What are the stages of the Hero’s Journey?
Each stage described below is designed to give you some idea of where you are in your own Hero path.
Column One gives a brief description of what happens at each stage. Column Two describes the mindset of the Hero, the psychological changes that occur as the story unfolds. This contents of the table is based on the work of Christopher Vogler.
As Campbell stated, not all stages occur in all Hero stories, nor in the order presented here, however the model proposed by Vogler attempts to include the most persistent elements of the Hero’s Journey, the same elements that lie embedded in our own life stories.
12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey
Where are you in your own Hero’s Journey?
|STAGES OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY||WHAT HAPPENS?||WHAT HAPPENS PSYCHOLOGICALLY?|
|Ordinary World||Despite your best efforts, your everyday life with it’s activities, relationships and responsibilities is somehow lacking. There is a mismatch between the life you would like and the one you’ve got. The enjoyment factor has dwindled. Life feels more like a habit or a chore than being something rewarding or engaging.||There is a growing sense of discontent but heroes are too busy to consider doing something about it or they tell themselves that ‘this is as good as it gets’. They believe that any problems they have are due to someone or something else. They are often unaware of the real problem.|
|Call to Adventure||An event or series of events, either intentional or unexpected, brings an end to some of all of the key aspects of your Ordinary World. The Hero now has a significant life problem.||Heroes usually experience high levels of fear and/or sadness and so are often confused and overwhelmed. They have an increased awareness of the problem but continue to firmly believe the problem is still someone or something else.|
|Refusal of the Call||Heroes cling to their old life. Heroes refuse to believe that action is required from them. The problem becomes worse if the Hero spends too long in this stage. Some will get stuck here with potentially tragic consequences.||Heroes feel dazed by the Call to Adventure. This new state of affairs feels too scary to face, too difficult to address. High levels of anxiety may lead to denial as a way to cope. Heroes find every reason as to why they can not, should not, will not change as they did not cause the problem. They engage in blaming someone or something else for this new problem. They have yet to realise however that whatever happened, whoever caused it, a personal response is required.|
|Meeting with a Mentor||The Hero meets someone who has faced a similar problem. The Mentor helps the Hero to realise that action is required regardless of who is responsible for the problem.||Mentors help Heroes process sadness and fear. They help heroes grow in their understanding that regardless of who or what caused the problem, a personal response is required. They help heroes shift their thinking from ‘I can’t’ to ‘Maybe I could?’|
|Crossing the First Threshold||With guidance from the Mentor, Heroes takes action crossing into a new area, a new arena, unsure of what to do, how to do it or even if they want to do it. Despite their overwhelming reluctance, action is required to address the problem caused by the Call to Adventure.||Heroes realise that avoidance and denial are not working. Crossing into new territory involves learning new skills. Often these skills will be the polar-opposite of what the hero has done before. Heroes have some awareness that despite not wanting to, life is forcing them to change and adapt and inaction is not an option.|
|Tests, Allies, Enemies and Rewards||Heroes realise they are required, often forced by changed circumstances, to undertake a series of tasks to try and resolve the problem caused by the Call to Adventure. The Hero meets people who want to help (Allies) but also others who appear determined to make things difficult: Enemies. Heroes begin to see some of their efforts pay off (Rewards).||Heroes experiment with change, experiencing both success and failures. They begin to realise that these tasks required to resolve the problem require new skills. These skills are both internal psychological skills and external, real-world skills. Heros begin to realise that asking for help makes things better and does not mean they are weak. They begin to learn that failure is sometimes the only or best way to learn.|
|Approach to the Inmost Cave||Heroes begins to realise that despite some success, the tasks are becoming harder.||Heroes experience shock and disappointment. They realise more is being asked of them. Heroes have little idea that each more difficult task is improving the new life skills they are learning and adding to their experience level. These new polar-opposite skills will eventually be required to resolve the problem caused by the Call to Adventure.|
|Supreme Ordeal||The Hero faces the most difficult task yet. Despite their best efforts, they fail. It looks as if all is lost and there is no point continuing.||Heroes had believed that good intentions and hard effort would win through. The Supreme Ordeal teaches them that this is not the case. They still have not mastered the new polar-opposite skills required to resolve the problem. Heroes feel like giving up.|
|Reward||Heroes receive a reward for surviving the Supreme Ordeal. The reward may be a new realisation, the recognition of their effort or the love and support from a significant other or Allies.||Heroes realise they can attempt the impossible, fail and survive. They begin to think of themselves differently, as more capable than they had thought. As the problem caused by the Call to Adventure is still unresolved, Heroes realise that another attempt at resolving the problem is possible and required.|
|The Road Back||Heroes set out to address the problem once and for all. Even more difficult tasks await them.||Heroes have a psychological rededication to resolve the problem.|
|Death and Resurrection||Heroes face the most difficult task. All the skills and experience learned up to this point are put to use. Things do not go to plan but somehow the problem is resolved.||Heroes face the hardest, scariest task to date. Completion of the task demonstrates that the Hero has mastered their new skills. They have attempted something they were terrified to do. They’ve resolved a problem they thought they never could. They have cast off their old self-limiting beliefs about who and what they are capable of. They have a new, more adult sense of themselves.|
|Return with the Elixir||The problem has been resolved. Little went to plan but the Hero persisted learning new real world skills but also undergoing an internal, psychological change.||Heroes realise that there is a different way to live with their new awareness and skills and that these may be passed on to others.|