The Dark Side of a Spiritual Awakening
Stages of the Hero`s Journey

We have all watched with enthusiasm and intrigue “Luke Skywalker “entering into the realms of a “New hope “, a new journey, as he is destined to follow Ben Kenobi into fighting the empire, to say, Princess Leia, the spiritual feminine from the hands of the evil dark lord “Darth Vader”.His life will never be the same; he can no longer return as he awakes from his stepfather’s limitation into the world of freedom.

Most of us will not be as lucky as Luke with an extraordinary destination and purpose outlined for him in saving Leia as we enter the arduous battles, bumps and bruises experienced on the spiritual path. Our journey will be uncertain, confusing and disorienting as we search for our destination with more meaning and purpose. A full awakening brings freedom from personal suffering, clarity of mind, boundless joy, inner peace and the ability to live incredibly fulfilling lives. Yet, we must embrace and overcome the easier dark path of avoiding our shadow, living with fear and limitation.

“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.”  Yoda (empire strikes back, 1980)

Stages of the Hero`s Journey

Many people attempt to stay in spiritual bliss via avoidance, fearing situations and experiences which may create conflict in relationships, the workplace or society. They may escape to spiritual retreats, be with other “like-minded” people, and stay in this state of bliss. However, the external world is not so accommodating and accepting, as unresolved pain gets triggered, and we suffer again.

By avoiding life’s pitfalls and darker side, we avoid ourselves and some of our most important life lessons, which awakening is not about. Come with me on Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey “and explore these darker aspects and challenges we have to overcome to achieve true authenticity and autonomy.

Stages of the Hero’s Journey

There are twelve steps to the hero’s journey.

  1. Ordinary World:  The hero’s normal life at the story’s start, before the adventure begins. 
  2. Call to Adventure: A life crisis or catalysing event may force the hero to face something that makes him/her begin their adventure.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero may refuse the adventure because he/she is fearful and resistant to change.
  4. Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him/her advice, guidance and support for the journey ahead.
  5. Crossing the First Threshold: The hero departs from his/her ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.  
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. He/she will endure tests of strength of will, courage and self-belief. They meet new friends and begin to face their enemies and inner shadow.
  7. Approach: As setbacks occur, the hero tries new approaches and ideas. He/she attempts to adapt and make sense of the new world.
  8. Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life-or-death crisis. 
  9. Reward: After surviving death, the hero reaps his/her reward or accomplishes his goal.
  10. The Road Back: The hero embarks on the journey back to his ordinary life.
  11. Resurrection Hero: The hero faces the final frontier, where everything is at stake. He/she uses everything He/she has learned along the journey to overcome the final obstacle.
  12. Return with Elixir: The hero brings his knowledge or the “elixir” back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.

Here is a step-by-step outline of how Luke Skywalker follows the hero’s journey in a “New Hope”.

Examples of the Hero's Journey
  1. The ordinary world: we see Luke moisture farming on Tatooine with his uncle and aunt, confined to the life of a farmer, frustrated with daily routines and seasonal yields, dreaming of being a pilot.
  2. Call to adventure: Luke finds and hears a message stored in R2-D2 from Princess Leia. We will always remember the ethereal words, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi “.you’re my only hope. “
  3. Refusal of the call: Luke wants to find the absconded R2-d2 to avoid the wrath of his uncle. He refuses the call even when he finds Ben Kenobi and is saved from the sand people.
  4. Meeting the Mentor: On his return Luke finds his Uncle and aunt murdered; he accepts the call and starts to learn the way of the force, the Jedi and who his father was from the wise Kenobi.
  5. Crossing the threshold: Luke enters the new world in the form of Mos Eisley Spaceport, where he is confronted by a pig-nosed hooligan who wants a fight. Kenobi strikes the hooligan with his lightsaber and guides Luke to safety.
  6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: Luke gathers more allies in Han Solo and Chewbacca as he hires them to fly him to Alderaan. Stormtroopers try to stop them from leaving, as they are now of concern to the empire.
  7. Approach to the inmost Cave: They discover Alderaan has been destroyed by the infamous death star, representing an insurmountable obstacle, Luke’s inmost cave, a place of danger, ultimate conflict and defeat. They get pulled in by the tracker bean, and Luke has to face his deepest fears.
  8. Ordeal: With Kenobi leaving to turn the power off, Luke, with his new skills and wisdom, attempts to rescue Leia from the confines of the empire’s prison. Upon leaving, successfully rescuing Leia, Luke witnesses Kenobi being slain by Darth Vader.
  9. Reward (Seizing the Sword): Luke joins the rebel fleet as a pilot, fulfilling his earlier dreams with the lightsaber and the force as his sword.
  10. The road back: Luke’s road back supports the rebel offensive and destroys the death star. He has to choose between his personal needs and the greater good of the rebellion, as he decides to stay and help.
  11. Resurrection: Luke, against all odds, with the guidance of the force, destroys the death star as he fires the final blow, learning to trust the force and his powers.
  12. Return with the Elixir: His return signifies the rebel alliance survives another day with a new leader. The elixir represents the successful mission and that Luke matters and has joined a wider universe.

As a trained Transactional Analysis Therapist, I would like to share how the therapeutic process resembles the hero’s journey in similar phases and stages.

Transactional Analysis Therapist
12 Stages of Therapy
  1. Old life.The client’s job, relationships, emotional foundation, beliefs, and how they incorporate their sense of being.
  2. Catalyst. The event or experience that creates an intrapsychic or interpersonal conflict, sense of deficiency or state of confusion
  3. Test of Therapy: The client tries out therapy and therapists, where they start to examine if they need to be in therapy, a place where their issues/symptoms can be worked through or supported.
  4. Build Relationship / Alliance: Establish an empathic bond, explore the tasks ahead and create shared goals with a shared language and contact in place.
  5. Strengthen the Adult: Exploring underlying thoughts and feelings creates behaviour patterns and relationships.
  6. Decontamination: Exploring parental prejudices and Child delusions as we start to question injunctions such as “Don’t feel “,” Don’t be close “, and Drivers such as “Please others “or “Be strong.”
  7. Emotional Fluency: Deepening trust and working with transference/countertransference between client and therapist.
  8. Deconfusion. Working with type I and II impasses, we start freeing the child from their internalised parent.
  9. Adult Integration. Being more present in the moment, being more objective and less reactive to emotional triggers.
  10. New Being: Exploring who they are outside of society and their new meaning and purpose in life are.
  11. Forgiveness: We forgive our family, cultures and ourselves for past behaviours and mistakes as we accept and grieve our losses
  12. Return: we return to a new world and start to implement the new changes with new skills, awareness and consciousness