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PREVIEW: Adolescence – The Hero’s Journey by Maggie Dent

This article explores adolescence from a transpersonal place that may defy both logic and intelligence. I have been fascinated by the journeys that have been chosen consciously, or unconsciously, by adolescents and then to see the person they become later in life. Often the individuals who took the risks and were burnt by fire, who journeyed to the darkest place within their psyche, were the ones to emerge years later to live fulfilling lives. The notion of ‘being lost’ often came to mean being released from predictable, logical expectations that they and their family had for themselves. It often involved unpredictable change and physical hardship and challenge. Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces explored the notion that we all live a ‘hero’s journey’.

“The basic story of the hero journey involves giving up where you are, going into the realm of adventure, coming to some kind of symbolically rendered realization, and then returning to the field of normal life.”— Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation, (2004).

We can explore Campbell’s hero’s journey in a simple way by seeing it as seven circles. The Seven Circles is a simplified version of the significant journeys people make throughout their lives. The different stages in the journey are ever-widening circles, like the ripples that appear on the water’s surface when you throw a stone. Each ripple widens and leads you to the next, and each ripple is inclusive of the previous ones. There must be a merging and a flowing, an absence of predictability and rigidity; life is always moving.

Campbell called it a hero’s journey because it happens when life asks you to rise to a challenging situation, an awakening or a call and to bring the best of you to face it. If it was easy then it wouldn’t be a hero’s journey. This journey is about healing wounds, as well as sharing and developing your gifts. Adolescence is the beginning of such a journey.

Traditional Indigenous communities have always seen the transition to adulthood through the lens of the hero’s journey where individuals must be challenged to grow. This growth or expansion is one that is strongly mentored and also acknowledged and honoured by ceremony.

The Seven Circles are:


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