I like to use the
monomyth, or hero’s journey—the archetypal story of stories—to characterize
the path people can expect to
travel as they go through the process of biofeedback, of personal
change and growth. I believe this mythic pattern is wired
into your nervous system, that there is a mythic homunculus , as much as
there is a motor homunclulus that represents your muscles. By understanding
the pattern, you understand a "map" of the mythic territory and this
empowers you to tap the awesome power of myth to awaken the sleeping
strengths and powers that lie within you, just waiting to be brought to life
The monomyth was
described in Joseph Campbell’s book, Hero With A Thousand Faces, as the
story that is told in thousands of myths throughout the world in innumerable
cultures. It is the story of change and rebirth,
making it an excellent teaching story
to help you see what you will experience as
you go through the stages of healing and growth
that biofeedback sets you on the path toward. One
film-maker who adopted the hero’s journey for his famous films was George
Lucas, so I’ll use Luke Skywalker’s heroic journey for examples.
The info on the hero's journey lists factors and stages that might apply
to you, that have been key factors for other people who have embarked on the
biofeedback personal growth / peak performance /consciousness explorer’s
hero's journey. They certainly will not ALL apply to you.
Some of the challenges are covered in parts of this web site. Others,
we're here to help you with.
If you are familiar with the hero’s journey
basic stages, skip directly to the Biofeedback Practitioner’s Journey.
The hero's journey at its simplest is broken down into three stages--
departure (from the ordinary world,) initiation and return.
readings on the hero's journey, also called the monomyth, are listed at the
bottom of this page.)
Here's a more detailed overview, so you'll see the bigger picture and
understand how to use this to see how it fits with your personal experience
In the departure phase, you start out in the ordinary world, and then,
you receive a call. It could be brought to you by a herald archetype or it
could come from within. Very often, people reject the call.. at least until
it becomes more adamant.
Ordinary World: comfortable,
safe, you are happy with the way things are and don’t want to change
Herald archetype: book, radio
or TV program, magazine or newspaper, friend, teacher, counselor, minister,
doctor, therapist, nervous system, brain, stomach (hunger)
The Call: The
story begins in the ordinary world, where the protagonist, the potential
hero, receives a call to adventure—an invitation to respond to an
opportunity or need-- a chance to become aware of
an opportunity to do something heroic. Often,
symptoms like headache, anxiety, pain, hyperactivity,
high blood pressure provide their call to adventure, or their desire
to change their lives or behaviors, or it could be that you just decide to
open yourself up to change, or it may be a subtle
discomfort or something lacking with the way things are.
It could be inner awareness,
curiosity, meditation, music, creativity, spirituality, peak performance,
optimal functioning, transcendence, enlightenment, peace, calm, self
control, higher consciousness, equanimity, richer emotional life, intuition,
ancestral mind, escape the rat race, outer success without feeling inner
success, emotional intelligence,
desire to do good or fight evil, desire to wake up to a higher level of
consciousness, to deepen one's ability to know, feel, see...
In Star Wars, Luke
Skywalker is invited by Obi Wan Kenobe to go with him to rescue Princess
Leah, and to learn the way of THE FORCE.
Rejecting the Call: Often,
people will reject the call. Then, they end up living with the problem that
the call to adventure has the promise to solve. Clients hold on to their
headaches, anxiety, distractability, etc. Or, if the call
is an opportunity, then the opportunity dies. Luke Skywalker
explained that he had to help his aunt and uncle harvest the dehydrators. IF
you reject the call, then worse things can happen. Symptoms get worse, or
start affecting more parts of our lives. Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle
were killed the next day. Often, after an
initially rejected call, when worse consequences befall the protagonist, the
decision to accept the call is made.
The Mentor: The hero, ready to cross the threshold, encounters a
mentor, often an old, wise man or woman—sometimes an
animal-- the mentor archetype, who helps make the crossing and find
the way in the new world. Therapists, vendors,
healers, coaches, practitioners play the role of the mentor for
home biofeedback users. Books,
DVDs, movie, software, websites can also play a role. Obi Wan
Kenobe played the role for Luke.
The mentor helps the hero face and pass the guardians of
the threshold. The hero must cross the threshold to begin the journey into
the new and special world. This is a firm commitment upon the path. The
threshold guardians act to dissuade or intimidate the hero from crossing the
threshold initially, and later, try to get the hero to quit the journey
before completing his or her mission.
Threshold Guardians archetype:
time, money, procrastination, self doubt, fear can all
act as threshold guardians, intimidating you from crossing the threshold.
Sometimes, the family
doctor will question the efficacy of biofeedback, whether it has been proven
with research. At this point, there have been thousands of published
scientific studies proving the efficacy of biofeedback for a myriad of
applications. Money can be a threshold guardian-- should you buy equipment
and work with a coach by phone, or spend money on a therapist?
to accept the call, one
must cross the threshold, leaving the ordinary world and entering a new
world, where you can expect adventure, danger, and
opportunities and the need to develop new tools, weapons, skills, knowledge,
allies and other resources. You leave a
collection of systems, communities, etc. that
you are accustomed to—health, symptoms, family
relationships, job—with the potential that you
will experience changes that could drastically effect any or all of those
systems. Luke leaves the farm and goes, with Obi Wan Kenobe, first to
another town, then to outer space. Often, once one crosses the threshold the
new world starts out in a dark, ambiguous place.
Threshold crossing action:
read book, watch movie, listen to CD or Tape, take seminar, buy system or
equipment, hire a coach, practitioner or therapist
Crossing the threshold sets you
on firmly on the hero's journey. You
are now in the initiation phase,
in a new world, on the road of tests and trials. Here, you begin the
process of being reborn as a new person, more aware, with new strengths,
resources, allies, tools, weapons, knowledge, powers...
or magic. The hero often starts by entering a cave, going underground or
under water or into darkness. This is symbolic of the fact that the hero is
"in the dark" on the basic realities of the new, special world.
This is also a symbol of entering a womb, getting ready to be reborn as a
new person. Accordingly, the old you begins the process of dying.
the road of tests and trials, the hero prepares
to approach and face ordeals-- conflicts with dragons-- that test the
hero's new skills and resources.
These are challenges that must be overcome for the hero to
continue on the journey.
Generally, the hero has several ordeals, where he faces
dragons. The first, he barely survives, and often loses,
but crawls away having been bloodied, having used some new skills and
perhaps, new allies. Sometimes
the ordeals relate to you giving up your old life-- your illusions,
your symptoms, the secondary gains your symptoms gave you (my back hurts so
I don't have to take out the trash. I have a headache, so I just want to
tests and trials: software
learning curve, artifacts (getting bad signal readings because of inadequate
knowledge and or supervision,) technique, failure to get coaching,
impatience, slow progress, recalling old bad memories
Sometimes the ordeals involve other
people or activities in your life. As you get control of your stress, your
brain, your ability to express positive emotions, to be assertive, your
spouse may be uncomfortable with the new you, may not even like you.
Your kids may be accustomed to a parent
who is too stressed out to spend pleasant quality time with them. You may
have to learn how to earn the time with them. But you may first feel pretty
badly about being shot down by them.
The next ordeal you'll be better prepared
for, even though it could be even more deadly. This ordeal further tests the
hero and helps the hero to test and apply the newly acquired skills.
Meeting with the Goddess
In some hero stories, the hero meets a
beautiful women who he becomes his wife. Sometimes, he meets a woman like
Circe, who enchants him to never leave, and he fails to complete his
journey. This stage of the journey, combined with atonement with the father,
represents the process of balancing your masculine and feminine energies
and selves, resolving Oedipal issues (developing mature love relationships)
and dealing with your basic drives. As a part of the biofeedback journey, it
may involve facing your habits, your relationships with the opposite sex,
your un-expressed dreams and desires. Successful navigation of this stage of
the journey enables you to achieve greater balance and to stay on the
journey, rather than getting entranced and “marooned” by the glamour and
seductiveness of whatever it is that magnetically attracts you.
Atonement with the
father Let’s face it, there is an
Oedipal dimension to the Hero’s journey, and part of growing up, of
maturing, of moving your consciousness to the next level is to finish up
with, polish and optimize your masculine energy, your relationship to
authority, your relationship to your father. An “adult in full” goes through
the Oedipal process of feeling threatened by the and competing with the
father, to a stage of self confident autonomy, where the father becomes a
trusted ally, mentor, friend, and resource. Masculine energy becomes
smoothed and polished, from aggressive and combative to subtle, diplomatic,
strong and confident. The warrior becomes the sage, magician, or diplomat.
The biofeedback explorer may notice changes in the energy he or she gives to
anger, aggression, taking offense and ego. You may find that as you learn to
sense subtler changes in your psychophysiology, that your reactions to
others similarly changes, so you are more sensitive and more subtle. As you
develop greater skills for introspection and inner self awareness, you may
become more patient and understanding with others, and may see different
perspectives on their relationships to you—less I-them and more we, more
opportunities for cooperation and synergy.
Finally, the hero faces
a final ordeal, and using all his/her new resources, emerges triumphant,
resurrected, through a transcendant apotheosis, as a new person—an
archetypal magician who has successfully acquired the magic “elixir” boon,
or reward that the journey led him to (usually, not what he expected.)
Perhaps the apotheosis, or becoming divine, becoming transcendant, or become
one with the divine is the part of the journey that most attracts a certain
segment of biofeedback explorers. Ken Wilber has described, in No
Boundaries, how, the connection with God is really about letting go of your
boundaries to discover that the connection and oneness was always there.
This is a part of the return to the ordinary world., realizing that the new
world you’ve explored as the hero was always there, a part of your ordinary
Rejection of the Call
to return Finally, the hero must
return to the ordinary world with the elixir, to rescue or heal that
ordinary world. This can be challenging. It is attractive to stay in the
special world. But the final task of the hero is to bring the “magic” home,
and heal or rescue the ordinary world, to have the ability to be a “master
of both worlds.” Some people, when they go through a major change find that
the world they returned to is no longer where they want to live. Their
relationships were co-dependent or just not healthy or happy. Some return
home and discover new depths of love and friendship they were unable to
achieve before. They may change their job or make peace with their demons.
Return to the Ordinary
Allies archetype: fellow searchers, experts in
related areas, old friends you haven't been in touch with, people you meet
at a new school, at the library, bookstore, special interest group.
Resources: techniques, consciousness wisdom,
eastern approaches, mediation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong,
mindfulness, autogenic training, open focus, sensory awareness,
progressive muscle relaxation, self hypnosis, aerobic
exercise, running, sports, athletic training
Warrior; As one progresses on the hero’s
journey, on the road of tests and trials, you will face antagonists and your
shadow (often your antagonists are manifestations of your shadow.) The
warrior archetype challenges the shadow and fights demons. The warrior
archetype takes action, taps inner courage.
Warriorship is a continual journey. To be a
warrior is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life
Chogyam Trungpa. Shambala the Sacred Path of the Warrior
This characterization of the
Biofeedback explorer's hero's journey is a work in progress. I'll be adding
to it, including fleshing in the archetypes and stages below.
Drop an email (rob(at)futurehealth.org)
or call. If it's a quick answer, we're happy to help you. If it's more
involved, I offer consulting services (personal coaching and professional
consults for practitioners, entrepreneurs and researchers) by the hour and
usually, in an hour or two can help you make huge progress on your journey
(minimum consult package $195 for 90 minutes or in blocks of 2 hours, $125
an hour). . Rob Kall, president, Futurehealth, Inc
- Suggested Readings:
Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell;
The Hero Within
Carol S. Pearson
Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero David Adams Leeming;
The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, and Other Writings. Otto
Heroine's Journey MAUREEN MURDOCK
The Writer's Journey, Second Edition : Mythic Structure for Writers