Many ancient cultures, as well as several modern ones often include ceremonial traditions to mark transitions from one stage of life to another. These “rites of passage” as we now call them include experiences that are meant to elicit growth, insight and new skills needed to thrive as one grows from one stage to another.
Often these experiences involve significant challenges meant to force an individual to face and overcome some of their biggest fears and obstacles. The value of this process is often overlooked in many of our more modern societies.
The metaphor of the Heroes Journey reflects many of these same principles and ideas. It also is very similar to the process of completing a residential treatment program. Therefore, the Heroes Journey has been adopted into the Solstice program as a way of highlighting this powerful transformative process our students and families experience.
Below is a brief description of the Heroes Journey stages upon which our phase system at Solstice is based.
Prior to the journey beginning, the Hero is familiar with her known world, her life experiences to this point. Most often these experiences have not adequately prepared the Hero for success, and are lacking the depth of learning necessary in her development.
The first phase of the Hero’s journey includes an “invitation” to leave their “known” world, to separate from the familiar, and experience something new. This invitation is referred to as “The Call to Adventure”, and it may be received with anticipation as an exciting opportunity, or it may come through a crisis (social, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc) that the Hero would prefer to avoid. Either way, the Hero finds herself now faced with a “call” that puts her on the “threshold of adventure.”
The “threshold” of adventure represents that place between the Hero’s known world and the new, unfamiliar one ahead of her. Once the Hero leaves the known world and crosses the threshold into the new, she encounters a new culture which includes different rules, expectations, relationships and ways of being and living. New and different experiences can often be experienced as scary and dangerous. But she is not alone. The threshold includes “guardians” who’s task it is to care for and support the Hero in her new adventure. They are also there to ensure that the Hero only crosses the threshold into certain adventures when she is fully prepared and ready. These guardians continue to provide guidance throughout the coming adventures.
As the threshold is crossed and the journey is initiated, the Hero prepares to face difficult challenges and obstacles. These obstacles are often tasks or quests the Hero must complete before moving on. Usually they begin with more simple challenges, and become more difficult as the Hero progresses. These tasks are often specifically designed for the Hero, taking aim at major fears and distressing weaknesses.
With the assistance of supportive mentors along the way, the Hero emerges from these battles prevailing, with newfound skills and confidence. What were weaknesses are no longer, and fear gives way to faith in oneself and newfound self-efficacy. This is much needed, because the Hero begins to realize that her most ominous threat lies in the abyss directly ahead of her on the path. The next phase of her journey includes an unavoidable confrontation with menacing dragons that she has been avoiding so far, but is no longer possible.
During this phase of the journey, the Hero must enter “the abyss”, that dark and frightening place, the home of that one last and greatest “dragon”. This is the “one” that must be slain. The Hero must emerge victorious from this battle, for it is in this victory that the Hero comes to realize her true potential, which sets the stage for the remainder of the journey. By slaying this dragon alone, with only themselves and their strengths to rely upon, the Hero can no longer doubt who they are and what they are capable of. This victory is a “realization” that the old patterns of living can be discarded for good, and preparation for the birth of their new identity is imminent.
With slain dragons in her wake, the transformation of the Hero is complete and rebirth draws near. This is a “rebirth” as it is a remembering or renewal of who once was, but was lost. This rebirth takes place through the process of Atonement—literally allowing the Hero to become “at-one” with her “self”; a new self, but not entirely new, more of a return to that whole self that all used to know. Fear, ignorance, dependence and irresponsibility must die to make way for the birth of love, wisdom, interdependence and responsibility. As the Hero becomes at-one with herself, she comes into harmony with life, relationships, and her community. The issues and processes that caused need for her separation, and led to this journey have been addressed and it is time to prepare for her return.
At this point in the journey the Hero is entering the final phase, preparation for the return home. It’s during this time that the Hero is gaining greater awareness of her newly developed skills and confidence, and how they will be necessary as she transitions back to her home.
The true spirit of the Return is the ability to implement her talents and abilities into the home community. The Hero recognizes her ability to create joy and value in the lives of others through using her gifts and talents in their service. The Hero must come to realize that all people may not accept her as her “new self”. She may find that there are others who won’t appreciate and support her, and others may be intimidated by her newfound confidence and self-efficacy, and distance themselves from her, or encourage her “old self” to return. She will realize that further steps may be required in terms of a leaving more people and processes behind her as she continues her journey. Furthermore, she comes to realize that while this particular journey has reached its end, her Return signifies only her completion of this particular journey—and there are yet many more adventures ahead!