Hello Bradley, so wonderful to have you back with such a great metaphoric example of the how the hero and its’ many manifestations are so often misunderstood in real everyday life. I loved how you utilize humor in prying open how we all have a tendency to visualize the journey of transformation of: ” the King who saved himself from being saved” and turned it into a pulling back of the curtain to reveal what’s really going on with the normal implied expectations usually taken for granted of the hero’s job; (which as Stephen also pointed out is “not” a career).
When Joseph asks if we know: “what is really pushing us from inside and what our personal myth is when we lose everything”; when we look back over our life and see the driving themes he is asking if we recognize what these things are. (And most of the time as you hint, we really don’t because the alchemy required is in the doing itself, and not the romantic tale that it is often clothed in as a motif.) I often wonder if many people think there is some kind of “Hero Manual” that tells you what to do and when to do it; (like: “I guess it’s time for me to go on my adventure and slay my dragon”); when much of the time it’s actually during a time of personal crisis where we are backed into a corner where we have to face ourselves which is where the “real” dragon lives. I realize my explanation may sound a bit convoluted, so I’ll attempt to use a couple examples to try and help clarify what I’m getting at.
I’ve been reading a lot of Daryl Sharp’s books lately which has really been helpful for me to get at what’s been working on me so I will leave a short link (here) for anyone who wants to look up his terminology for references; but my main purpose is to quote his own particular experience so there can be no ambiguity; (and yes; he specifically utilizes Joseph’s idea concerning the Hero and the transformation quest so there is no doubt as to its’ relevance to what I’m attempting to describe).
In his book: “Jungian Psychology Unplugged- My life as an Elephant” he quotes several moments where he hit rock bottom and it was only then that he understood what was taking place within him and what he needed to understand.
Starting with the preface and during several other chapters he talks about his early beginnings and training to be a Jungian Analyst and early on he was struggling with his own personal crisis and having doubts about who he was and if he was on the right track, and what analysis is really all about because this particular book was written toward the end of his large series of works and that his main purpose was to make Jung understandable to others. In the following excerpts he talks about his confrontation with this realization and how it brought him to his knees.
On pages 100-101 he explains he was starting his session with his analyst by describing the usual things about how his previous week had been; and he said: “It was a good week. I lied.” he began wondering if he should tell him about all the secret things that had really been bothering him; (you know those things we never tell anyone because we don’t want to look bad, and desperately need their acceptance), those deep dark things you would never tell anyone. Then forcing a smile, he said: “Nothing special.” He read from his journal, his usual routine, diligently recording the days’ events – edited to make him look good – followed by the dreams that night and his associations to their bizarre images. He amplified the themes from mythology and religion and reflected at length on their psychological meaning. Then he said: “No doubt about it, I was a prize student. I did everything I was supposed to. I could not be faulted on procedure.”
“And what else?” asked my analyst. “What else what?” I asked.” “What else occurs to you. What else about this woman; (something he had mentioned earlier), this unknown female who asks you for a dance?”
“Well, she is my anima, isn’t she?”
“I don’t speak Greek,” said my analyst. “Explain please.”
Then he said leaning back confidently: “The anima is my inner woman.” I said. “Everybody knows that. Apparently she wants to get closer to me. Well,” I laughed, “I wouldn’t mind.” (Here comes the important line in the conversation.) The analyst leans forward and asks: “Why are you here?”
He then powerfully recounts: “I cringed. Tears stung my eyes. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I cried uncontrollably. I also had hiccups. I wiped my face. “Sorry about that,” I said. “I don’t know what came over me.”
My analyst looked quite stern. I felt naked and stripped to the bone. I hung there, expecting to be banished. Please God, I thought, do not tell me I’m unworthy. Then he smiled, openly, full face, a rare occurrence that to me sang of acceptance. and then he said: “Now we do analysis; if that’s what you want.”
From there he talks about how that was a turning point followed by others where he said there was now trust where there hadn’t been before. I broke down and it was okay; and after that I left my persona at the door.
This was followed by one more session I think is important to mention on the same page 101; where he mentions he found a hat: “Once I found a dead ringer of a Clint Eastwood hat, right out of “Fist Full of Dollars”. “It’s so wonderful,” I said. “All my cares disappear. I feel at one.”
My analyst said: “Ah…one,” he said, slowly rolling his words. “What exactly does that mean?” “Peace,” I replied gamely. “Bliss…no conflict, no pain.” He nodded. “I see—swallowed by the great maw. You feel good just being.” (Another critical sentence here.) “It relieves you of having to become conscious.”
Then Daryl finishes this thought by saying: “Then I got to work, and yes, things did get worse before they got better.”
So, on page 107 he starts to describe the point about the Hero Journey motif:
“Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the day I entered analysis I embarked on a heroic adventure. To understand what this means involves thinking symbolically or metaphorically rather than literally.
Being crippled is an apt metaphor for those who find themselves in a psychological crisis. Broken in spirit, unable to function in their usual way, they are on their knees”: they want to pull themselves together, get back on their feet. Meanwhile they limp along.
On page 108-109 again Sharp approaches and dives deep into this archetypal image of the hero and the journey/transformation process he/she must undergo that Joseph is so often referring to throughout the spectrum of many of the cultural forms this theme is ever found throughout human history.
“Symbolically, the hero’s journey is a round, as illustrated opposite; (in a picture on the opposite page taken from: “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” on page 245). Among other things, it involves a dangerous trial of some kind, psychologically analogous, writes Jung, to “attempt to free ego-consciousness from the deadly grip of the unconscious. (Jung’s Symbols of Transformation, page 539). It is a motif represented by imprisonment, crucifixion, dismemberment, abduction–the kind of experience weathered by sun-gods and other heros since time immemorial. Gilgamesh, Osiris, Christ, Dante, Odysseus, Aeneas, as well as Pinocchio, and “Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz”. In the language of the mystics, it is called the dark night of the soul. In everyday life, we know it as a feeling of despair and a desire to hide under the covers.
Sharp goes further in describing the ways the hero undertakes and accomplishes this mission, but winds up describing the purpose by saying on page 110: “Few choose the hero’s journey. Who would be willingly leave the comfort of home and hearth for a whale’s belly? Who would want to face dragons? But when something in us demands the journey, we are obliged to live it out. whether we like it or not.
Analysts cannot save people from the hazards to be faced nor should they even try. What nature has ordained, let no one interfere with. The hero’s journey is an inner imperative that must be allowed to run its’ course. The most analysts can do is to accompany their charges and alert them to some of the dangers along the way.
I’ll wind up this up here for it’s gotten pretty long, and I’m sure has seemed to ramble a bit along the way. But the point I’m attempting to establish is that much of the time when people think of this idea or concept, they have a tendency to think of it in terms of a kind of stereotypical pattern or motif that can lead one away from what it’s trying to communicate. Your “MythBlast article – The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved” achieved this realization masterfully. And I hope my humble attempt compliments it without wandering too far away from its’ intended purpose. Thanks for reading, and again, welcome back.