The Hero's Journey: Turning Life Into Your Personal Heroic Mission

The Hero’s Journey is commonly seen in literature as the hero of the story faces their greatest challenges then overcomes them to achieve victory. You too can be the hero in your own story by overcoming challenges and working through change in this transformative process. Learn more about The Hero’s Journey, how you can use it to identify which phase you are at with your own choices, and what steps to take next with LIFE Intelligence.

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The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is often applied in clinical settings for those seeking change, but it can also mark unwanted or unexpected change (Williams 2019). Change itself can be scary, even if we are seeking it out, but when it is unwanted, that adds an additional shock to the change that might occur within oneself and/or one’s environment. Scary is not always a bad thing; that’s why we call it the hero’s journey! Heroic action often involves risk-taking and bravery but passive heroism is just as, if not more, important than the action itself (Bland, 2019). Endurance and the ability to withstand the pressure, which can occur with big changes, are characteristics that embody passive heroism (Bland, 2019). There are a lot of steps and obstacles that may get in the way when trying to overcome our foes (challenges, negative influences, bad habits), so it is important to channel all of these qualities on The Hero’s Journey.

Phase 1: Separation

Separation marks the point in time when the hero, or client, realizes that something is missing in their lives (Williams 2019). There are several stages within this phase that occur before the hero comes to a full awareness and chooses to take on the challenge of fixing that missing piece. First, they must accept the call to step out of their Ordinary World/daily routine (Williams 2019). This call comes from deep within the soul, rather than the ego (Hartman & Zimberoff, 2009). This is significant because the ego is fear-based and safety-seeking, while the soul has a strong connection to our human experiences and will prompt us to break from our comfort zone, the Ordinary World, and seek change (Hartman & Zimberoff, 2009).

The next step following this call was originally called the Supernatural Aid, but it can be any guiding force or mentor who will be a strong support system on your journey (Williams, 2019). This mentor guides the hero as they step out of their Ordinary World onto a path of change, uncertain how to move forward and progress with this change. Asking for help can be incredibly beneficial when faced with difficult choices or challenges you are uncertain how to solve. Seeking out the wisdom of others might even prompt us to look within ourselves, finding strength where we had previously seen faults or weaknesses (Hartman & Zimberoff, 2009). Finding this strength is important as the client-hero moves forward on their path of change to increasingly more difficult obstacles.

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Phase 2: Initiation

By this phase of the journey, Initiation, the hero has committed to change, even if achieving that change may involve challenges (Williams, 2019). The hero will “pass” this initiation after going through a series of increasingly difficult trials (Williams, 2019). For example, a person who has severe anxiety linked to a past traumatic event may want to make changes in their life to become less anxious and more secure in their environment. They have committed to change but now must face several increasingly challenging trials such as going to therapy, confronting the traumatic experience, and learning how to cope with anxiety in their everyday life.

The Initiation phase requires strength and bravery but Allies and Rewards are two big incentives for client-heroes to continue pushing through even when a certain trial may seem impossible. Seeking out an ally can be a trial itself because there is vulnerability in asking for help, but help is often needed; it is very common for heroes to hit a low point during this phase and have serious thoughts about giving up (Williams, 2019). Allies serve a similar purpose as the mentor, a support system, and they help the client-hero connect back to their setting once they progress and return (Williams, 2019). This connection is one of the strongest rewards the hero has to look forward to (Williams, 2019) but there is also a reward in the sense of achievement one will have once they push through these trials and their desired change is achieved.

Phase 3: The Return

The Return is the final phase of The Hero’s Journey when the hero realizes they do have the skills necessary to take on their foe and address the problem head-on (Williams, 2019). On The Road Back, the first stage in this final phase, the hero reflects on their newfound determination and self-confidence, realizing that this is a problem they can handle and that change is possible. The next stage, The Resurrection, gives the hero a second chance to confront whatever they fear the most. Referring back to our previous example, this may be going back to the traumatic experience. This time however, the client-hero may not be as anxious when thinking about the event and is able to work through their coping strategies with a strong mind.

The final stage was originally given the grand title of Return with the Elixir but it can be thought of as claiming the treasure. This treasure is important not for what it is, but what it represents and will be used for (Harman & Zimberoff, 2009). Rather than a physical object, it is the new skillset and the changes the hero has undergone to better themselves that they can now take back to improve their setting and society, two other key targets in the transformation process (Allison et al., 2019). The client-hero can now return to the Ordinary World, the setting, with an altered routine, feeling more complete and secure in their daily life.

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Value of the Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey allows for self-actualization, the process of discovering one’s true self (Fabian, 2020). Philosophers such as Norton believe we are born with our true self (daimon) in a state of eudaimonia (positive feeling) but the daily challenges of life make it incredibly difficult for us to find and stay connected to this truest version of ourselves (Fabian, 2020). The Hero’s Journey is a transformative process and by transforming ourselves and overcoming change to find our true selves, we can also achieve a happier lifestyle.

Allison & Goethals (2017) also outline several beneficial purposes of heroic transformation:

Purposes of Transformation:

  1. Transformation stimulates developmental growth, especially in children and adolescents
  2. Transformations promote healing by letting go of trauma, growth in self-awareness, and regaining control after traumatic events
  3. Social unity is benefited by transformed individuals who now have a stronger connection to their world
  4. Transformed individuals serve as mentors to empower and guide others on their own transformative journeys, advancing society
  5. Transformations help us understand spirituality and deepen cosmic wisdom; many transformed individuals feel reborn or resurrected
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Start Your Heroic Journey with LIFE Intelligence

LIFE Intelligence is an app that can be your map in life, giving you the tools to manage daily stress, improve your mindset, and help you regain the courage to live life bravely! Mission 2 will help you develop self-awareness, find a mentor, and battle through your own challenges to make the necessary changes you’ve been looking for in your life.

Chiara Nicholas
July 5, 2021

Allison, S. T.,  Goethals, G.R., Marrinan A. R., Parker O. M., Spyrou S. P., & Stein M.. (2019). The

Metamorphosis of the Hero: Principles, Processes, and Purpose. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.

Allison, S. T., and Goethals, G. R. (2017) The Hero's Transformation. In S. T. Allison, G. R. Goethals

& R. M. Kramer (Eds.), The Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership (pp. 379-400). New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Bland, A. M. (2019). The Personal Hero Technique: A Therapeutic Strategy That Promotes

Self-Transformation and Interdependence. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 59(4), 634–657.

Fabian, M. (2020). The Coalescence of Being: A Model of the Self-Actualisation Process. Journal of

Happiness Studies, 21(4), 1487–1508.

Franco, Z. E., Allison, S. T., Kinsella, E. L., Kohen, A., Langdon, M., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2018).

Heroism Research: A Review of Theories, Methods, Challenges, and Trends. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(4), 382–396.

Hartman, D., & Zimberoff, D. (2009). The Hero's Journey of Self-transformation: Models of Higher

Development from Mythology. Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 12(2), 3-93.

Williams, C. (2017). The Hero’s Journey: A Mudmap for Change. Journal of Humanistic

Psychology, 59(4), 522–539.

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