3 Important Uses for the Hero’s Journey
The use of the Hero’s Journey is an important tool that for us at Hero Town Geelong. You have likely seen it used in our training sessions to demonstrate the process we go through to become heroes. But what do we mean when we talk about the hero’s journey?
The Hero’s Journey as a Literary Device
Originally conceptualised by Joseph Campbell’s novel The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949), the theory is based off of the concept of a ‘monomyth’. This is the idea that every story or myth ever told can be considered to move through the same emotional beats for the protagonist and containing a similar structure — this forms the hero’s journey. Our modified version of the journey is as follows:
The hero’s journey always involves a call to adventure — that is, a significant event that causes the protagonist to venture out of their comfort zone and enter the world of the unknown (the departure).
Julie Harris, in her book The Hero’s Journey: Cultural Values & the Struggles Against Evil, writes that:
[Heroes] are only mortals, ones that try their best to accomplish feats while fighting against external and internal forces. The only difference between them and other people is their response to the call to be heroic.
Once entering the new world, the hero will face trials and will learn, grow and gather their resources and allies (the path of trials). The hero then gathers their allies, consolidates what they have learned, and then faces the final confrontation (the central challenge). Following the central challenge, the hero is transformed (physically, mentally, or both), and the results of the challenge are realised (for better or worse).
The final act of the monomyth involves the return to the hero’s original world, which may or may not have altered in their absence. The protagonist, having grown and matured over the course of their journey, brings with them the new skills and knowledge they have gained to the known world. After saving the world or overcoming their own inner conflicts, the protagonist becomes an agent of change for others and their community.
The Hero’s Journey in Psychology
Campbell’s model is not only used in the sphere of writing, but is also a useful tool for understanding our own personal journey and inner struggles. Dr. Clive Williams, a clinical psychologist in Brisbane, demonstrates that the hero’s journey can be used in the field of psychology to manage and understand mental health issues such as anxiety.
In his book, A Mudmap for Your Life? The Hero’s Journey, Dr. Williams explores the possibility of applying the hero’s journey to one’s personal journey and Campbell’s suggestion to ‘follow your bliss’. The aim of this book is to give readers understanding about navigating their own hero’s journey, recognising where changes need to be made and giving structure to one’s inner journey. He writes that:
Heroes repeatedly learn that if they are to achieve that which they desire, then the impossible must at least be attempted. In doing the impossible, the often reluctant Hero learns that he is capable of much more than he believed possible.
For us in everyday life, our hero’s journey doesn’t have to be to slay a dragon, but as Dr. Williams writes, every hero has a symbolic dragon: “the thing, the person, the situation he most fears”. Our hero’s journey can range from the everyday such as giving a speech if we are afraid of public speaking, to the heroic such as standing up for a stranger who is being harassed on the street.
The Hero’s Journey as a Roadmap to Positive Change
At Hero Town, we aspire to train individuals to recognise these calls to action and to know when and how to act in adverse situations. By analysing the hero’s journey as it applies to ourselves and our personal journey, we can begin to recognise where we have taken the call to adventure and stepped up even if it was outside our comfort zone. The structure of the hero’s journey can be used to assist us in gaining self-awareness and perspective for ourselves and for others.
By understanding our own hero’s journey, and being able to recognise and respond to the call to adventure, we can become agents of positive change for ourselves, for others, and for our community. Learn more about how you can become trained as a hero with Hero Town Geelong.