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The Hero Project's Philosophy on Rites of Passage...Life is the Adventure!
Life is a journey. When we come to understand this concept the world comes alive with symbols and metaphors, which transforms our black and white reality into vivid living color. Our closest friends and family become bold characters with life lessons to share with us. Every interaction seems to be filled with meaning. We become aware of every wind that blows and every bird that chirps. We realize that we are intimately connected to all of nature and the world around us. In those moments we move beyond the need for a simple "meaning for life" and move into the "experience of being alive."
The myth of the hero or heroine is famous all throughout the world. The tales tell of someone who has dedicated their life to something greater than or other than himself, or herself. The hero/ine therefore is someone who has had a range of experience, physical or psychological, that is beyond the normal human experience. S/he journeys not merely for adventure or fame, but instead to be of service to their people.
The process of the hero's journey is fairly standard across all cultures throughout the world. The adventure begins with the individual separating from their known reality. After undergoing the trials, the hero will be bestowed with a fulfillment of some sort. This may be in the form of a magical tool, or enlightening wisdom of some sort. Finally the hero must return to be of service to those who could benefit from what he has achieved.
We all undergo trials and tribulations in our lifetimes. These challenges call our hero within to step up to the challenge and grow in new ways. Sometimes we reach a critical point in our life when our entire identity is called into question. These stages in life crises are often evident when an adolescent comes of age as an adult, when an adult becomes a parent and when parents become grandparents and move into their elder years. The classic "rebellious teenager," and "mid-life crisis," are examples of such times. These major life transitions can also be marked by dramatic physical changes, such as menstruation for girls, changes in voices for boys, childbirth or the loss of physical strength for adults.
Often those suffering from a stage in life crisis must undergo a transformational set of experiences to help elicit the new sense of identity. Traditionally, rites of passage were crafted by a culture to help graduate a person along the stages of human development. The rite often employed certain physical and psychological challenges. These challenges would test old skills and challenge the individual, or group, to discover new abilities or perspectives. By feeling that they have successfully mastered skills from the previous stage and recognizing the potential for gaining new ones in the future, they can resolve the crisis and move along into the next stage in life. If left unresolved, the crisis can begin to seriously hinder emotional, spiritual, mental and physical growth.
The Hero Project sees the world as constructed of stories.
Stories represent people's values. We talk in stories and we think in stories. They way in which we tell those stories reflect our individual perspectives in life. People will talk about what they value and how they value it. For instance, some people value a critical mind and so will always communicate a critical perspective about the world around them. Others are eternally optimistic and so will understand the world in that way. Our perspective in life reflects our early experiences in the world. What is red to someone may look more like purple to another. We all see the world differently as a result of our unique experiences and therefore what is true for one is not necessarily true for all. Thus, our shared reality is "constructed" through sharing our individual perspectives through social interactions and stories.
Social Constructionist Theory can be summarized by the following four tenets:
- Realities are socially constructed
- Realities are constituted through language
- Realities are organized and maintained through narrative (stories)
- There are no essential truths
In essence, the stories you tell define the kind of life experience you have. Everyone knows someone who talks a lot of stink. That is the type of "language" they speak. They are limited in speaking to only those who speak their same language. People who talk stink will often gravitate to others who speak the same way. If the ultra positive person met up with the super negative one, they would probably have an uncomfortable and likely short conversation at best. A society that is heavily influenced by negative or hateful rhetoric, by perhaps the media or another institution, may begin to create a language and reality steeped in fear, anger and suspicion. It becomes their cultural narrative. These types of narratives can emerge in communities, schools and even families.
Narrative Therapy believes that we can help to heal our psychological discomforts and stages in life crises by understanding our lives as stories. We are each the main character in the story and are surrounded by many different characters, sets, settings, plots and themes. Some old plots keep repeating and we become stuck in our old stories, or perceptions of the world. Narrative therapy asks that we become acutely aware of the meaning we place on people, events and ideas through our language. In doing so we can learn to re-define our experience in the world by choosing different language in which to describe and interpret it. In effect, we learn to re-write the endings our life stories and go from Villain or Victim to Hero.
When the concepts of Narrative Therapy are applied to the hero/ines's journey format a style of counseling emerges that the The Hero Project has termed Heroic Narrative Therapy. The technique seeks to understand the individual's life in terms of a journey where the person is seeking a transformation in consciousness to ease their current state of suffering. By coming to see the world as a mythic quest, the hero/ine ventures to find their true passion in this lifetime. The individual comes to see how their journey in life has led them to this place and time. The process also helps the person to reveal certain patterns and metaphors that are recurrent in their story. In this way the counselor or therapist will encourage the development of a story that highlights the strengths and casts the individual's life in the light of a hero/ine instead of a victim. It is the belief of the The Hero Project that the best place to have this type of awakening is through an experience in the natural world.
The basic tenets of Heroic Narrative Therapy are as follows:
- Life is symbolic
- Realities are constituted through the collective stories we share and the language we use to share them
- The best way to contribute to your own happiness and the betterment of the world is to "follow your bliss."
- Ceremonies help us to understand and attune to our place in the world along our life path
- Experiences in nature are the best source of guidance and personal support
Hero Project's are created around central cultural mythologies, which serve as a traditional psycho-therapeutic tool for ancient cultures. Traditional people rarely counsel in the prescriptive ways of the western medical model. Instead, teaching stories are offered as a way to share information, guidance and perspective on situations. The individuals themselves must interpret the story and be responsible for their own decisions. When these stories are told it is often with such skill and precision that the listener enters an altered state of consciousness. Through the process the story begins to speak to the listener in the universal ways that maybe a sermon would in the western world. The characters in the stories become characters in your life and you right along with them.
The Hero Project creates experiences that allows participants to place their feet in the archetypical footsteps of ancient stories with universal teachings. The basic idea is that you create an adventure which attempts to parallel the ancient mythology. The innate knowledge from the story will emerge through direct experience in ways that could never be explained in words. In time, participants come to "hear" the stories reveal themselves through the experiences such as paddling canoe, fishing, hiking or watching the sunrise from a mountain top. They learn to hear the Hero's voice on the wind and in the sound of the rain and so by doing, come to hear their own intuitive voice speak to them more clearly.
Graduates from The Hero Project's are bound through a common set of experiences and challenges. They come to understand the Hero's story as they comes of age in his their own lives. Through the process they learn a new language of seeing their life as a story and of overcoming adversity. By the end, participants come to see their own lives as a story and begin to make conscious decisions about how they would like to interpret their life experiences. Storytelling helps to solidify the "preferred" perspective and group values begin to emerge. The saga ends with a culminating ceremony that highlights the adventure through various artistic expressions, such as banners, murals, poetry, tee shirts, music and a video which mythologizes their heroic adventures.
The graduates from past cycles soon become connected at their school through the shared experience. They begin to form a peer culture based on their new heroic value system and, in essence, become peer "cultural experts."