The Hero's Journey

“Be groundbreaking, be experimental if you want. But remember, the human psyche is deeply conservative and rigid as a rock.” 
-Steven Pressfield
“Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t”

Last time I wrote I talked about applying Steven Pressfield’s newest book on writing, “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t,” to the idea of writing one’s own life story as it happens. 

The idea is that we filter the stimuli we perceive in order to be able to survive and remain sane, but that this filtering is shaping our perception of the world around us. The details that we allow in become our perceived “reality” and give a sense of validity to our beliefs. 

So how do we know what to believe? What is true? Can I relax knowing that while I am only able to grasp “some” of what is happening in the world around me, there is still a “truth” that I am experiencing?

Honestly, I don’t know, but there are clues in the following idea from Steven Pressfield’s book...

“Every genre is a version of the hero’s journey” -Steven Pressfield

Pressfield says that Carl Jung was right and that there is a collective unconscious and that myths and legends constitute the fabric of the self. He goes on to say that “The soul judges a story’s truth by how closely it comports to the narrative templates that are part of our psyche from birth.”

The “narrative templates” that he is referring to are described by Joseph Campbell as “The Hero’s Journey,” which Pressfield also describes as the “primal myth of the human race.” When you read a story, there appears to be literary conventions that are, more broadly, storytelling conventions. AND, the reason they are storytelling conventions is because they match those “narrative templates” that are a part of everyone’s psyche. 

When a story fits these conventions we find it “believable.” When a story breaks from these conventions we don’t buy it. Does the fact that we all identify with the hero’s journey make the stories that successfully contain it more true? Not when you're talking about things like fiction versus nonfiction, but on some level the stories speak to a truth that we feel and that our “soul confirms,” though often we don’t know why. 

Applying the hero’s journey to the story of your life makes it possible to see struggles as stages. It gives narrative to our lives when they might otherwise seem like a chaotic string of meaningless events. It allows you to better author your life’s story so that you can connect to a “deeper truth.”

Telling a story about why something happened is risky, particularly because sometimes the story can be about why you can’t do something. But the hero’s journey is about development, progress, growth. Frame your story in the structure of the hero’s journey and your life gains momentum and always the awareness of “the next stage.”

If you want to geek out on this like I did, or if you want to write your life story in such a way that it feels like your soul can judge it as “true” because it conforms to the primal myth of the hero’s journey, then visit this link:'s_journey.htm and apply the template to any of the stories you’ve ever heard. Then explore how YOUR STORY might fit into the template. 

Leave a note in the comments and tell me what you learned. And if you write a story, please share. What could be more thrilling!