A Reluctant Hero Transformed

Stories about heroes are scattered throughout history, fairy tales, myths and legends. Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, found a common theme running through our stories. He identified both the archetype of the Hero and the stages of the quest, or the journey that the hero follows, in many of the tales and myths from around the world. It’s an ancient classic, a familiar theme. A useful map. I’ve been using the Hero’s Journey as a map for coaching clients since 2009.

The pandemic is new territory for everyone. We can use the story of the Hero’s Journey to interpret the fatigue and its challenges that we’re facing during this time. We can use it to find more meaning. I’m thinking that finding personal meaning in this pandemic might make it easier to bear, to accept, persevere and overcome. More energy. Less burnout and fatigue.

Broadly speaking, the Hero’s Journey consists of: 

  • A call to adventure.
  • Crossing the threshold into the unknown.
  • Challenges and temptations.
  • Slaying our dragons.
  • Death and rebirth
  • Transformation
  • Returning home
A map of the Hero’s Journey

The call to adventure:

We are reluctant heroes. We were thrown on to the path of the Hero’s Journey the moment the WHO announced that we were in pandemic. As the pandemic began to settle itself into our lives, some refused to accept the call while many of us realised that the pandemic is not going away, so it had to be faced. It was a call we were compelled to answer. 

Crossing the threshold into the unknown:

Answering the call propelled us out of our ordinary world and into one that would have been unbelievable in 2019. We have entered unknown, extraordinary territory, pushed far beyond our comfort zones and into the unfamiliar in almost every aspect of life. Suddenly, we are working and studying from home, feeling isolated, our movements restricted and human interactions curtailed.

Challenges and temptations:

We’re in a very different world full of new problems, obstacles, challenges and temptations. Learning to work and study from home, functioning in isolation; learning to cope with restrictions and a cycle of lockdowns placed on almost every aspect of life. Learning to live and die with the virus. Now we’re free. Now we’re not. Yes we are, oh no, we’re not. The urge to escape is tempting: to find comfort in overindulgence, or conversely, to move from the city to the country, or to pack up our belongings into a van and drive far away.

Escaping is good for us, but the energy behind the urge needs to be applied in a constructive way, or we deplete our power. We end up feeling burnt out.

Enter: The Dragon

Slaying the dragon:

Enter the dragon, the personal challenge or problem we, as reluctant heroes, must conquer or solve, if we want to extract some sort of personal meaning from this collective, pandemic experience. We can take it as an opportunity to strengthen our character. Or not. 

Death, transformation and rebirth:

A weaker part of our character dies when we conquer a dragon. We are strengthened. No longer burnt out, we have more energy. We are different, renewed. So we can return to our ordinary lives. We’ve come full circle; a stronger version of who we are. Wiser, with a story to share.

To extract take some personal meaning from this pandemic and to move closer to transformation, here are some questions and actions to consider:

  • Where are you on the hero’s journey?
  • How can you transform your reluctant, burnt out hero into one that is prepared to face the dragon?
  • What type of hero are you?
  • What is your dragon?

To answer these questions, choose one archetype from the list below.

Let your eyes be drawn to one that stands out from the rest. Your chosen archetype will serve a dual purpose. It will clarify your hero qualities and identify your dragon. It can also give you insights into what you need to do to slay it.  

What type of hero are you?
  • After you’ve chosen one archetype, the next step is to list at least 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses that describe your hero. 
  • How can you use your hero’s strengths to help you to slay your dragon? 

Remember I mentioned previously that when choosing an archetype to describe your hero, that it would serve a dual purpose? The weaknesses you’ve listed for your hero actually describe your dragon. The weaknesses are your dragon.

  • What do you need to do to slay your dragon?
  • What would life look like if you managed to slay your dragon?
  • What would happen if you don’t slay this dragon? 

We haven’t yet completed this journey. But having a map out of it can provide hope on the road ahead.

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