – what is the change or transformation you seek? Share with me in the comments below. I’d love to read your story and comments!