Stars image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.
That moment when the crowd you are facing is standing and enthusiastically exclaiming their appreciation with applause, yelps, and hoots…
I’m back in Jenny Sauer-Klein’s Game Changers workshop at Impact Hub Oakland about a year ago. In the last exercise of the evening, we separate into teams of 8 people and take turns receiving a Standing O. I remember luxuriating in the appreciative energy, alternatively hand on heart and beating my chest, howling, smiling, and a little part of me, tearing up. The feeling of deep appreciation landed quite tenderly in me. Peering through my watery eyes, I realize I’m not actually in Kansas anymore.
- The Hero’s Journey makes a distinction between the hero and everyone else. It puts us – everyone else – in the position of waiting for the hero to come along and fix things. Very disempowering. We see a tendency towards hero worship in modern society driven by the media. According to Psychology Today. the top-five values expressed on the most popular television shows among children aged 9-11 are Fame, Achievement, Popularity, Image, and Financial Success. And Fame is the top aspirational value for 9-11 year old kids. This certainly not the medicine we need now.
- The Hero’s Journey is highly dualistic. You’re either with me or you are against me. A hero or a villain, good or evil, with us or with them, one of us or the other. Rather than transcend differences and encouraging cooperation, it creates and encourages separation. Could this explain the prevalence and depth of conflict we are experiencing? According to the Center for Non-violent Communication, in 75 percent of the TV programs shown during hours when American children are most likely to be watching, the hero either kills people or beats them up. According to the Joint Statement on The Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children, viewing violence can lead to aggressive attitudes, values, and behavior in children. We also see ourselves as separate from nature. According to Sociological Inquiry, children’s books have twice as many depictions of man-made environments as depictions of nature in the past five decades.
- The hero in the journey is generally a high status individual. Hence in the West, we often have heroes like King Arthur, Bruce Wayne, etc… This leaves many people out. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, less than 2% and 1.5% of children’s books were about African Americans and Latinos, respectively, and even fewer were authored by members of these groups.
- Four: the Hero’s Journey rewards masculine energy over the female energy. Even when the stories do feature a female hero, she often finds the most success leading with her masculine side. According to Gender & Society, males are central characters in 57% of children’s books, with just 31% having female central characters. Male animals are central characters in 23% of books per year, while female animals star in only 7.5%.
- Five, the Hero’s journey often lacks integration – the ultimate boon (gifts and powers) is earned and brought home presumably to share with the world. The celebration ensues and the story generally ends “happily ever after.” It is assumed the magic elixir, the tree of knowledge, or whatever glorious boon is widely adopted for the betterment of humanity. But we do not see the road of trials for integration; we do not see the challenges, obstacles, failures, breakthroughs, and successes.