Were you fired? Having a bad time in your relationship? All things fall apart in front of you? And what’s more, you can’t find a way to find any positive things in your life?
Don’t worry, it doesn’t happen only to you. The world is more cruel and ungrateful place than we’re told. But, does it mean we should give up and become resentful?
Life is suffering. Life is a tragedy. But that’s not all. There is also meaning in life. And that meaning can help you move forward in life despite all of that.
I deeply believe that you can overcome your tragedies in life if you just find meaning in your life and pursue it.
For me, that’s the feeling that I’m helping somebody. There were times when I felt really down but when I heard “Thank you, you changed my life a lot”, it really gives me a strength to struggle in life.
There’s an idea that there are dragons in your life. There are major problems. You’re afraid to death by them by most of the time. That might be problems. But don’t give up hope.
There’s always hope
You have the sword and you can win against all of your life tragedies as well as your own mistakes you’ve made in the past. Just look at your biggest problems. There are in a place where you most don’t want to look at. And then, humbly face it. With your eyes open. You will get hurt. But there is a lot of chance you will win this fight.
Do not contribute to hell. Don’t be bitter when things fall apart around you. You have still the choice to make. You can either bring up hell to the world or face your problems with responsibility. Don’t blame the others for your situation. Don’t be selfish.
Tragedy, suffering, malevolence. There’s a lot of it in the world. Some of it comes from your own mistakes and some of doesn’t care what kind of person you are. They will get you anyway. The storm always comes. That’s why you need to prepare for it.
You need a lot of meaning to overcome it. Where to find this meaning then?
You find it in a tough situation. You find it where you know you are doing something useful, you feel like the time stops. No other things in this world matter to you in that particular moment. It’s just you and the thing you are engaging with.
You might be feeling like there are attacks on you from all different angles. But it doesn’t matter then. The feeling of meaning makes you feel inner peace and a sensation you are worth something and you’re an influencer.
You must be strong. You can’t whine too much because the world depends on you. You’ve got more influence on it then you could imagine.
How one small person can change the whole world? – you might be thinking. In the book or movie “The Hobbit” one small person changes the fate of the whole world. And it happens as well in many different stories.
It shows that by taking a meaningful path and facing the threat voluntarily you transform into a different being. Not only you but people around you as well.
So, the meaning is what can guide you through tragedies of life.
And how can you be sure that meaning will prevail?
It’s a typical hero myth. So it always works.
The hero’s myth
It consists of 12 steps and 3 acts. It’s a cycle that every Hero goes through. Here you can see on the picture the whole journey.
Stage 1: Ordinary world
The beginning of the hero’s myth is the ordinary world. Heroes (as well as we do) starts in ordinary life. The world is peaceful and everybody lives in harmony. But this is soon to be changed. This is a stage called comfort. There are no huge threats out there. You live each of your days by a routine.
Examples from movies: Biblo living in the peaceful Shire, enjoying his life
The problem is that many people believe that being harmless is a valuable virtue. However, the truth is that there is nothing virtuous about it. You can’t really protect others.
In this step, we might see a contrast. When the hero finally enters another world, already established view of his previous world shows how they differ.
There’s an introduction to a hero. He has a lot of strengths. He’s not perfect though. That makes him human, a real being. Every person has flaws. Without them, we would be boring.
That’s why a superman once unstoppable was given some flaws to make him more interesting. Because what’s interesting in a being that is flawless and nothing threatens him?
Those weaknesses could make him fail or even die.
He also lacks something. This adventure might give him something that recompensates what he lost.
Stage 2: The call to adventure
One day, The person finds out that there is another part of the world – unknown to them so far.
The hero often has enough of his world. He knows he has great potential and wants to do greater things or at least different ones.
This message comes often from a herald. He needs to tell the hero that his world is not enough and he needs a balance. He needs to take a risk, go on the adventure.
Just like Harry Potter gets a letter from a Howard or Frodo finds out about the one ring.
Just like when you know that there is a lot of potential in you which you haven’t realized.
Let’s say you found out about a way to start your own company or how to get in shape. Now you are wondering whether or not it is worth it. It might be a scary adventure but an interesting one. And you might gain a lot. You might also lose
Example from movies:
Harry Potter gets a letter from Hogwarts.
Bilbo gets invited to a journey.
They both living in her small world not knowing there is another part of the world.
Stage 3: Refusal of the call
Most of the time that person refuses the call. It seems too difficult for them. They’d rather stay in comfort zone. Why go to the unknown when you can just sit in your house till your dead. Isn’t it?
And you can’t blame the hero. Even Christ refused to die on the cross, praying to God to save Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Refusal of the call leads to stagnation in life.
The problem in that theory is that staying in what you already know will not bring you knowledge. You gain it through experience. And to experience something new, you need to push yourself.
On the other hand, there are calls to the adventure that are evil. For example, all temptations of the world, to fall off your path and focus on the pleasures of the world. You should say at that moment “Hell No!” to those temptations.
However, there is a moment when he changes his mind…
Stage 4: Meeting with the mentor.
The hero can’t do everything on his own. He also needs guidance.
And here comes a mentor. This is a wise person that shows for the first time in a hero’s life or just comes another time and convince him to change his mind. A hero has to make contact with the wisdom to be ready to go on the adventure.
Sometimes a Mentor shares some gifts with the hero to help him on his journey. He provides some value to the hero. It might be a word or a special weapon. He’s sometimes somewhere between Gods and men. He gives courage to the hero, helps him get through his blocks of doubts and fear. He also gives him hope, strength necessary in a moment of the ordeal.
In Greek mythology, the main Mentor was a Chiron, who was a centaur – half man, half horse. It symbolizes human wisdom as well as a power of animal, nature. It shows that to ascend you need help not only from wisdom but also from determination, strong will.
Chiron patiently teaches heroes everything they need to go on an adventure. Greeks had a high regard for teachers and mentors.
It’s a humanized monster – the motive of Beauty and Beast.
In life, God (or some higher power) speaks to us through other people. And we can see the glimpses of Him.
This mentor doesn’t have to be a person. In real life, it can be also some kind of podcast, a book. There are a lot of sources of wisdom that may change your mind.
In Hobbit it is Gandalf. In Harry Potter it is Dumbledore.
There’s emotionally bound between hero and the Mentor.
Watch out for bad mentors. There are lots of them. In your life, it might be false friends. They will be with you when you’re on the adventure but later, they might kick you out as soon as you got the treasure.
And who was your mentor?
Stage 5: Crossing the first threshold
This is when Hero really crosses into the field of adventure.
In front of him, there’s a guardian that protects the entrance of the new world. He warns the hero from entering this path but only by passing the guardian can he gain the power he needs.
The Guardian is a part of the training of the hero. Passing him is a task of a hero. He needs to figure out some way around those guardians. The guardian can be sometimes tricky and deceitful but he holds the wisdom about darkness too.
This is a border of 2 worlds. The hero is warned from venturing past known. But only by passing the guardian can you gain the power you need to deal with in the new world.
When he passes the guardian, he sees that the world is terrible. All of the stories on horrors he heard of comes to reality.
That’s why he needs to face it courageously.
He leaves his past life behind.
And so should you.
Stage 6: Tests, allies and enemies
Somewhere on the line new allies and enemies appear. You need to be wary of new people around you. This is the stage that a hero completes quests. He’s tested. He can’t do everything by himself so he chooses other people to help him.
Big steps bring attention. So people start noticing you and some of them will help you because you have a good aim. And some of the people will try to deceit you because they think you’re naive and they want the treasure you’re seeking.
The Hero is also tested by small challenges. It prepares him for the ordeal. In your life, it can be a series of quizzes that prepare you for the final exams.
Stage 7: Approach to the inmost cave
The hero comes closer to his inner cave. He’s about to meet his final opponent. That’s the scariest place to be. It’s also known as the Belly of the whale. You’ve been swallowed by a monster. And you’re said to be dead.
In our daily lives, it can be exams, etc.
This stage builds tension. Everybody’s waiting for the final moment of confronting Hero’s biggest fear which is a villain.
Stage 8: The ordeal
The hero must die so that he can be reborn. It indicates that sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. There are countless stories of people that almost died in an accident and their lives changed in the process.
I had also a surgery that had a huge impact on my life afterward even though it was not a big deal. A sense that you might not wake up after it gives you a different perspective on the world.
The new Self can’t be born until the old one dies. That’s why we make sacrifices. To improve ourselves by letting those parts of ours die that are weak and don’t bring us closer to our goals.
Bitter flavor of death also makes life sweeter. This is why we pursue such activities as bungee jumping or skydiving. Everything that hero could be if he chose the bad path.
The hero finally faces his deepest fear. But the villain protects the treasure so there is no way but to fight it.
To be reborn also means to cheat death.
Sometimes at this stage hero encounters the death of a loved one. It might break him even more.
Stage 9: Reward
After slaying the dragon, the hero gains his treasure.
First, everybody celebrates including the hero.
Then he takes his treasure.
He recalls the events that had a place and people who influenced him.
And lastly, he discovered he’s not the same person anymore.
You’re different, you’ve changed. The part of you which you knew has died and the new one has been born.
Encountering death is a big event and it has its consequences. You’ve received new kind of perceptions
You might even lose your mind, your ego may go into your head. Be aware of that. Some heroes end up in this way.
After being close to death you suddenly realize you’re a divine and sacred being.
Stage 10: The road back
Now, the hero needs to ask himself whether he comes back home to the ordinary world or he stays in Special World.
The hero returns home with wisdom. There might be some setbacks on the way, but he needs to stay on the track.
He must have enough motivation to go home with elixir despite temptations of staying in Special World.
Now how does it apply to you? Are you a hero too?
Stage 11: The resurrection
This is the most important step of the journey – and the most difficult one. It shows if the Hero has really changed.
There is one final threat to overcome. This is the second moment of death and rebirth of the Hero. It’s called climax (most intensive moment) because this is the last and most dangerous meeting with death. He’s fighting for his life.
The hero needs to heal himself and must prove his pureness. The key here is to keep the wisdom of the ordeal without its bad effects. He needs to shed the personality of a journey and adopt a new one for the ordinary world, so he doesn’t have blood on your hands.
The threat is now not only to the hero (as it was in ordeal step) but to the whole world. The hero should take responsibility and fight new threat with everything he got including lessons he learned in his journey.
Be active instead of passive. YOU should be the one who takes responsibility (and maybe save the world). Not anybody else.
In the end, you should feel catharsis – emotional relief. You did a good job and the threat is gone forever (until you encounter the next threat and the journey will repeat itself). You should be in a state of higher awareness thanks to that experience.
In life, there’s a belief that a person can change at instant through some kind of knowledge. And while it’s sometimes true, for example when an accident happens, it happens less often than you might think.
More often than not people change by degree through constant experiences of the day, through the journey.
Have you taken fully adventure to change your behavior or you just believe you changed at an instant?
The sacrifices make the Hero, not being nice. And sacrifice means making holy. The sacrifice pleases the Lord.
There must be proof that Hero has really changed. The old self needs to be dead and the new Self-immune to the temptations and addictions from the past. It needs to be felt in his actions, behavior, appearance and so on. It’s a time for the final test. Whether or not he has changed. It’s a final attempt to change.
Stage 12: Return with the elixir
It’s the last part of the journey. The hero returns to the Ordinary world as a completely different man. He has gained elixir. It’s in the form of money, fame, power, love, peace, happiness, success, health, knowledge, or having a good story to tell. The best elixir is the wisdom to live a long and peaceful life
The reward the Hero gets should be proportionate to the sacrifice they have offered, not by being nice. And the villain should die or got a lesson because of his sins.
However, life’s not quite fair. You might not get what you want in an adventure. Or rather what you think you want but you don’t actually need. There’s a common proverb: “Be careful what you wish for”.
But don’t get bitter as a result. You gained something. Make sure you learned your lesson and come back from the journey “sadder but wiser”. An alternative is that you’ve remained stupid and will make the same mistakes again and you’re doomed to repeat the cycle of the journey.
Take your elixir and share it with your community as King Arthur and his knights did with Holy Graal. Once Holy Graal is shared it heals the land. If the knights would have kept the Graal for themselves, it wouldn’t heal anybody.
It’s time for you to become a leader in your Ordinary World and share the gifts you’ve received on your journey.
Each of the phases of the journey can be presented as internal moments for the Hero. See the list below.
All of these steps has its place and role to fulfill.
What journey have you taken in past? Can you identify each step in it?
And what journey are you part of now? Have you answered your call to adventure or you just refused it? Find your mentor and you might find the strength you need to overcome that fear.
Answer the call to adventure and come home with an elixir. Not only will you save yourself but the world as well.
9 thoughts on “The Hero’s Journey – Solution To Suffering”
Enjoyed this article, thanks for writing it. Can you suggest a book where I can learn more about this hero’s journey topic?
I’m glad you like it! Sure, I’ve used the following books as a reference:
1) The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
2) The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Appreciate the reply, just came back to re-read this article. Going to check out the Campbell book next. Such interesting stuff.
Very enlighting! Lovely to read something so wholesome, so brief and well summed up xx
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