In the mythic “Hero's Journey”, the hero sets out on an arduous quest, travels through strange lands, faces many challenges and monsters, and finally returns home again victorious.
In order for us to become the heroes of our own stories, we must make the epic journey into the underworld of our psyches where the “monsters” of our disowned Shadow aspects and dissociated soul parts dwell; not to vanquish them, but to love and embrace them, and to bring them into the light of awareness. Carl Jung once said, “Enlightenment does not come from imagining figures of light, but from making the darkness conscious.”
One way in which our personalities become fragmented is through what Carl Jung referred to as “the Shadow”: the parts of our personalities which we disown because they are not socially acceptable. Entire religions are built around this need to separate ourselves from the "darkness" within, and this is why New Age "sweetness and light" appeals to so many who come out of those religions; but, it is also why it falls so far short of delivering the promised enlightenment.
Collectively, those disowned fragments combine their individual emotional charges, and that’s why the depths of the subconscious mind can be so intensely frightening: it is the place where we must face the fear of being overwhelmed emotionally in order to bring our dissociated Shadow aspects home.
Another form of dissociation which modern society has been slow to recognize is called “soul loss”. Like a hologram, we can divide our soul energy and still have a complete picture: every part of the energy body contains all the information of the whole, even though the strength of the original is diminished by doing so.
This ability of ours gives rise to a unique coping mechanism which allows us to survive traumas. Basically, fragmented pieces of our soul’s energy may leave our bodies during traumatic events (everything from accidents, illnesses, natural disasters, war, physical or emotional abuse, the sudden death of a loved one, job loss, etc.), carrying with them the very strongly emotionally charged imprint of the trauma so that we can survive the moment.
Ideally, those soul parts would be quickly reintegrated once the trauma had passed to allow for healing of the emotional and psychic wounds. When they are not, they either stay stuck in the energy matrix of a specific location (so-called “residual hauntings”) or they go off to wherever (or whenever) they feel safe within the energy matrix of the earth.
So, when you think about how many traumatic experiences you’ve had over the course of this lifetime and add to that all the traumatic incidents and unseemly demises you may have ever experienced which were not properly dealt with from your past lives, you begin to realize that you’ve left bits and pieces of your personal energy stranded throughout space and time which are still out there, waiting to be rescued. However, as the Buddha once pointed out, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
Every one of us hears the invitation to the Hero’s Journey at one point or another in our lives. And, every one of us is faced with the choice of whether to stay “home” in our comfortable routines and thoughts, waiting for someone else to rescue us; or, to launch out into the fearful unknown and to take responsibility for our own healing and growth.
If you have been feeling stuck, trapped and unable to move forward, perhaps you’ve been resisting this call. The vow of compassion of the Bodhisattva in Buddhism says that as long as any being is in suffering and darkness, then none can be truly free. Likewise, as long as any aspect of your self -- be it part of your personality or a fragmented piece of your soul’s energy -- remains disowned in the darkness of dissociation, you will remain divided and unable to attain liberation.
In my opinion, becoming whole by choosing to be the heroes of our own stories is the greatest work we could ever do and the greatest gift we can give the world.