Everyone is an artist. We all possess the gift to create wondrous things. To allow the artist inside each of us to thrive we need to get to know ourselves better and grow. Some books, like "The hero within" by Carol Pearson can be a valuable guide for that journey.
"The hero within" was laying around my home for a few months. It was a birthday gift from my special someone but I only started reading it when I found the time to go carefully through its lessons. It’s one of those books that will change the way you think about yourself and your place in this world.
It is based on six archetypes from the Jungian theory according to which we perceive the world - the Innocent, the Orphan, the Wanderer, the Warrior, the Altruist, and the Magician. According to Jung, the archetypes are deep and constant psychological models that all humans share. They emerge in different ways among different cultures. In “The hero within” Carol Pearson examines how those six archetypes influence men and women in Western culture. She chose those archetypes as they affect our conscious lives and we can clearly see that in ourselves or the people around us.
While reading the book I really liked the simple language and the right choice of words. Jung’s ideas can be a little overwhelming but Pearson did a great job explaining the archetypes and giving great real-life examples that make you think. I would read page after page and think about how that relates to me. I went back to a lot of situations in my life when I had experienced strong emotions that pushed me to another level in my personal development. I gained a new perspective on those past events and I’m sure this will also positively affect how I react to future ones.
The six archetypes
All of the archetypes have different levels within them and we learn something on every stage of the journey. In her book, Pearson describes how each archetype applies to men and women in our modern culture differently. Here I’ll just do a brief summary of the way I think each archetype affects us all in a more general way. I strongly recommend that you get the book and read the complete descriptions filled with vivid examples.
The Innocent is where it all starts. This is the phase of the happy childhood, the first romantic love and the time when we see the world as this great place filled with joy. We are taken care of, we feel safe as if nothing can harm us, we’ve never really suffered which leads us to think that everything and everyone is good. Naturally, this blissful state is bound to end when life just…happens. Something occurs and deeply disturbs us thus makes us realize that not everything is as perfect as it seems. We may see that our parents are not the superheroes we thought they were yet normal human beings with their flaws and imperfections. We may get disappointed by the political reality we live in, from the inequality and unfairness that we see. At that point, we realize that we don’t live in a paradise world and that hurts.
This is when we typically move on to being Orphans. This is a very hard phase that many people try to avoid using drugs or alcohol. We are disappointed because we realize that our vision of the world was not real. So we embrace a new one. We think of the world as a dark place, filled with danger and people that want to hurt us. In the initial stages of the Orphan, we see suffering as something that just doesn’t make any sense. While we grow and move on to the next levels, we gradually realize that suffering can be a precious teacher and it’s healthy to admit and accept it. We learn that we are indeed dependant on many outside factors but that shouldn’t scare us.
It’s good to mention here that according to Pearson there are the different paths in the archetype journey. For example, while some people will go to the Orphan phase after they lose their innocence, others can become Wanderers. This phase begins when we realize that we are trapped in a cage. We could be stuck in a relationship, a job or just in life in general. At this point, we get the urge to move and get away from the cage. Going on this journey takes a lot of courage to overcome our natural fear of loneliness and of not being accepted because of the choice to go against the flow and break free. Often the Wanderers that dare to take the journey alienate from the world and the people around them. Yet at the end of that phase, they come back to the world with a deeper understanding of themselves and ready to forge more meaningful connections.
The Warrior is probably the best-known archetype in Western culture. We’ve all read the fairytales where the hero rescues the kingdom from the dragon and brings back peace and prosperity. On a deeper level, this archetype teaches us to fight for what we believe is right and to stand our ground. While we may start the Warrior journey with the sheer desire to win when we spent time with it we start to understand that there’s more than that. During the battles, we start to realize that our focus should be on our own efforts rather than the end result. We understand that our best choice is to do our best with respect to our rivals and just let the Universe handle the end results in the best possible way. By fighting for control, we learn to let it go which is one of the many paradoxes of this journey.
The Altruist archetype is about sacrificing for others, taking care of them and neglecting our needs. In this initial stage of the Altruist archetype, the reason behind our many sacrifices is the belief that our suffering will be rewarded later on. That’s why we embrace it and even feel good about everything we give up now as we are waiting for our reward. Towards the end of the Altruist journey, we come to realize that it’s not about making sacrifices at all. It’s about giving without respecting a return. Our life is a gift and by living it with love and respect to the Universe, we are fulfilling our Altruist journey.
By learning the lessons of the previous archetypes we go closer to understanding the Magician. A Magician hides in each and every one of us. The greatest lesson of this archetype is that we are not a static part of the Universe. We are all connected and we are all resembles the Innocent in the sense that we can see the world as a good place where we can have the life we want. In this stage, we gain a deeper understanding of how the Universe functions and we learn to respect it and live by it.