The Hero's Journey

Posted @ 08:58:56 on 22 April 2010

I have been having a really interesting foray into the world of Archetypes this last few weeks, from the perspective of Jung's Archetypes. I like the fact that they were based on the Tarot, but that he had to keep that bit quiet in order for fellow scientific types to take him seriously, and it fits really nicely with my NLP training, as we work a lot in the spiritual world with the techniques we use, but always under the guise of it being purely in the interest of therapy, or business or whatever context you happen to be working in at that time. Most of my training involved using methods of moving and working with energy, but they only tell you that is what you are doing if you ask the right questions. So my little detour round the Archetypes started with Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" which also tied in quite nicely with some research I did a while ago into the existence of stories that are common across all cultures and all religions, the monomyth, (like the idea of the Sacrificial God which appears in many forms) and then I moved off into Carol Pearson's book, "Awakening the Heroes Within" which looks at Jung's 12 archetypes and them fits them into Campbell''s framework of the monomyth, (but in a more readable way) and then shows how it applies to our own lives, and why we need the monomyth in the first place in our secular, generally non-spiritual world, and it has given me a real insight into the process of Life Laundry, and what is happening when we go into a fast spin with no fabric softener. According to Pearson, the life laundry (or Hero's Journey - which makes it sound far more noble!) is just something we do. I know that by studying NLP that our Unconscious Mind always wants more, so the minute you have achieved your goals your UCM starts asking "What's next?" because that is how we keep moving forwards through life without getting stuck in a dead energy, or a situation that does not feed us for long. This way, when life becomes a little quieter and you have a few moments to yourself, your UCM will often present you with situations that you have not resolved yet, as a way of asking you if you would like to resolve them yet or not. This can be quite off putting when you are enjoying a sunset over a Greek seascape, or a nice bit of planting in your garden, or even just sitting on the tube minding your own business, but it is how our minds work. So Pearson puts forward the idea that the purpose of our life is to keep growing. I can concur with that. And part of that growth process involves development, which can unfortunately be quite uncomfortable while it is going on, but it makes me feel a whole lot better when I can see a bigger picture, and be able to recognise that there is actually a pattern, and it is not just random discomfort. At work in the last 18 months, I have been learning to adapt and change in a big way, and the one piece of guidance I was given was "If you have done something this way in the past, assume that is not how you are going to do it now." At times it has been painful, like pulling teeth, and sometimes immensely distressing, but the one thing I can say is that it was never boring. I am growing and learning and still alive. The crook and the flail have been clearly in evidence in my life over the last few years. So how does the hero's journey work then? Pearson and Campbell break the process down into three stages, each of which is characterised by the existence of four of the archetypes, so in a picture form, you get a four part mandala for each stage of the Hero's Journey, but in simple terms, you get three stages; the Preparation, the Journey, and the Return, and it moves in a spiral formation, so once one journey is complete, another one starts. The Preparation This occurs when your UCM starts it's thing about "I am bored now, what are we going to play with next?" You have had quiet time for a period, and now it is time to start the cycle again. At this stage, we are given many tests to see if we are ready to go on a new journey, many dragons to slay in order to prove our courage and test our skill. Our journey can't progress until we can demonstrate successful preparation, which explains why we often have repeating patterns or people that crop up in our lives... these repeating character types or situations are tests to see if we are ready for that particular journey. When we have passed the tests and are ready to experience a true metamorphosis, to die to what we have been and be reborn into another level of consciousness, then the journey can begin. The Journey The journey is an inner one. It is an initiation, and in a society that tends not to generally have the process of initiation as part of most people's lives, (except to those of us who do it quietly in the background) this comes as somewhat of a shock. You may be shocked into disorientation by sudden suffering, loss or pain. (Sound familiar?!) You may have an experience that you cannot explain using your old way of viewing the world, but disorientation alone is not enough. We have to be thrown off our balance so much that we begin to search for the meaning at a deeper level. However, the challenge for the initiate is not to try and pretend that you have it all under control and that you know what is going on, the challenge is to stay with the sense of disorientation and stop trying to analyse it all with your Conscious Mind. This is an unconscious experience, and no amount of thinking will help you here. (Which reminds me of my NLP teacher's mantra when things get tough, "Thinking is very over rated, and is bad for you. Stop doing it!") We are now operating on a soul level, and in order to complete this part of the process, all you can do is let go of your controlling conscious baggage and go with the flow... Once you have achieved that, it is likely you will get the insight you have been searching for, your "Aha!" moment, and it is time to move on... The Return The challenge here is to bring back your new found wisdom and consciously and unconsciously integrate it. It is time to heal up the schism between your CM and your UCM again, and become a whole person once more. To do this, you have to let your Conscious Mind in on the secret of what you have been up to, so that it can understand the new set of rules you want to apply, so that it can use this information. It is like the story of Parcival - you have to let Parcival ask the sacred questions instead of trying to guess what the answers are, so the knowledge can be integrated, so you can balance the self, and begin to express yourself in the world once more. If you fail to ask the sacred questions, you stay on the outside, and don't become whole again, you are broken. Like Parcival, you stay out of the world and this is not helpful or healthy for either you or the world. Pearson says that the trick of life, is for us to become better at manifesting our true and unique selves, and we do not need money or possessions to collect, we need to get better at being fully ourselves, a unified self in order to feel whole again... Fascinating stuff..... and this is just the surface level... the Archetypes themselves then bring in a whole other level on top... And more anon!

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