What is a Heroic Imagination?

 In Everyday Heroes, Hero Training, Mindfulness, Social Psychology

The heroic imagination is a concept created by several of our advisers, including Dr. Phillip Zimbardo. But what does it mean to have a heroic imagination, and what is the purpose of imagining ourselves as heroes?

The power of imagination

The concept of a heroic imagination was originally explained in a paper by Zimbardo, Zeno Franco, and Kathy Blau, which can be found at the APA website. Here, they discuss that the heroic imagination is made up of three parts: how heroes are imagined in fiction and the public; as a mental readiness to act heroically when opportunities to act heroically arise; and the ability to imagine and convey a new way of ordering a social system for the greater good.

In an article by Zimbardo and Franco, they further discuss the banality of heroism. Here, they point out that a heroic imagination is the ability to imagine oneself facing risks and solving hypothetical problems. We use our heroic imagination to solve problems every day, which helps us to consider the possible solutions and outcomes of a situation. What makes an imagination heroic is the application to situations that require heroic action. In Zimbardo’s paper titled “Why the world needs heroes”, he writes that:

Heroic Imagination plus Moral Courage equals the willingness and ability to stand up to evil in all its many forms…

Zimbardo’s paper can be accessed in Europe’s Journal of Psychology.¬†Training the heroic imagination is one way to prepare ourselves to act heroically when we receive our Call to Adventure.

Nurturing the heroic imagination

Zimbardo and Franco both emphasise the importance of mindfulness for a heroic imagination. This helps us to be more observant in situations and not “zoning out” during our everyday lives. Doing this could cause us to miss an opportunity to act heroically. You can practice your mindfulness skills and train yourself to be present in the moment with Hero Town’s mindfulness program. Follow along with our trainer Simon’s free guided exercises if you need help getting started.

The next step is to get used to being a positive deviant, and developing resilience in the face of challenges or conflict. We can develop this by acting as a positive deviant in small ways, so that we’re used to being noticed. You can find our tips on our blog about positive deviance. We must also learn to overcome the bystander effect, which can be a very powerful influence in crisis situations. To do this, we must learn to stop rationalising our own inaction and take the leap into heroic action.

The Heroic Imagination Project

The Heroic Imagination Project was founded by Zimbardo with the mission to train everyday people to become heroes. Hero training is based on heroism research from Zimbardo himself and the many other brilliant minds in social psychology. Our hero training is developed from the Heroic Imagination Project and we are proud to bring it to communities in Australia. Find out more and empower yourself to become an everyday hero today.

Steph Downing
Stephanie Downing is the administrative assistant for Hero Town Geelong. Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Cordite Poetry Review.
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