Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell, the Monomyth and Psychology

The hero’s journey is the mythological representation of the challenges we all face in life and the path that must be travelled to overcome them. But more than that, it represents what famous mythologist Joseph Campbell saw as the generic-representation of the process of personal development and maturity that each person must undergo in order to become balanced, healthy members of society.

This usually means dealing with repressed emotional issues, making difficult decisions, having the courage to suffer, and accepting all the consequences. Campbell was influenced in his wide study of religion and mythology by psychologists such as Freud and Jung, who often used dream analysis, myths and folk stories to illustrate their insights. Campbell once wrote:

“A myth is a public dream and a dream is a private myth”

Both Jung and Campbell believed that certain archetypical ideas were expressed collectively. In other words, they believed that we all have similar mental representations of subconscious phenomena. These phenomena are expressed in dreams and stories that intuitively seem to resonate with all people, despite their cultural backgrounds and personalities. It is something that is imprinted on our DNA, like the instinctive fear all newly hatched chicks have of a snake, or snake-like object, despite never having seen one.

The hero’s journey is a myth found in all cultures that provides a framework, or path to resolution of an unfolding life drama, that we can all learn from, and take comfort in. This is why Campbell called it the “monomyth”, or the singular story that defines the human experience.

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