I heard an idea this week that caught my attention, as many things do that I share with you here.
We have all heard of the Hero’s journey, a phrase made popular by Joseph Campbell. In this journey, which we all take many times in our life usually, there is always a catalyst, something that pushes us out of the nest and into the world.
In the past, this may have been many things, a need to make our own fortune, the quest to kill the dragon, or a ‘call’ to discover something outside our own experience. All quests are only completed when we return home with some new wisdom to share with your community.
So the idea that caught my attention was stated by Peter Levine, a prominent researcher in the realm of trauma healing. He said that in the modern day, maybe the catalyst that pushes some people to begin their hero’s quest is trauma.
In my experience with clients over the past decade, I found this hypothesis intriguing. So many times, I have found that a client’s traumatic experience has pushed them out of their comfort zone and into my office. Or it has forced them to question a basic tenet of their personal belief system. They have heard the call to begin their quest.
In the traditional scenario of the hero’s journey, the first call often goes unheeded by the person, and it is not until maybe the second or third time that they finally reluctantly agree to begin the quest. I see this with people who have had a car accident, and then soon after, another one. Or they have shoulder surgery, only to have to repeat the process a year later because the first time was not healing properly.
Multiple traumas occur on an emotional level too, one parent dies and then a partner loses a job. Any kind of seemingly coincidental but concurrent things that bring about a total re-orientation to life or a relationship. These often kick us out of our cozy nests of stability and out into the cold world of chaos once again.
Our understanding and whole being is tested yet again by this thing called life. We are left wandering around lost and cold, in a frightening and unknown realm. Sometimes we get stuck here for a long time. In the hero’s journey, the finding of our allies, the insight, and ray of hope brought by a guide or mentor, the owning of our tools and supplies we have in our packs, these are all part of the quest too.
Once we open ourselves to the possibility of succeeding, of taking a seemingly impossible quest and moving forward, the healing begins. Trauma then is often the beginning of a transformation. This may take many forms but requires the person to take something painful and hard, and find the nuggets of truth and love in it. The digging and the scrambling around in the mud can take years sometimes, or other times we come through so quickly and powerfully we wonder how we did it.
What do we return home with, after this wandering in the darkness? What light do we bring back to the people and the place we started from? This is the end of the quest, the gift. I like to think that trauma offers us the chance for transformation and the opportunity to bring our gift of insight or wisdom back to the world. We can offer our deep experience and knowledge and give others the gift of our quest.
I know trauma has acted many times on me as a catalyst. I have seen it throw down its gauntlet to many clients. What will you do when you are called to go on a hero’s quest? Maybe you are a seasoned warrior going forth on your last one. Maybe you are still struggling with your first task. Wherever you are in your journey or your life, remember this idea.
Remember you have tools, allies and friends, mentors and guides, and ultimately your own inner wisdom to guide you. Life tests us all. Whether you face your quest with fear or courage, with hope or despair, know that you walk a well worn path.
Life throws down the gauntlet many times, our job is only to accept the quest and continue the journey.
If you want to discuss your particular quest of trauma and pain to pleasure and love, reach out.
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