The Hero Within

Posted on October 27, 2014 by Lauri Ringer

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Every human being possesses a hero within. Biologically rooted in our primitive ancestors, it is part of humankind’s collective unconsciousness.   When we access our hero within, we unlock our deepest potential as human beings. We also gain insight into dealing with life’s inevitable challenges.

To discover our hero within, we must embark on what Joseph Campbell called “the Hero’s Journey.” Even if you are unfamiliar with the specifics of Campbell’s model of the Hero’s Journey, you will recognize the sequence from literature and film – hero stories like Moses in the Old Testament, Homer’s Odysseus, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

But the hero’s journey isn’t just a formula for storytelling. You can use it as a guide for your own life, with you as the hero.

Though there are seventeen steps in Joseph Campbell’s model of the journey, I’m going to condense them into just three for purposes of this article.

  • In the first step of the hero’s journey, he separates himself from his everyday life.
  • In the second step, he endures grueling tests of his fortitude.
  • In the third and final step, the hero returns to his path of origin (everyday life) as a changed person.

The starting point of every hero’s journey is a trigger of one kind or another. It can be a negative development that he can’t control, or simply a desire to improve his circumstances. Either way, something prompts the hero to undertake the journey.

Unfortunately, many people have difficulty with the first step, because they cannot bring themselves to separate from the safety of their routine-driven lives. The rigors of the journey appear to be too overwhelming for them, so they simply opt out. And by doing so, they also forfeit the journey’s life-changing rewards.

Once a person makes a commitment to abandon his path of origin (everyday life,) he is in a position to cross the threshold into the first steps of his journey. Untethered from the past, he enters the unknown world of possibilities.

On the other side of the threshold is the terrain — known by such monikers as the abyss, the inmost cave, the desert, or Special World — that leaves the hero psychologically naked. This chasm of change tests the hero’s ability to handle mental and physical discomfort.

For one reader, the abyss was “a huge, violent upheaval … when I lost my farm, all my assets, my freedom for awhile, almost my life and my country.” Another person might experience ravages from a medical condition, a parent with dementia, or the hurdles associated with starting a new business.

Fortunately, there are almost always people in the second step of the journey — allies, friends, and mentors — who are more than willing to support and help the hero. Unfortunately, however, there also are people or situations that can sabotage it.

The unrelenting obstacles the hero encounters in the second step test his resolve. When the path seems unclear and he doesn’t know if he can withstand yet another blow, it’s imperative that he stay tenaciously focused. The hero must keep moving forward, one step at a time.

As the hero’s journey intensifies in pitch, he must face his biggest fear — the “monster.” The monster is his deepest, darkest fear. Every hero’s monster is uniquely his own.

In the third and final steps of the journey, the hero emerges from the abyss. He returns to everyday life, like a phoenix, as a transformed person. His hero’s journey has yielded knowledge, experience, and, most likely, a reward — e.g., money, a romantic partner, or a diploma.

There is also a poetic aspect to the final steps of the treacherous journey: The hero elevates his life from an ordinary, everyday world to one of extraordinary enlightenment. He discovers parts of himself he didn’t know existed, learns perspectives he never could have imagined, and confronts fears he had always avoided.

If you have yet to discover the hero within you, don’t assume it’s not there. It is. The journey, with its “hero of a thousand faces,” represents the best versions of who you are capable of becoming. May the force be with you.

21 responses to “The Hero Within”

  1. burt dubin says:

    You're on the mark, Lauri, on the mark!

  2. Ferd Berfel says:

    Stalin, Hitler, Clinton, Gore, and Obama do not possess a hero within. Nor do most of the people of this world including muslim terrorists. Your article should start "Each of Robert Ringer's readers possess…" The most significant problem in this world today is the fact that the good guys want to change and save the bad guys. You can't. I love your post and it is directed to the correct audience but there are genuinely bad people in this world that will never be good.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      I don't think there are any "bad people" – just many who have become disconnected from their spiritual core and thus do things that harm others. ALL politicians interfere with people's lives (theft and coercion is their lifeblood), so are immoral and anti-heroes by definition. One cannot control others, but it is noble to try and inspire them, and I think that is what Lauri is attempting to do – especially given the audience here on RR. I can only realize my highest by following the best guidance I know, and I surely cannot worry about choices others make.

      • Liz says:

        "No man chooses evil because it is evil, he only mistakes it for happiness, the good that he seeks."
        Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the classic horror novel "Frankenstein"
        One of the hardest things to understand is that people who cause great harm to others may not recognize their actions as bad, may actually intend a good outcome, may very well know that others object to what they're doing and yet still sincerely think what they're doing is right. I suppose this even includes politicians.

        • cara says:

          COMEON, NOW,LIZ. THAT IS A FAR OUT STATEMENT,TO MY WAY OF THINKING. I WISH YOU HAD GIVEN AN EXAMPLE OF SOMEONE KNOWING THEIR ACTIONS ARE BAD, KNOW THAT OTHERS OBJECT TO WHAT THEY ARE DOING BUT THEY STILL THINK THAT WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS OK AND ACTUALLY EXPECT A GOOD OUTCOME?? TSK TSK.
          ALSO, JUST BECAUSE MARY SHELLEY MADE THE STATEMENT YOU REFER TO DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE OR WONDERFUL. IT MAKES IT HER OPINION.

          • Liz says:

            Well, of course, Shelley's statement is her opinion, Cara, just as your comment is your opinion. I would venture to say that there is very little a human being thinks about which does not constitute an opinion.

            I don't understand your use of all capitals or the chastisement in your statement but I see that misreading my comment may have contributed to your confusion. My comment doesn't speak of a person "knowing their actions are bad" but of a person who "may not recognize their actions as bad."

            Certainly, anyone who actually believes what they do is wrong but does it anyway, is wholly different from someone who believes they are doing the right thing, even if others don't agree — and examples for both would be easily gathered from considering what you already know.

  3. bullwink says:

    LR,well put encouraging truthful ! but "the will to power subverts the masses" the /hero only gains power over themselves . In Mass the conservative candidate for governor is embraced and gains momentum , the liberal one "doesn't put much stock in the polls", one is trying to be a Hero, the other God,,morality drives purpose,those w'o morals (seemingly most) have no purpose, merely exist and are "not interested", altho you are preaching to the choir …I like to sing and I thank you for another brilliant compelling piece of journalism,those who have fortitude are blessed,the others dammned…

  4. words2influence says:

    There are two aspects that lend themselves to becoming the creator of your own reality…the physical body which is the action instrument and a conscious evolution or unblocking of the internal energy. The energy that will compel one to take on the challenges if one learns to activate it.

  5. Stogie says:

    Lauri, Joseph Campbell describes these concepts in his book, "Hero With a Thousand Faces." He was describing the elements of myth, the building blocks for successful fiction writing. "Back to the Future" is a film that successfully used these concepts, and there are many more. "Witness" was another great example of Campbell's essential elements of myth. I never thought about applying these elements to real life, but now that you mention it, they do provide useful metaphors for real life. This is especially true about getting out of one's comfort zone, leaving a safe and familiar environment for one that is challenging and allows for personal growth.

  6. David says:

    Who is Laurie Ringer other than Robert's daughter? What are her qualifications to write these articles?

    • Phil says:

      Thx Laurie Ringer. I needed to read this tonight. Good stuff.

    • lauri_ringer says:

      Lauri is a human being, graduate of The Colorado College, and someone who enjoys expressing her thoughts and ideas on this blog – just as we invite our readers to do.

  7. Arrow says:

    Great article. I am 60, but I am about to embark on a new Hero's Journey. I'm in a job I hate, I don't have much money, but I'm quitting the job and moving to a new state to find a new job and a new life.

    I lost my faith in any god a long time ago, but perhaps faith in oneself and in luck is more important.

    So wish me luck!

  8. Wil says:

    Thxs LR for this posting. I am on a life changing journey. Time will test me.

  9. jaklumen says:

    I think that's why certain media of Kal-El transforming from Clark Kent to Superman are so powerful and iconic– he first unbuttons his shirt to show the viewer that beneath the facade of the mild-mannered reporter is the superhero underneath.

    I think people feel deeply about that– that they wish they could show the world that they have a powerful "S" on their chest– to show a hero within, but often feel that they can't compare. I am working to show that they CAN… but just not necessarily so literally. I think this is the lesson of Campbell: not only do we NEED these myths, but when we deconstruct legendary figures (such as Nikolaos of Myra, who became St. Nicolas, and then Santa Claus), we see they are a lot like you, and me– and that historical heroism was done by everyday people. Therefore, we are a part of the Hero With A Thousand Faces.

  10. Great article. I am 60, but I am about to embark on a new Hero's Journey. I'm in a job I hate, I don't have much money, but I'm quitting the job and moving to a new state to find a new job and a new life.

  11. The hero within is new and novel concept. The hero from the domestic settings are very impotent and welcomed. It is done and organized father success of the society and community. It is done and erected.

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