Every good story, from ancient oral storytelling to modern movies to personal anecdotes of watching someone’s pants fall off on the bus, follows a basic template.
You start with an unhappy Hero in her Ordinary World, you pique her interest with a Call to Adventure, she first refuses and then is compelled to set out on this journey. She crosses the Threshold into a new world full of unfamiliar rules, makes friends and enemies and is tested until finally she is ready to approach the Special World. Once she enters it, she confronts her greatest fear in The Ordeal, faces death and rebirth, and is rewarded, then leaves the Special World to return home with her new treasure. But just to be sure she really has been transformed, she is tested one last time, bests the demons, and Returns Home with the Elixir.
Think this model is just for Disney films and your granny’s non-medicated inner life? Think again. The Hero’s Journey is such an archetypal path, it’s so embedded in our DNA, that we actually live out the Hero’s Journey in our own life.
Let me give you an example of The Hero’s Journey in relationships.
Years ago I was working at a dead-end job (me in my ordinary world) when a coworker named Mark piqued my interest by way of a prolonged boob stare (call to adventure). I threatened to have him fired (refusal) and he backed off. When I saw him the next day, he offered me a handful of Red Vines, my favorite high fructose corn syrup treat back then, and told me he had easy access to the stuff, seeing as how he was manager. I took the red-flavored candy (crossing the threshold) and we started dating on the sly, since it was against policy for managers and underlings to mix romantically (new world with unfamiliar rules).
Now that I was dating a manager, I was getting all the choice work shifts, and while the other managers liked me (friends), since I was carousing with one of their kind, some of my fellow plebeians began to get suspicious (enemies). When Mark and I joked around at work my coworkers got even more antagonistic and tried to trip me up with questions like “I wonder if Mark wears boxers or briefs” (tests).
When I realized that Mark loved the secrecy of our affair, not to mention his red opiates, more than he loved me, I had to decide whether to stay in this immature relationship or break it off and date someone healthy (approaching the special world). It was a tough choice. (Hey, I was 19.) Making this decision was quite the ordeal (ordeal), as I confronted my greatest fear: being cut off from a lifetime supply of fake licorice. I struggled with this difficulty for a few days until I got into a fight with Mark, binged on three packages of multi-flavored Vines, thought I was going to die from artificial sweetener poisoning (death), vomited it all up (rebirth), and felt good as new.
I quit the job and I quit Mark (leaving the special world), realizing that I was going to need a lot more than a sugar fix from a relationship (knowledge as reward). Soon after, I began dating a new guy, one who didn’t stand me up because it was raining and he was afraid of messing up his hair (my transformation).
A couple months into it, Mark called me up to tell me he wanted me back and that he had changed, and to prove it, he had thrown away all his Twizzlers (one last test). Even though he told me everything I had wanted and needed to hear when we were dating (like he’d invested in an umbrella), I saw that he was no match for the new guy and that I had definitely changed and grown (besting the demon).
Shortly after that conversation, I saw him at a movie theater arguing with his new girlfriend and trying to appease her with a package of Red Vines. I turned away so he wouldn’t see me smile, and popped a handful of raw, unsalted cashews into my mouth. I had returned from my adventure with the elixir of life.
Read more posts by Selena Templeton, love and relationship expert. Selena blogs for JenningsWire.
The online feature magazine, JenningsWire.com, is created by National PR Firm, Annie Jennings PR that specializes in providing book promotion services to self-published and traditionally published authors. Annie Jennings PR books authors, speakers and experts on major high impact radio talk interview shows, on local, regionally syndicated and national TV shows and on influential online media outlets and in prestigious print magazines and newspapers across the country.