The Hero’s Journey and Archetypes – some material for reflection

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There are three stages in the hero’s journey, the preparation, the journey and the return.  You can relate these three stages to past, current and future ‘journeys’ of your own.  I’ve found that reflecting within this framework can bring interesting results.  I’ve used it a fair bit with teams as a creative exercise.

Preparation: Archetypes of the Family

The archetypes of preparation can be seen as connecting with the inner child (Innocent and Orphan) and the inner parent (Caregiver as nurturing parent; Warrior as protecting parent). These four archetypes tend to be active in young people and/or organizations that are new or that employ or serve people who are at the preparation level of development. Together, these archetypes provide an inner “family” that makes the individual less dependent upon the health of the family of origin. When all four are awakened in an individual or organization, he/she/it generally is able to move on to The Journey.

THE INNOCENT Every era has myths of a golden age or of a promised land where life has been or will be perfect. The promise of the Innocent is that life need not be hard. Within each of us, the Innocent is the spontaneous, trusting child that, while a bit dependent, has the optimism to take the journey.
THE ORPHAN The Orphan understands that everyone matters, just as they are. Down-to-earth and unpretentious, it reveals a deep structure influenced by the wounded or orphaned child that expects very little from life, but that teaches us with empathy, realism, and street wisdom.
THE WARRIOR When everything seems lost, the Warrior rides over the hill and saves the day. Tough and courageous, this archetype helps us set and achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and persist in difficult times, although it also tends to see others as enemies and to think in either/or terms.
THE CAREGIVER The Caregiver is an altruist, moved by compassion, generosity, and selflessness to help others. Although prone to martyrdom and enabling behaviors, the inner Caregiver helps us raise our children, aid those in need, and build structures to sustain life and health.
The Journey: Archetypes of Transformation and Change

These archetypes of metamorphosis personify the process of seeking out new options; tearing down what no longer serves; committing to people, values, and activities; and creating new forms. They are expressed most often in individuals (adolescence, midlife, retirement, etc.) and organizations in times of transition, and all of them want to maximize personal freedom and fulfilment. When all four are awakened within individuals or organizations, they become ready for The Return.

THE EXPLORER The Explorer leaves the known to discover and explore the unknown. This inner rugged individual braves loneliness and isolation to seek out new paths. Often oppositional, this iconoclastic archetype helps us discover our uniqueness, our perspectives, and our callings.
THE DESTROYER The Outlaw/Destroyer embodies repressed anger about structures that no longer serve life even when these structures still are supported by society or by our conscious choices. Although this archetype can be ruthless, it weeds the garden in ways that allow for new growth.
THE LOVER The Lover archetype governs all kinds of love—from parental love, to friendship, to spiritual love—but we know it best in romance. Although it can bring all sorts of heartache and drama, it helps us experience pleasure, achieve intimacy, make commitments, and follow our dreams.
THE CREATOR The Creator archetype fosters all imaginative endeavours, from the highest art to the smallest innovation in lifestyle or work. Adverse to stasis, it can cause us to overload our lives with constant new projects; yet, properly channeled, it helps us express ourselves in beautiful ways.
The Return: Archetypes of the Royal Court

When the archetypes of the return are activated, people and organizations know who they are at a deeper level than they once did. Now they are motivated to seek out ways to use their gifts and perspectives to make a difference in the world. They no longer yearn to be taken care of, and they do not blame others or find excuses. Rather, they live and work in ways that express their values, commitments, and talents in a socially responsible manner. These archetypes generally are awakened and in balance within psychologically mature individuals and organizations able not only to benefit from the rights of living in a free society, but also to undertake the responsibilities of active, engaged citizenship.

THE RULER The Ruler archetype inspires us to take responsibility for our own lives, in our fields of endeavour, and in the society at large. If he/she overcomes the temptation to dominate others, the developed Ruler creates environments that invite in the gifts and perspectives of all concerned.
THE MAGICIAN The Magician archetype searches out the fundamental laws of science and/or metaphysics to understand how to transform situations, influence people, and make visions into realities. If the Magician can overcome the temptation to use power manipulatively, it galvanizes energies for good.
THE SAGE The Sage archetype seeks the truths that will set us free. Especially if the Sage overcomes the temptation of dogma, it can help us become wise, to see the world and ourselves objectively, and to correct/fine-tune our course based on objective analyses of the results of our actions and choices.
THE JESTER The Jester archetype urges us to enjoy the process of our lives. Although the Jester can be prone to laziness and dissipation, the positive Jester invites us all out to play–showing us how to turn our work, our interactions with others, and even the most mundane tasks into FUN.

Heroic Archetypes

Stories about heroes are deeply embedded in our culture and literary heritage.  Joseph Campbell, in ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, identified both the archetype of the Hero and the quest that the hero follows, in many of the folk tales and myths of the world.  This archetype and its journey was surprisingly invariant through many of the tales.  Carol Pearson, in ‘Awakening the Heroes Within’ expands the idea of the Hero into twelve distinct archetypes, each of which can follow the Hero Quest.  Throughout our lives we may engage in many heroic journeys, such as growing up, working through our careers, becoming parents, and meeting the myriad of challenges we encounter during our four score years and ten.  Each journey we undertake has the potential to take us to ever deeper levels of awareness and competence – and capacity developed from the challenges of one area of our lives has the potential to be applied to future challenges in other areas.

Returning to the twelve archetypes, Carol Pearson describes them in terms of the following criteria:

  • Quest: The path which the archetype has set out on. The hero may not realise s/he is on such a path until it is too late to retreat.
  • Fear: This is the fear which is usually the motivating factor for undergoing the Quest.
  • Obstacles: In most Quests the hero soon meets the major problems or obstacles which need to be overcome in order for the Quest to be successful.
  • Task: This is the task that the hero must accomplish in order to succeed at the Quest. Succeeding at the task requires that the Obstacles are fully overcome. However failure to overcome the Obstacles can lead to the expression of the shadow self (as ‘described’ under the Quest’s associated Obstacles).
  • Reward: Succeeding at the Quest earns the hero the rewards of self development, fulfilment (temporarily at least!) and an increased ability to engage in new Quests.

The heroic archetypes and their associated criteria are as follows:

The Innocent

Quest: To remain safe.

Fear: Being abandoned.

Obstacles: Denial, repression, irrational optimism, inappropriate risk taking.

Task: Experience disillusionment and disappointment but retain optimism to deal with adversity.

Reward: Trust and optimism.

The Orphan

Quest: To regain safety.

Fear: Being exploited.

Obstacles: Cynicism, callousness, using the victim role to manipulate the environment.

Task: Acknowledge the truth of one’s plight and feel pain/abandonment, replace dependence with interdependence and resilience.

Reward: Interdependence, realism and resilience.

The Warrior

Quest: To win.

Fear: Being weak.

Obstacles: Ruthlessness, unprincipled need to win, viewing ‘difference’ as a threat.

Task: To fight only for what really matters with fairness and integrity, seeking win/win outcomes.

Reward: Courage and discipline.

The Caregiver

Quest: To help others.

Fear: Being selfish.

Obstacles: Suffering martyr, aiding and abetting other people’s irresponsibility or narcissism.

Task: To give without harming self or others, empowering – not ‘doing’ – for others.

Virtue: Compassion and generosity.

The Explorer

Quest: To search for a better life.

Fear: Being a conformist.

Obstacles: Excessive ambition, perfectionism, addictiveness in general.

Task: Exploring, experimenting, ambition, becoming the best you can.

Virtue: Autonomy and ambition.

The Lover

Quest: To gain happiness and harmony.

Fear: Being unloved.

Obstacles: Jealousy, envy, obsessive fixations including sex and conversely puritanism.

Task: To follow what you love, making commitments, connecting self with the collective.

Virtue: Passion and commitment.

The Destroyer

Quest: To metamorphosis.

Fear: Being annihilated.

Obstacles: Self-destructiveness (incl. drug and alcohol abuse) and/or destruction of others.

Task: Grappling with loss and/or death, letting go of dysfunctional beliefs/behaviours.

Virtue: Humility.

The Creator

Quest: To gain identity.

Fear: Being inauthentic, of no ‘substance’.

Obstacles: Creation of negative circumstances, limited opportunities, workaholism.

Task: Opening self to inspiration and creating what you imagine or envisage.

Virtue: Individuality and vocation.

The Ruler

Quest: To create order.

Fear: Being in a state of chaos.

Obstacles: Controlling, rigid, tyrannical, manipulative behaviours.

Task: Take responsibility for self and own development, working towards a better world.

Virtue: Responsibility and control.

The Magician

Quest: To transform.

Fear: Being unaligned, unconnected.

Obstacles: Turning what is positive into negative.

Task: Consciously using the knowledge that everything is connected to everything else.

Virtue: Personal power.

The Sage

Quest: To find truth.

Fear: Being deceived, unable to find the ‘truth’.

Obstacles: Unfeeling, being ‘cut-off’, critical, judging, pompous behaviours and attitudes.

Task: To attain enlightenment, acceptance of subjectivity as part of the human condition.

Virtue: Wisdom and non-attachment.

The Jester

Quest: To enjoy life for its own sake.

Fear: Of being bored, not ‘alive’.

Obstacles: Self-indulgence, sloth, irresponsibility.

Task: To trust in the process of experiencing life ‘in the moment’, one day at a time.

Virtue: Joy and freedom.

Your Journey …. ?

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4 thoughts on “The Hero’s Journey and Archetypes – some material for reflection

  1. Thank you for this; VERY nice and clear exploration. I took that template for a workshop design and I liked it a lot!

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