Create your own Hero’s Journey

How to create your own hero's journey | art therapy with kimberly

While studying transpersonal art therapy, one of my favourite homework assignments was creating my own Hero’s Journey. The process was so invigorating that I created a children’s book out of it! (Details on that are soon to follow, it has taken waaaay longer than I could’ve imagined). To say the least, the entire process made a huge impact on me, and I think it can for you too.

If you don’t know what it is, The Hero’s Journey is a narrative template that has inspired countless stories from ancient myths to modern television shows and movies. It was popularised by academic Joseph Campbell’s mythology book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Creating your own hero’s journey can be an empowering experience because it helps you change the narrative on an important, difficult or painful part of your life.

The Hero’s Journey takes place in three stages. First, the hero’s ordinary life is disrupted by a call for adventure. Second, the hero has to overcome obstacles and defeat enemies during their quest. Finally, they return home transformed. Sound familiar? The Matrix, Lion King, The Lord of the Rings – all of these films followed this template. I’m sure you can think of many more.

Want to apply it to your own life?

Reflect on a problem/crisis/major event in your life

Below are all 17 steps of the hero’s journey, as outlined by Campbell. Before going through each section, spend a bit of time reflecting on a problem or a major event in your life you want to use for your story. When you have chosen one, go through the list and answer each question – but with a Hollywood lens. The key is to imagine it objectively, remove yourself from it. Look at it as if watching something on TV. What do you want for the main character (you)?

For example, if you went through a very painful breakup with someone, list what happened objectively. First you met this person, fell in love, then XYZ happened and you went your seperate ways. You also don’t need to make it realistic. Who are the main characters? Is there an element of magic? Where does this story take place? Use your imagination!

Part 1: Departure

1. The call to adventure: Something, or someone, interrupts the hero’s familiar life to present a problem, threat, or opportunity.
2. Refusal of the call: Unwilling to step out of their comfort zone or face their fear, the hero initially hesitates to embark on this journey.
3. Supernatural aid: A mentor figure gives the hero the tools and inspiration they need to accept the call to adventure.
4. Crossing the threshold: The hero embarks on their quest.
5. Belly of the whale: The hero crosses the point of no return, and encounters their first major obstacle.

Part 2: Initiation

6. The road of trials: The hero must go through a series of tests or ordeals to begin his transformation. Often, the hero fails at least one of these tests.
7. The meeting with the goddess: The hero meets one or more allies, who pick him up and help him continue his journey.
8. Woman as temptress: The hero is tempted to abandon or stray from his quest. Traditionally, this temptation is a love interest, but it can manifest itself in other forms as well, including fame or wealth.
9. Atonement with the father: The hero confronts the reason for his journey, facing his doubts and fears and the powers that rule his life. This is a major turning point in the story: every prior step has brought the hero here, and every step forward stems from this moment.
10. Apotheosis: As a result of this confrontation, the hero gains a profound understanding of their purpose or skill. Armed with this new ability, the hero prepares for the most difficult part of the adventure.
11. The ultimate boon: The hero achieves the goal he set out to accomplish, fulfilling the call that inspired his journey in the first place.

Part 3: Return

12. Refusal of the return: If the hero’s journey has been victorious, he may be reluctant to return to the ordinary world of his prior life.
13. The magic flight: The hero must escape with the object of his quest, evading those who would reclaim it.
14. Rescue from without: Mirroring the meeting with the goddess, the hero receives help from a guide or rescuer in order to make it home.
15. The crossing of the return threshold: The hero makes a successful return to the ordinary world.
16. Master of two worlds: We see the hero achieve a balance between who he was before his journey and who he is now. Often, this means balancing the material world with the spiritual enlightenment he’s gained.
17. Freedom to live: We leave the hero at peace with his life.

Did you try this?

Leave a comment below of how it went!

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