Category Archives: Beyond the Hero’s Journey

The Orphan’s Journey

There’s no place like home, as they say, and so calling someone away from it requires a powerful motivation. In story, we call this “the inciting incident”. In our lives, it is a pivotal moment of catastrophe or a call to action significant enough to push or pull us out of our Ordinary World and into the Extraordinary World of the Hero’s Journey. This inciting incident transforms our Hero from an Innocent into an Orphan.

The Innocent

Before the start of the journey, the Hero is an Innocent. Characterized by optimism and a sense of security, the Innocent is totally dependent on parents (or other authority figures) to keep her Ordinary World in order. As a result , the Hero clings to her parents, and will resist any change to her comfortable Ordinary World.

In the opening of the classic Hero’s Journey film saga Star Wars, Luke Skywalker expresses a desire to join the Rebellion and fight the Empire, but his desire is not strong enough to override the objections of his adoptive parent, Uncle Owen. Later, when the mentor Obi-Wan first invites Luke to join him on a quest to help that same rebellion, Luke actually uses Owen’s own argument to refuse Obi-Wan’s invitation. In the Hero’s Journey, this invitation is known as the “Call to Adventure”, and “Refusal of the Call” is a mark of the Innocent.

In our careers, this period of innocence is much to be desired: we feel secure and happy; there is a sense that our employer values us; and our job meets our basic needs. It is tempting to believe that this happy circumstance will go on indefinitely. Like the characters Hem and Haw in Spencer Johnson’s 1998 business fable Who Moved My Cheese?, we may ignore signs of coming change. We may even remain in a situation long after it has become unsustainable. Change, however, is inevitable, and inevitably pushes us onto a new path.

The Dragon lays waste to the our Ordinary World, and a new journey begins…

The Dragon

The Dragon is the Fire-Bringer and the Orphan-Maker. In Star Wars, the Dragon comes in the form of Imperial Storm Troopers who set fire to the Skywalker homestead and kill the aunt and uncle who have raised Luke as their own son.

In our careers, the fires are usually more metaphorical than literal, but can be equally catastrophic. Company layoffs, serious illness or injury, or an unfavorable turn of office politics may expose us to loss of income and launch us on the “quest” to find a new job. Expenses due to a serious illness may deplete a lifetime of hard work and savings and leave us struggling to make ends meet on what was previously an adequate income.

Even something as commonplace graduating from school can be an inciting incident for change, psychologically speaking. The common reference to schools as Alma Mater, or “nourishing mother”, underscores this.  

First, we are forcibly pushed out of the familiar and nurturing environment we have inhabited for twelve or more years into a new world where it is no longer enough to do as we are told. Then, we are told we must seek our own way in an unfamiliar – and often unforgiving – world. A hero’s journey, indeed!

The Orphan

Where the Innocent was secure, the Orphan is fearful. Where the Innocent trusted in others to protect her, the Orphan is abandoned and alone. Just to survive, the Orphan must develop a level of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness that she was not required of her in her prior life; moreover, she must do this while trying to avoid the very Dragon that destroyed her Ordinary World. There may be a period of depression and inaction where we refuse the call, but eventually we must take action toward finding or creating a new “home”, and a new normal.

The first act of the Orphan, therefore, is to flee from the dragon and seek safety; the second is to piece together some new way to survive. As she relies on her own wits and resilience to provide for herself that which her parents previously supplied, the Orphan develops a new sense of self as distinct from the Family. With the Family gone, she eventually realizes that this loss brings not only responsibility but also a measure of freedom, including freedom she did not previously have to answer the Call to Adventure.

In Star Wars, Luke ultimately leaves the devastated farm and joins Obi-Wan on the quest to deliver valuable information to the Rebellion. In our lives, we also begin to consider next steps. Perhaps we simplify our lives and reduce our obligations to enable us to weather the storm. We may undertake training in an area of long-suppressed interest, setting our lives on a totally new path. Skills we previously thought of only as hobbies may become a source for new relationships or income opportunities.

With one decision – one small step – the Orphan crosses the threshold from the Ordinary into the Extraordinary World, and so her Hero’s Journey begins.


QUESTIONS: What Calls to Adventure have you received in your career, and how have you responded? What is the most significant Dragon that has impacted your career, professional or otherwise?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Review your current goals and identify the Dragon that incited you to pursue this goal. This “Dragon” might be a personal limitation, an external obstacle to professional advancement, or a personal catastrophe that is impacting your ability to perform at work. Whatever it is, discuss this challenge with your mentor and identify one way in which you can practice self-care and begin to rebuild your strength for the road ahead.


References

“Alma Mater”, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alma_mater 


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series of articles that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. 

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

The Map and Milestones of the Hero’s Journey

The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale – as the flavor of the ocean is contained in the droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous products of the psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces 

Where do mentors come from? One answer is that mentors are those who choose to share the treasures won on their own Hero’s Journeys. To become better mentors, then, we can use the Hero’s Journey as a lens through which to reexamine our own life journeys for gems of experience which we can share. To do so, we must begin by understanding the map.

The journey itself is a deceptively simple pattern, starting with a crisis, followed by a departure from home, a transformation of character, and a homecoming. However, as the opening quote of this article implies, the journey “bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.” By reframing our stories in the context of the Hero’s Journey, we not only lay claim to the talismans of Universal Truth that lie within them, but connect to the power behind that truth2. Like the Sankofa Bird of West African legend3, let us see if we can learn to use this map, retrace our steps, and seek out the treasures that have been left behind.

Stages of the Journey

In the “4-Act Story Diamond” Hero’s Journey model used for this series of articles, the hero’s journey of transformation is accomplished in four distinct stages4:

  1. Preparation
  2. Separation
  3. Initiation
  4. Return

Within this framework, each leg of the journey is a kind of miniature hero’s journey of its own, characterized by a heroic archetype that informs the hero’s choices and ultimately transforms into the hero of the journey’s next phase:

  1. Preparation: The Orphan-Hero
    • A great crisis (dragon) drives the hero from his home.
    • Characterized by risk-aversion, powerlessness, and a dependence on others, the Orphan-Hero flees from the dragon, and is reborn as “the Wanderer”.
  2. Separation: The Wanderer-Hero
    • Having left home and the familiar behind, the hero voyages in search in search of a way to defeat the dragon.
    • Characterized by the search for individuation and personal power, the Wanderer-Hero rapidly develops adaptability, resilience and self-confidence; when he confronts the dragon, he gives chase and is reborn as “the Warrior”.
  3. Initiation: The Warrior-Hero
    • With growing confidence in his Ego identity and power, the hero now approaches the the dragon’s cave, where treasure and victory await.
    • The Warrior-Hero finds the tables turned as he must submit to the dragon and be reborn as “the Martyr”.
  4. Return: The Martyr-Hero
    • The hero must now grow beyond personal power to forge or claim his TALISMAN and prevail against the dragon; transcending his ego, the Martyr-Hero journeys back home as a very different person that the Orphan who set out.
    • The Martyr-Hero confronts the dragon for a fourth and final time. Through the transcendence of his ego and re-engagement with his role in community, he integrates the dragon’s power within himself and is reborn as the Magician.

The journey in its entirety yields a valuable lesson or Talisman which the Hero can use for the benefit of himself and his community, but so too does each leg of the journey. Indeed, even within each leg of the journey are smaller moments of choice and change that ‘bear within them the germ power of the source,’ and reflect the recurring pattern of of crisis, change and transformation . When we use this tool as a lens to review the great challenges of our past, we can recover many treasures indeed from each story we take the time to explore. By collecting these talismans, we build a rich store of treasures “where neither moth nor rust consume”, from which we enrich both ourselves and, if we so choose, our communities as well.


QUESTION: What experiences have you had in your life which, in retrospect, could be described as following the pattern of the Hero’s Journey? Which archetype resonates most with you at this moment in time?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Choose a problem you are facing right now and pick the archetype that most closely describes how you are responding to that challenge. Explore together ways that you can move past that challenge and move toward integration and claiming of your power in this situation, including the personal growth you may need to experience along the way. Commit to one concrete action you can take in this direction between now and your next co-mentoring session and report back on results when you meet again.


Endnotes

1. Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, pp. 1 – 2.
2. Baron-Reid, Collette, The Map: Finding the Magic and Meaning in the Story of Your Life, pp. 111 – 112.
3. I first learned of the Sankofa Legend from Dr. Frank Robinson, who used this motif as a key theme in his 2015 Martin Luther King Day speech at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. See also: Wikipedia, “Sankofa” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sankofa.
4. Ferguson, Andrew, The Four-Act Story Diamond. http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.
Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Where Do Mentors Come From? (Part 2 of 2)

Hero’s Journey 4-Act Story Diamong by Andrew Ferguson (http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html), shared under Creative Commons License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

As I explored in Where Do Mentors Come From? Part 1, if I am to keep my promise to serve the growing community of administrative professionals at Mentors & Masterminds, I must answer this question. I have been forced to dig deep to find the Mentor within me, to reshape and polish what bits of value I find there, and to courageously share these treasures (so they seem to me), so that perhaps I may help others conquer their own challenges.

Whenever I do this kind of deep personal inquiry[i], I am drawn back to the work of Joseph Campbell, and his articulation of the world monomyth, or as it is more commonly known, the Hero’s Journey. in fact, “Meeting With the Mentor” is a pivotal moment in the Hero’s Journey. In The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler’s classic writer’s guide to the Hero’s Journey, the Mentor is introduced as follows:

An archetype found frequently in dreams, myths and stories is the Mentor, usually a positive figure who aids or trains the hero. Campbell’s name for this force is the Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman. This archetype is expressed in all those characters who teach and protect heroes and give them gifts. Whether it’s God walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden, Merlin guiding King Arthur, the Fairy Godmother helping Cinderella, or a veteran sergeant giving advice to a rookie cop, the relationship between the hero and Mentor is one of the richest sources of entertainment in literature and film. [ii]

By reviewing my life in the light of this framework, I have indeed reclaimed many “elixirs” of truth that have helped me to navigate my own path, and to be of support to others. Now, I discover therein the germ of an answer to my core question, “where do mentors come from?”:

Mentors are wisdom-givers who have completed their own Hero’s Journeys.

The Star Wars movie series is often cited as the textbook example of this Hero’s Journey, and repeatedly demonstrates this truth.  Heroes of the Clone War movies – Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – become Luke’s Skywalker’s mentors in the rebellion movies A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In Disney’s 2015 reboot of the series, The Force Awakens, Luke himself is introduced as the probable mentor of Rey, the heroine for a new generation.

The gifts which Vogler references are also a product of the mentor’s Hero’s Journey. Whether they take the form of physical objects, wisdom stories or prophecy, these gifts always come from the Mentor’s personal treasure store, imbued with a sense of history and great value. They are direct bequests to the Hero of the treasures won by the mentor own their Hero’s Journey.

Taken from this perspective, then, we are all mentors – or can be, if we are willing to do the deep work to unearth the treasures of our personal Hero’s Journeys. In this series “Beyond the Hero’s Journey”, I will explore the Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. Each article will include a question for your personal inquiry, and a co-mentoring challenge designed to help you and your co-mentoring partner transform your stories into a gift that you can share with the world. I hope you will choose to make this journey with me.

QUESTION: What mentors have you had in your life, and how did their own experiences (as far as you knew them) equip them to become a mentor to you?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Pick one professional challenge you have overcome and, as simply as possible, share that story with your co-mentor at your next monthly meeting. Discuss your lessons learned, and ask your co-mentor what insights they gained from the story.


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Endnotes

[i] Here I would like to acknowledge the influence of my teacher, artist Shiloh Sophia (http://shilohsophia.com/), and her process of Intentional Creativity.  To learn more about intentional creativity and the Color of Woman Method, go to http://www.intentionalcreativityfoundation.org/.

[ii] Vogler, Christopher, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (2nd Edition), Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 1998. (page 47)