Our hero’s journey is coming to a transition. At this point, we have witnessed our hero being thrust into darkness through trauma and for too many, this ends in the abyss of spiritual and emotional death. Then a mentor comes into the darkness of the abyss and shines the light of hope into the hero’s reality. This hope, along with the support and compassion of the mentor, helps the hero transform pain and suffering into wisdom and courage, leading to post traumatic growth.
The final stage of the journey is a return to normal life. Here, the hero brings the strength and experience gained during the journey into a more stable and fulfilling life. On the surface, the overstory, this might take the form of full-time employment, permanent housing, release from prison, or regaining custody of children. There are obvious changes that are visible to everyone who has witnessed the hero’s journey.
The changes in the soul, or understory, might not be as visible, but are just as powerful as the overstory, if not more so. For many people who have taken this journey, there is something in them that calls them to give back and use their strength and courage to help others still suffering in the abyss. The ranks of the helping professions are filled with those who are called to use their own post traumatic growth to venture back into the darkness, but this time in the role of helper/mentor.
At this point in my career, I get to meet hundreds of people every year who have transitioned from hero/survivor to mentor. These mentors bring the power of their own experience into their work, and their passion and strength never fails to amaze and inspire me. While some mentors are very upfront about their own struggles, I know that many others gain a quiet strength from their experiences.
We are called to this work by something in our own understories. For most of us, this calling comes from personal experiences and our own struggles. To dedicate one’s professional life to serving others is a powerful choice, one where we sacrifice wealth and fame to play a special role in our communities. Whether or not we have been through the entire hero’s journey, something in our story connects us to the work of helping and allows us to journey into the abyss to bring hope into the darkness.
I want to thank you for taking this journey with me the over the last three months. I have enjoyed the conversations this model has brought forth, both through the blog and in my trainings. There seems to be something about the hero’s journey that resonates over the millennia and still talks to us in our modern situation. I hope that the inspiration I gained from Campbell and others provides a paradigm that contains something different from the pity or judgement on which our current paradigms are based.
“Not all who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien