Be Human Curiosity Evolve & Grow

The hero’s journey.

Last weekend I picked up a book of short essays about motherhood at the library. The title caught my eye. The essays were enjoyable. The backbone of the book was Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and how it relates to motherhood.

Two weeks ago for professional research I requested a book about depression. The book focuses on non-medication treatments. The doctor who wrote the book developed his treatment program based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.

My son is reading a series of books about heroes. The main characters are adolescents. They go on journeys and quests. I read a review about these books and the author. The review talks about the parallels between adolescence and… wait for it… Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.

What the heck?!?

I’ve written about this before, but when something starts popping up in disparate places at the same time, it gets my attention.

So… what is Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey?

First, who is Joseph Campbell? A quick bit of research uncovers he was an author and professor. He focused on comparative mythology and religion. His best known book is The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This book focuses on the theory around the journey of an archetypal hero.

Next, what is the hero’s journey. A bit more quick research reveals Joseph Campbell is not the only one who created a theory surrounding the hero’s journey. However he’s the one who’s showing up in my life right now, so he’s the one I’m going to focus on.

Campbell’s hero’s journey can be divided into three main acts: the departure, the initiation, and the return. Each act has different sub-acts within it. The departure starts in the hero’s known world. There is a call to action, which the hero refuses. However, something occurs and the hero must answer the call and step into the unknown.

This seems to be when the hero enters the second act, or the initiation. In this second act the hero travels a road of trials, meets enemies and allies, is tested, faces temptation, and ultimately, returns towards the known world.

This brings the hero to the third act, the return. The return seems to be it’s own trial with the hero refusing to return. Yet ultimately the hero returns to the previously known world, either through atonement or resurrection, a changed person, now able to occupy both worlds.

This is my quick, dirty overview of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. For those reading this blog who are actual experts or who have taken classes in this, please don’t crucify me! I’m trying to figure out why Campbell’s hero’s journey is showing up in my life right now. I am not an expert on this.

So, if I were my own best friend, I would think about Campbell’s work. I like mythology. I like stories. I liked the essays I read about motherhood. I’m learning from the book about depression. I’m enjoying the books my son is reading. But I think the universe might be trying to tell me more…

Where am I at in my life? Is a call to action is coming? Have I been given a call to action I’ve refused recently? I’m certainly in the midst of motherhood and all that comes with it… but is my life really a road of trials? Am I meeting enemies and allies? Perhaps, depends on the day.

Am I tested? Hmm. Ask me that question around bath time each night and see what answer I give you…

Have I faced temptation? Does the bag of frozen York peppermint patties in the back of the freezer count?

And if I have been on the road of trials, what am I returning to? There was a distant time when I could sit on the couch and read a book for more than a page without being interrupted. Am I returning to that? Because if that’s the case, I don’t see myself refusing that call…

No answers. More questions. But an interesting exercise just the same. Do you see your life in Campbell’s hero’s journey? Are you in the departure? The initiation? The return? Happy travels wherever you may be.

2 comments on “The hero’s journey.

  1. Joe Teno

    I really feel like I’m a journey, too. So, thanks for the kind wishes.
    Reading your Hero’s Journey post above, I have to confess a little envy, though. You sound like you are on the Universe’s Official Insider List!
    I feel like I’m looking everywhere for messages, daily scouring my house and heart for anything new or noteworthy.
    As far as I can tell, in this moment of my life, the Universe is kinda, temporarily, quiet.
    Do you think there’s a message in a lack of messages?

    Geez, the hero’s journey sure sounds a lot like Pablo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”, what do you think?

    … patiently, eagerly waiting…

    • Ha. Definitely not an Insider List! I find when I get exceptionally busy that’s when the Universe tries to get my attention. It’s those times in my life when I’m cruising along, doing all the things, and suddenly the Universe decides to throw a wrench in all the things.
      So… not an insider. Simply quite busy. And I also love going to the library. I walk around and let books find me. It generally unsticks things in the best ways.

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