Walk into my bedroom and you’ll see a pair of Captain America underpants, sketches of superhero kids, and a host of superhero logo t-shirts covering the walls. It’s fairly safe to say that I’m superhero obsessed and deep down I actually still think I can become one.
I love superheroes, hero’s in general for a number of reasons:
- overcome what seem like insurmountable odds
- tackle huge fears
- personal demons
- distractions like Frodo, Harry Potter, or Katniss Everdeen.
But what really draws me in and gives me hope for my own superheroness (yes this is a word) is the fact that they all have their own flaws, vulnerabilities, and confusions about themselves and life in general.
I find it easy to relate to superheroes. Not only for the reason mentioned above but also because like you and I, they play so many different roles in life.
- Father, Mother
- Son, Daughter
- Significant other
- Employee, business owner
They always seem to shine in those moments when we picture ourselves struggling. They are able to handle problems we mere mortals can’t take and they are able to do so with no real agenda, judgment, or influence. It’s simply because they find value in what they are doing, are courageous enough to try and are willing to accept any outcome.
My obsession with hero’s led me to Joesph Cambell and “The Heroes Journey;” an understanding that there is a pattern of narrative that can be found in storytelling, drama, religion, mythology, movies, television, psychology, and philosophy that outlines the typical path all heroes must take.
What I realized is that all of us have the ability to create our own superhero story just like Superman, Batman, Frodo, and Harry. In the face of adversity, all of us can achieve great feats in life either for ourselves or for a group if we follow a similar path.
BECOME A SUPERHERO: THE SUPERHERO PATH
Whether we’re talking about Spiderman or Santiago (The Alchemist), Luke Skywalker or Eowyn (Lord of the rings) just about every hero’s journey follows the same path with an infinite amount of variations that make the story seem unique.
They all address universal concerns that many of us ask ourselves every single day.
- Who am I?
- What am I doing?
- What do I do?
- How can I achieve this?
- Is there something more?
- Is anyone else going through this?
The hero’s journey isn’t just about becoming a superhero it’s about leaving your comfort zone, having personal experiences that transform you, recovering from these experiences, evaluating them, and doing it all over again.
THE 12 STAGES OF A HERO’S JOURNEY
1. Ordinary World (Status Quo)
This is where most of us are. Facing some sort of polarity in our lives whether it be in our careers, education, relationships, health, wealth, or something else. It often feels uncomfortable, you may feel restless, or like you’re getting pulled in multiple directions. There is a lot of uncertainty and lack of awareness that can lead to stress and discomfort. You may have a lot of questions, the desire to make changes but are not yet able to; either due to fear, competence, confidence, or a host of other things. The only thing you are certain of is that things NEED to change.
2. Your call to adventure
Something happens, an event, a thought, or a sign that shakes up the ordinary world. This can be something external or something internal but often is dramatic or deeply personal in a way. You become more aware of the necessity to change – you have to, there is no choice.
3. Second thoughts or denial of the calling (your greatest fear)
The greatest fear, one that almost all of us hold is fear of the unknown. Uncertainty is scaring, the what-ifs creep in, apprehension occurs, a fork in the road is seen – which path will you choose? The road less traveled, with no sense of existence or the path frequented by many, featuring plenty of footsteps for you to follow?
4. A friend, mentor, or compadre
Often this mentor or friend is in search of adventure as well and decides to come along with you, sometimes they need pushing, and sometimes they’re the one that helps to get you started. Other times this mentor can be found as your journey unfolds, sometimes a familiar face, sometimes a voice within, or sometimes a stranger in a time of need and when least expected. They are usually older, much wiser, and experienced than you. They provide advice, equipment, and courage. You may at first resist them but soon realize you need their help just as much as they need to help guide you.
5. Commitment, dedication, and persistence:
The journey usually begins apprehensively, conservative, and with the ability to turn back. This is the moment you decide you’re all in – to leave the ordinary, safety, and security behind.
6. Challenges and tests
This is a state of learning, education, and preparation. Facing smaller challenges so that the larger one looms ahead and be understood. Not only are physical abilities tested but often your mental, emotional, and spiritual abilities are as well. Through experimenting, experiences, and questions your morals, beliefs, and values are molded and shaped. You discover who you’re strongest supporters are and those that you must leave behind. Enemies show their faces, sometimes in the form of other opponents or groups and other times personal enemies from within.
7. Familiarity and the approach
You are aware of the dangers ahead and through the experimenting, experiences, and small challenges you are ready to tackle your greatest challenges.
8. The fight
You confront your greatest challenge. For some this may be related to your health, for others career or wealth, and yet for some, it may have to do with your personal relationships. Big changes occur here, it’s like a rebirth. You feel brand new and stronger than ever.
9. The treasure/reward
You’re rewarded for facing your fears and taking on a big challenge. It can be in the form of riches, the girl or guy, or something more intrinsic on a personal level. Maybe it was a boost in self-esteem you need, the expression of vulnerability, or the reward of pure happiness and bliss for the sake of going on the adventure and accomplishing what needed to be done. However, you may shave new fears and challenges that await. The fear of losing the treasure or the possible consequences of your new life.
10. Heading home
You’re driven to complete the adventure, you want to share your story with loved ones and possibly help them with similar challenges ahead – you may be a mentor. You expect new challenges to be faced and commitment and belief in your new self are needed.
There is one last test for you, one that will resolve any lingering questions and fears. A last-minute danger, opponent, or personal hurdle to leap. But you’re ready now, more confident and willing, more educated and ready.
12. The return (mastery)
You arrive home but one last question remains. Do you continue the journey, venture on a new, or settle in and take a back seat? Maybe it’s your turn to be a mentor or friend.
BECOME A SUPERHERO: DISCOVERING YOUR HERO IDENTITY
There’s one thing that stalls or even keeps most of us from embracing our hero’s journey and that’s confusion about what exactly our identity is. Some of you might be courageous enough to take that first step forward and discover your alter-ego despite not knowing who you are. For those that are not psychologists, Carl Jung’s theory on archetypes might help to clarify some of the superpowers that you have within.
- Goal: To be happy
- Fear: Doing something wrong or making a mistake
- Talent: Faith and optimism
The regular dude or dudette
- Goal: To belong
- Fear: To be left out or stand out from the crowd
- Talent: Empathy and realism
The true hero
- Goal: To improve the world
- Fear: Being perceived as weak or vulnerable
- Talent: Competence and courage
- Goal: To help others
- Fear: Selfishness
- Talent: Compassion and generosity
- Goal: To experience a more fulfilling, authentic, and generally better life
- Fear: Feeling trapped or caged in, conformity or conventionalism, inner emptiness
- Talent: Autonomy, ambition, and drive, being true to your virtues
- Goal: To overturn what isn’t working
- Fear: To be powerless or ineffective
- Talent: Outrageousness, almost fearlessness, addiction to change
- Goal: Being in relationships, environment, doing work they are passionate about
- Fear: Being alone, unwanted, unloved
- Talent: Commitment, passion, gratitude
- Goal: To realize a vision
- Fear: Mediocrity
- Talent: Creativity and imagination
- Goal: To have the time of their life and to show the world how to do the same
- Fear: Being bored or boring others
- Talent: Joy, exuberance, optimism
- Goal: To use their intelligence to understand themselves and the world
- Fear: Ignorance, being tricked, or mislead
- Talent: wisdom, intelligence, education, and the ability to learn and comprehend
- Goal: To make dreams come true
- Fear: Unintended negative consequences
- Talent: Discovering win-win solutions
- Goal: Prosperity for themselves, family, and their community
- Fear: Chaos, being overthrown
- Talent: Responsibility and leadership
I found that I identified with a few of them (The true hero, explorer, and the jester) and you may even notice that you take on different roles as circumstances present themselves, changes occur, and the drama known as life plays out.
BECOME A SUPERHERO: THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP
Identify your biggest fear. What is that one big thing that is holding you back? Is it your health, finances, relationships, or something else?
Find your cave. Then find that willingness to fight off the resistance and voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough, you don’t have the skills, or you’re not competent enough.
We often experience stress as a byproduct of fear. This stress is typically a result of not knowing how things will turn out.
One way to feel more comfortable with not knowing how things will turn out is to predict it.
- Visualize an earlier situation in which your fear presented itself
- Recognize that regardless of the fear you were both safe before and after experiencing it
- What is the worst possible outcome? How likely is that to occur? What is the best possible outcome? How likely is that to occur?
Many of us seem to be obsessed with living life with no fears but I’m not so sure that’s possible. I don’t know about you but it almost seems like every time I face one fear I soon find another.
No fears shouldn’t be the goal but instead having the courage to face them, the next one, and all that comes after.
So again, let’s go back to the roles you might play:
- Significant other
- Employee or business owner
What are some of your biggest fears when you think about trying to be the best version of yourself in each of these roles?
How can you use your hero identity to help you have the courage to push through?
What is something a “Superhero” would do in those given roles?
Carl Jung adapted from here