Beyond the Hero's Journey: How the Stories We Tell Can Support a Planetary Awakening

By Dave Room

I used to think of myself as a change agent, but lately I’ve realized that I am more of a cultural re-engineer with an aptitude and deep interest in shift shaping. I am particularly excited in that latter context about the notion of "the Awakening Journey."

For several years, I’d noticed that many people are now fitting their personal stories into the Hero’s Journey motif. I – like many others – have found significant value in looking at my life through a Hero’s Journey lens.

But as of recently, the Hero’s Journey and I have been on the verge of breaking up. I had been having doubts for awhile. I would ask myself – if stories are the most powerful communication technology and the Hero’s Journey is the chief organizing story of human civilization, to what extent might the Hero’s Journey be responsible for where we are at today? How might the Hero’s Journey be contributing to what we are experiencing on all scales? What if we told different stories?

Here are several observations about the Hero’s Journey.

  1. The Hero’s Journey makes a distinction between the hero and everyone else. It puts us – everyone else – in the position of waiting for the hero to come along and fix things. Very disempowering.
  2. The Hero’s Journey is highly dualistic, making the distinction between hero and villain, good and bad, one of us or one of them. Rather than transcend differences and encouraging cooperation, it creates and encourages separation.
  3. The hero in the journey is generally a high status individual. Hence in the West, we often have heroes like King Arthur, Bruce Wayne, etc… This leaves many people out.
  4. The Hero’s Journey rewards masculine energy over the female energy. Even when the stories do feature a female hero, she often finds the most success leading with her masculine side.
  5. The Hero’s Journey generally lacks integration – the ultimate boon (gifts and powers) is earned and brought home presumably to share with the world. It is assumed that the glorious boon is widely adopted for the betterment of humanity. But we do not see the road of trials for integration; we do not see the challenges, obstacles, failures, breakthroughs, and successes.

This is not to say that the Hero’s Journey is all bad and/or has not served humanity. It’s reign has brought about god-like technologies and extended lifespans. But at the same time, humanity is deeply divided and we are destroying the ecosystems that sustain life. And our highly hierarchical, patriarchal, individualistic, intellectualizing cultures are resisting the shift in consciousness we are called upon to make. The Hero's Journey is not the medicine we need right now.

The Medicine of Now

If we want a Planetary Awakening, we need to tell Awakening Stories.

The Awakening Story (or Awakening Journey) is a sub-narrative of Maya Zuckerman’s Gendered Journey.

The Awakening Story differs from the Hero’s Journey in that you don’t have to leave home or be a high status individual. There is a call to transformation, and the road of trials lead inside. If you have to fight demons and goblins, they are your demons and goblins, and most likely you are embracing your shadow, becoming whole, discovering your gifts and bringing them to the world. The ultimate boon is greater understanding of oneself and one’s gifts. And the second half of the story - integration of one's gifts into the world - begins when the hero’s journey ends. In a sense, considering the medicine humanity needs now, the Hero’s Journey ends at intermission.

Pacha's Pajamas

An example is my new Children's Environmental Awakening Story, Pacha's Pajamas: A Story Written By Nature, which was published on April 5th, 2016.

Pacha is a little girl awakening to her immense gifts and bringing them to the world. At night, the characters on her pajamas guide her on dream adventures to learn more about herself and the world. She brings what she learns back to waking life.

My Request to You

Please do not shy away from telling your awakening stories. We all have them. That time when you have an epiphany and something shifts, the way things were before, and the integration afterwards. You, your journey, and your perception of the world are forever changed.

Awakening stories are beautiful, stirring, and inspiring. They are a medicine we need in this time that begs for action. They show us what is possible when we embrace all parts of ourselves, discover our gifts, and bring them to the world.

Your story is the medicine. Your medicine is the story.

For the next week, sit with this: The Planetary Awakening is happening. Which of my Awakening Stories are being called forth?

Dave Room

Dave’s most important identifier is Melia’s Papa. His tween-age daughter Melia is his motivation and inspiration. Since receiving a B.S. and M.S. in Engineering from Stanford University, Room has worked on the innovative edge of a number of emergent fields. Room co-founded BALANCE Edutainment, co-created Pacha’s Pajamas, co-authored Pacha’s Pajamas: A Story Written By Nature, and produced a nine award-winning album and an award-winning short film. Dave is a SoulCollage® Facilitator and a Green For All fellow. Check out his life learnings and musings at Twitter: @meliaspapa.


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This article appears in: 2016 Catalyst, Issue 7: Earth Day, Climate Change & Global Healing