Whether it is viewing Star Wars for the tenth time or grandchildren asking you to repeatedly read Hansel and Gretel, there is something universally compelling about these stories. We often feel both deeply energized and content after witnessing them.
One reason for this comfort is that characters in myths and fairytales represent parts of our self. Jungian author Marion Woodman stated, “At the core of a fairytale is a vision of wholeness,” which is the ultimate human longing and is played out by the Hero, be it male or female. As we observe the Hero’s story there is a part of us that deeply resonates or associates with their experience.
We are all called to the Hero’s life, yet many do not to accept it, afraid to give up the comforts of our life, position and ideals. Few choose the Hero’s journey on their own but are forced into it when faced with relationship conflicts, addiction, depression, meaningless, death and other losses. Psyche or soul creates symptoms, chaos and suffering to move us out of our comfort zone. In these situations the person often has no choice but to cross over the threshold into the Hero’s world.
Like the Hero, when we decide to take up this challenge, we are doing something out of the ordinary, something many do not do. Specifically, we explore why we act and feel how we have been and why it is no longer working. The quest is not about a distinct end-point, rather it is the actual process or journey of becoming who you are meant to be. As Jung stated, it is the opus – the work on your self – that matters.
As we face our inner dragons we may think, “I wish I had never started.” However, once we are initiated into the Hero’s world there becomes a soulful compulsion to live it out whether we like it or not. Jung stated that, “Only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the treasures hard to attain.” But what are the dragons?
Our frightened Ego fights those unconscious ideas, qualities and feelings that threaten its way of being. When we face these inner monsters we gain an understanding of how they have previously influenced our life. Spending time with our inner beasts results in learning about and incorporating their qualities so we are no longer overwhelmed by them. It is here we must suffer the losses of once-held beliefs and perceptions of who we are and how we view life.
And what about the treasures? The Hero finds valuable golden eggs and the sacred rings. These objects represent long-ago buried feelings, desires and potentials of our true self – our real worth. Although we may return from the journey not outwardly changed, we have begun to heal our inner wounds. We feel increased hope, wisdom, resiliency and creative energy, ready to face another journey when summoned.