The Hero’s Journey to Well-Being

5 min read

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Human existence, with its complex emotions and drive for purpose, captivates thinkers across disciplines. Meshing the ageless narrative of the hero’s journey, as detailed by mythologist Joseph Campbell, with Martin Seligman’s PERMA model from positive psychology creates a compelling framework to evaluate the intricate interplay between ancient storytelling and modern understandings of human well-being and fulfillment. These ostensibly separate paradigms converge to provide a comprehensive lens through which to view human well-being and the quest for a meaningful life.

Understanding the Hero’s Journey

At the core of Campbell’s exploration of myths and legends lies the “monomyth” or hero’s journey, a narrative pattern woven into cultures and eras. Campbell describes it as a hero venturing from the ordinary world into a realm of wonder, facing formidable challenges, and returning with the power to bestow blessings upon humanity. Though often depicted as an external adventure, this hero’s journey mirrors the inner transformative odyssey every individual embarks upon in their lifetime.

Recent research delves into the connection between the hero’s journey narrative and the sense of meaning in people’s lives. This universal narrative template comprises seven key elements: protagonist, shift, quest, allies, challenge, transformation, and legacy.

Source: Vinsintus / Shutterstock

Source: Vinsintus / Shutterstock

A novel measure called the Hero’s Journey Scale was developed to assess the presence of this narrative in personal life stories. Eight studies revealed that the hero’s journey narrative predicts and enhances individuals’ experience of meaning in life. This research suggests that enduring cultural narratives, like the hero’s journey, reflect meaningful lives and actively contribute to crafting purposeful life stories.

Connecting the Myth to Psychology

Seligman’s PERMA model, a positive psychology bedrock, identifies five essential elements for lasting well-being. Each letter in this acronym symbolizes a unique facet:

Positive emotion (P) underscores the significance of nurturing emotions like joy, gratitude, and love for overall well-being, akin to the hero’s “Call to Adventure,” fueled by positive emotions, such as hope and curiosity.

Engagement (E) parallels the hero’s “Road of Trials,” emphasizing the importance of wholehearted immersion in activities that induce a flow state, providing joy and fulfillment.

Relationships (R) mirror the hero’s journey with allies and mentors, highlighting the role of positive and meaningful relationships in fostering belonging, support, and happiness.

Meaning (M) aligns with the hero’s profound introspection and reconnection with a higher purpose in the “Abyss,” emphasizing the quest for significance through values and goals.

Accomplishment (A) echoes the hero’s triumphant “Return” after gaining wisdom, signifying personal growth and achievement, akin to pursuing and achieving meaningful objectives in life.

The symbiotic connection between the hero’s journey and the PERMA model underscores the elements that constitute well-being. These two concepts, although distinct, converge to provide a holistic perspective on the human pursuit of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. Together, they affirm that each individual, like the hero, possesses the potential for profound growth, transformation, and enhanced well-being.

Recommendations for Life

Drawing from the fusion of the hero’s journey and the PERMA model, five recommendations can guide us in crafting our heroic narratives:

  1. Embrace the Call: Embrace life’s challenges and opportunities as invitations to embark on your personal hero’s journey, recalling Joseph Campbell’s wisdom: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
  2. Cultivate Deep Engagement: Immerse yourself wholly in your pursuits, whether work, hobbies, or daily tasks, and experience the transformative power of flow.
  3. Seek and Offer Support: Recognize that you are not alone on your journey; seek guidance, surround yourself with positive influences, and be a mentor or supporter to others, fostering authentic relationships.
  4. Reflect and Find Meaning: Engage in introspection to uncover your driving forces and purpose, anchoring your journey in a profound sense of meaning.
  5. Celebrate Your Accomplishments: Acknowledge and celebrate your victories, no matter their size, and use your experiences to inspire and uplift others, completing the cycle of the hero’s return.

Follow Your Bliss

In the grand tapestry of life, the intertwining of the hero’s journey and the PERMA model reveals a profound truth: that each of us is the author of our epic, with the power to shape our destiny and find lasting happiness. As we heed the call to adventure, engage fully in our endeavors, nurture meaningful relationships, seek profound meaning, and savor our accomplishments, we follow in the footsteps of the heroes of old.

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Joseph Campbell’s timeless words, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls,” resonate as a guiding star on our journey. So, journey forth with courage and conviction and discover the map to a life well-lived, where the hero within us all can emerge triumphant, bearing the boon of a fulfilled and purpose-driven existence. Embrace your unique hero’s journey, for it is paved with the treasures of meaning, joy, and fulfillment waiting to be uncovered as you venture into the realms of your narrative.

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