Learning To Be My Own Hero: Dysfunction, Struggle and Conquest
By: Kelly Elias
This is an old picture of me in what one of my dear friends and I used to call our “glory days.” Back then, to me, this was the picture of me as the hero… That is, the hero that I wanted to be, to everyone else but myself. I had just completed my first ever triathlon, and I was a “perfect” (ha!) wife and mother. I was “in control” and ready to be a hero to all – convinced I could save anyone and everyone. Little did I know, the one who most needed saving, was myself.
As children, most of us were awed and inspired by a hero of some kind… May have been a parent, sibling, teacher, or a character of the comics and television world that we knew would “save the day!” Heroes come in different shapes, sizes and from different backgrounds, but the “classic” heroes that we study, all have similar criteria that defines their journey of heroism. As my students studied the hero’s journey this past year, I related to it more personally and completely, mostly because of all that I have learned and experienced in my own life journey that I now claim and value.
I began thinking about all of those who I had attempted to rescue – casting myself in the role of their own personal hero. I held the magical ability, in my arrogance, to dissolve their problems, heal their wounds – both physical and emotional – bringing them complete and utter peace, happiness, and feelings of joy that they had never before experienced. I possessed both the power and the ability to accomplish all and would kill myself trying, because then I was not simply a hero… I was a martyr.
I also reflected on those that I cast in the role of hero in my story… placing them high on the proverbial pedestal. My ex-husband would save me from my past insecurities and the dysfunction and brokenness. His powers and strength would provide all of the security, stability and happiness necessary for my survival. The companion after the divorce would save me from the disappointments and hurts from my failed marriage and the pain that followed. My list of heroes is definitely lengthy and much more extensive, but all of my heroes had in common the ability to save me from my most significant mystery of all… myself.
As I taught the material, I began to see the various elements (archetypes) of the hero’s journey represented in my life. The dysfunctional past, which necessitated enormous struggles, lengthy periods of perseverance, and, at times, clear emotional and mental detachments. My “ordinary world” being the addiction and dysfunction I had been saturated with for so long, strongly contrasted by the “shadow world” or that of the unknown, represented through the pain and healing of my program, the revisiting and forgiveness work with a counselor, and my journey through the twelve steps. The traumatic event that turned me toward those steps, represented through the breakup of a very unhealthy relationship, my rock bottom, and a new awareness of the unhealthy manner in which I had been living and treating myself and others.
Like the classic heroes, I have had many mentors – sponsors, pastors and a counselor, who have provided me with magical weapons – the twelve steps, prayer, and other tools for emotional growth and healing. I also have a very real spiritual guide in Jesus and my relationship with such an amazing and loving Heavenly Father. I have friends who have supported me along the way, and I know I am working toward a complete transformation of self through healing, recovery, and a deeper spiritual connection to my God.
Through the various stories, I came to realize that we are all on our own hero’s journey – each on our own personal quest. In the end, though, what I saw so clearly was that through their many very selfless feats and rescues, the person that the heroes learn most about and end up rescuing most significantly, though unintentionally, is… themselves.
I am the hero of my journey.
There’s nothing wrong with allowing others to support, love and help me on my journey. There’s also a great benefit in helping and supporting others. I learn more about myself, and sometimes in helping others, I indirectly help and learn more about myself. The problem comes when I selfishly expect someone to be my hero, to completely save me from my own life. Or, when I selfishly try to control and become the hero in someone else’s life. Then, I lose sight of reality and truth, and ultimately, neither involved is rescued.
That hero is alive in each of us… We can learn a lot from the classic heroes of the past. We have the strength inside to conquer the difficult battles, forge through and fight the evil within, and experience strength and freedom from those ideals and beliefs that hold us captive. So, put on your cape… flex those emotional muscles… have faith in God and yourself… And… Fly!
This is me now – more of my own hero than those “glory days,” and beside me is my spiritual guide without whom my journey to hero would cease to exist. Maybe you have tried to save others or expected others to save you. Maybe you relate to the different circumstances of the “classic” hero’s journey, or maybe you have found your own hero deep within, under the hurt, pain and confusion. Please share your experiences, understanding, and wisdom. I would love to hear your thoughts.