Reimagining Heroism: Three Ways to Rethink the Hero’s Journey

“If a story is seed, then we are its soil. Just hearing the story allows us to experience it as though we ourselves were the heroine who either falters or wins out in the end.”

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves (p. 418)[1]

Heroism remains a prevalent topic, especially as we head into the new year. Many readers and writers are well aware of the hero’s journey within stories and the steps that heroes take to become heroic. In this post, I look at how we can reimagine heroism by rethinking the process of the hero’s journey when applied to reading and writing stories and into our own consciousness as we navigate this new year.

1. The Hero’s Journey as a Guide

Each journey is unique to a hero’s situation. Of course, there are many similarities and motifs, types and archetypes that repeat throughout different time periods and cultures, but all in all, each hero’s journey is one’s own. So even if we can apply (and should apply) the lessons we glean from the heroic stories, we still have to discern what is appropriate for us in our own circumstances. We are not necessarily fighting actual dragons, demons, or monsters (though if you are, that is awesome, and I commend you for your bravery), but we are taking a similar approach to storybook heroes when we encounter our own fears, as our own version of warriors[2]. Therefore, we should see the Hero’s Journey as a guide rather than a formula because although we can break down the steps and see on the surface how each component leads to the next, this insight in itself takes away the potency of how heroism allows for sincere understanding and transcendence. Heroism should go farther than a cursory literary analysis; the hero’s journey should ring true on levels not limited to the mind. Does the hero story feel right to you? Did the heroine discover her authentic self, her true sense of greatness? If you can walk away from the story feeling like the hero established this innate sense of self, transcending the human ideas of achievement or success, then we can be fully immersed as creators to be inspired to bring into being our own heroic stories.

2. Storytelling as a Basis for Heroism

Heroes must return to tell their story. After going through “the separation” and “the initiation” (trials and ordeals), “the return” allows us, as human beings, to transform into storytellers. Joseph Campbell states that the hero achieves, “a transmutation of the whole social order . . . so that through every detail and act of secular life the vitalizing image of the universal godman who is actually imminent and effective in all of us may be somehow made known to consciousness.”

With this understanding, heroism then comes from finding the “godman” or “godhuman,” which elevates the ordinary human to creator status. This creation of stories all begins from our authentic self, the “godhuman,” the “true creator,” who reflects on all that has transpired in his or her ordeals and finds the inspiration that invites others to become creators in their own lives. Dr. Estés’ quote above explains the necessity of each hero returning to tell of his or her heroic experience to inspire others to do the same because this creative and integrative undertaking is a continuous, never-ending process.

Storytelling brings people together and encourages everyone to discover and bring forth greatness and a unique sense of self. Think about it. If everyone worked on embracing and understanding themselves, communing with their souls in a way, it would not be as hard to connect with others and achieve a sense of deep, genuine purpose, especially if there have been others that have returned to tell their tale of heroism[3]. This shows us: “Yes! No matter what challenges I’m going through, I will overcome!” and: “This will be a great story!”

3.) Becoming the Hero in Your Own Story

I admit, I kind of went on an existential, metaphysical explanation of reimagining heroism. And it will continue to be this type of inquiry unless applied in practice. This practice, again, involves embracing your authentic selfhood, which can be challenging. This communing with one’s soul is not easy. It takes effort to realize that there is so much more to human life than the day-to-day, the mundane, the scary, the middle part of every story. The middle part of the story takes so much longer in life, but it is within the middle that the most opportunity for growth can occur; it is here where the trials of developing your authentic self build momentum. Just as the heroes return to tell their stories, so can you learn to listen to yourself within your challenging ordeals and be a more authentic you. It all starts with letting go of attachment to how your story ends. You’re not supposed to know how your story ends. Yes, the stories that celebrate a hero’s amazing success all have incredible endings, but in reality . . . there is no end. Everything is constantly being, without a beginning or end. The greatness is ever present, no matter the situation of the beginning, the middle, or the end. And this greatness, this discovery of self, is heroic.

I would love to hear your thoughts on reimagining the idea of heroism as it can be applied to this daily creative process called life. Tweet me @imelda_corazon with the hashtag #heromusings and I will be happy to continue discussing this creative endeavor of heroism with you!


[1] I highly recommend this book! It’s very inspirational and deep in regard to living the heroic life

[2] Because I love the trope of heroic warrior women and pure awesomeness, Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics is a great read!

[3] Dan Millman touches on the authentic self quite a lot in his books. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a great one to start off to understand the greatness that resides in each individual.

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