Psychology and Living: The Hero's Journey and Self-Deception

in Natural Medicine2 months ago

"Personal Mythologies" are interesting things.

Joseph Campbell often wrote about life as seen through the perception of it being "The Hero's Journey," in which we travel and "battle demons" (literally and figuratively) as we move through our lives.


Having spent a good number of years in/around the spiritual and self-development field, this notion of life as "The Hero's Journey" often comes up.

Whereas we generally learn and grow as a result of embarking on our personal versions of The Hero's Journey, sometimes people can also get stuck in a toxic pattern with it.

That is, they become a little too attached to the struggle of their lives as "heroic journeys," when — in fact — that isn't at all what we're looking at.

And then we also run into the situations where people start asserting that if your life "isn't heroic," you're engaged in self-deception and not really living.


The Glorification of Suffering

Maybe using the word "toxic" is a bit strong... but I am reminded of a particular spiritual retreat I attended some 20+ years ago, at which there was a young man in his mid-20's among the 30-40 attendees.

This was unusual inasmuch as these kinds of retreats typically draw a predominantly female "graying" audience (70% women, mostly 50-70 year olds), but it was also unusual in the sense that this was one of the brightest and most "enlightened" people I had ever met, regardless of his biological age.

But even though this young man was totally at peace with himself and filled with compassion and well-being, I noticed a surprisingly negative undercurrent of bias against him because many of those present felt that he could not possibly be as wise as he seemed, "because he hadn't SUFFERED enough."


I was about 40 at the time, and felt really saddened to see this... here we all were, working (allegedly) to transcend suffering, and yet this young man who seemed like the epitome of spiritual health and balance was being taken to task for not having suffered, in order authentically be able to be where he was.

There's an old Buddhist saying — attributed to Haruki Murakami — that "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."

This young man seemed — at least to me — to have actively chosen the OPTION to not suffer.

I came away from that particular retreat with a question in my mind, as to why we seem to glorify "suffering," and why we choose to place a higher value on "struggle" as opposed to ease.


Disney Princess Love

Consider our love relationships, which often follow a pattern rooted in our collective mythology.

We "quest" to find unconditional love and hold it up as an ideal, but what do we actually do?

We don't really value unconditional love that is freely given, without strings attached. The kind of "love" we prize is the love we really have to work for, overcoming an endless series of obstacles and perhaps having to prove ourselves "worthy" to the person of our affection.

The princess will love us, when we slay the dragon. Then she will marry us when we build her a castle. Then she will bear our children when we conquer the next kingdom.

All "conditions" to earn love.


And so — finally, in real life — we "win" someone's (aka "The Princess'") affections against all odds... and then end up surprised and disillusioned because we've set up the toxic dynamic of transactional love that eventually turns into marriage counseling and divorce... all because the mythology, and the hero's journey was a self-deception we valued higher than the actual reality right in front of our faces.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking personal and societal mythologies about life... however, we do owe it to ourselves to pause and consider whether something we are doing — behavior patterns we are following — actually make sense and are expressions of sound mental health and true personal desires... rather than a pre-mapped collective narrative of what we "should" be doing.

Because if not? Aren't we just another iteration of Don Quixote flailing at windmills, or a similar illusion?

Thanks for reading, and have a beautiful day!

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Created at 20200817 23:34 PDT



"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."

Ah, I love Murakami - I didn't know this quote was attached to him.

When I was younger, I was attracted to suffering. It was a narrative that gave me edges.

Now, I question myself every time I start to suffer. It's only me that's responsible for suffering - nothing else.

Curated for #naturalmedicine by @drrune.

This post resonated with me. I love studying narratives, most of all my own, the things I tell myself, my memories and history. I've found that all mythologies, philosophies and stories in the world are based on the same template, that One Narrative that permeates everything.

I've found, through my personal study of that One Narrative, that suffering and duality are concepts we can transcend in order to find true Love, but the only way to transcend them is to live them, to be fully present for them. Then we can see them for what they are, just images, fictions. That story you share about that 20-something in that retreat is an expression of that. Perhaps what the rest of the attendees didn't see is that the kid HAD suffered, just not in this lifetime.

Great article, man! Your content is always appreciated.

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This resonates with me a lot right now. Thanks for sharing, it's a good reminder to step out of destructive patterns and value the now just as it is.