When confronted with a problem, the last thing that anyone wants to hear is that we need to endure a series of tests in order to learn polar-opposite skills which we will need to resolve our problem! I mean … really?
Take a moment to consider where we are usually tested. Learning environments are usually the answer: schools, universities, classes or workshops. But we also test people in job interviews or any skills-based activity (e.g. driving, carpentry) where your employer needs to know if you have the necessary skills and experience to do the job. If you pass these tests, you usually then move on to the next grade, the next level or the next job or promotion.
This is how every Hero’s Journey works. Tests prove that we have the necessary skills and experience before we can move to the next stage. In resolving the problem created by the Call to Adventure, each step is a test, only in this case, you will be learning new polar-opposite skills. For example, if you avoid conflict, you will need to learn how to face it. If you dominate others, you will need to learn how to collaborate. If you blame others, you will need to learn to be responsible for your part of the problem. If you numb your feelings with drugs or alcohol, you will need to learn how to acknowledge and process them.
In every Hero’s Journey, we need to learn polar opposite skills to resolve the problem. Our old coping strategies will no longer work.
Most importantly, the recurring lesson of every hero’s journey is that the things that you try to avoid hold the key to resolving your problem. This is annoying but true!
Facing them is the test.
To read more about what is required to pass tests, click here.
Along your Hero’s Journey you will meet people who will support and help. These people are your Allies and can make a world of difference in resolving the obstacles of the hero’s journey. Allies are the people you can turn to for help. Allies are the people who give you hope when you’re tired or deflated.
Every hero needs a good enemy. We may dislike them but enemies force us to lift our game. Enemies force us to improve our polar opposite skills and gain more experience. For example, many of us dislike and avoid conflict or we go into it with accusations and criticisms with one aim: to prove we are right and the other person is wrong. In that moment, we do battle with them and such an approach to conflict, usually results in stalemate or the severing of the relationship. This happens in workplaces, families and in couples.
Research on effective communication consistently finds that to resolve conflict, another type of communication is necessary. The polar opposite skill of being aggressive and critical is communicating how we feel and what we need. It can really do an enemy in when we don’t attack. It throws them off balance. We are much more likely to get our needs met with this approach.
Along the way, we will also experience Rewards. In overcoming each increasingly more difficult test, the Hero begins to have small but significant experiences she/he may rarely have had before. These experiences, the results of tiring tests, foster confidence and self-esteem and are tinged with joy and surprise. ‘Here was something I was forced to do. I didn’t want to do it. I was scared and reluctant to do it, but I did it!’
Sometimes this will be an accomplishment like a degree or a certificate. Other times it will simply be the sense of accomplishment in doing something that we had told ourselves we could never do. We discover that we are more capable than we had ever thought possible. We begin to see growing evidence that things we were certain were ‘impossible’ are in fact possible!
- What if all the hassles you are experiencing now were really a test? That despite your best efforts and intentions, you were not any closer to resolving your problem? What if life was actually needing you to respond in a different manner? To learn a new polar-opposite skill?
- Make a list of current problems. Describe how you attempt to resolve it? Blame? Criticise? Avoid? People please? Be the peace-keeper and remain silent?
- How long have you tried these strategies without success? Why do you keep using them if they don’t work?
- What would the polar opposite skill be? To take responsibility rather than blame? To acknowledge the other’s point of view rather than criticise it? Faced them instead of avoid? Not put their needs or wants above your own? Or found your voice?
To return to the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey click here.