The ninth stage of the monomyth is about – not just confronting the darkness within, not just about battling it, or conquering it – this stage is all about accepting it and INTEGRATING it. The reason Campbell calls this the “Atonement with the Father” stage is because the sins of the father are passed down to the son, and this is the point of the story when the hero needs to deal with those sins. In other words, it’s up to each of us to admit our shortcomings and supersede our ancestors. In even shorter words: Do better.
In May of 2020 I had my first major car accident and it wrecked me, emotionally. Under normal circumstances I would NEVER make a blind left on a two-lane road, but something in my brain just didn’t work right that afternoon, so when the man in what was the left lane waved me through, I just didn’t process that there was a right lane. Some people have damage to a specific part of their brain that processes faces, and they cannot perceive the face of a person that they’re looking at, and I figure my brain did something similar in that moment. I was on a major artery of Long Island, in a town I knew very well, and for some reason, my brain told me there was only one lane.
Thankfully there were no serious injuries (I didn’t have so much as a cut or bruise) but my car was totaled. A police officer happened to be at the intersection a few yards away and got right to the scene. The family in the other car was taken to the hospital to be checked out (as of this writing I was told that only minor injuries were sustained from seatbelts), and my insurance company, Geico, handled everything brilliantly. (Thank you accident forgiveness!) In less than thirty minutes the fire trucks spread their magical powder, the ambulance took the other family to the hospital, the tow trucks removed both vehicles, and I was left to wait for my folks to pick me up. I spent some time on the phone with Lauren (of course) and Tom, who just so happened to have texted me not five minutes after the collision. They were both sources of comfort and consolation, and I’m grateful to them both. Then for a while I was left alone to wait for my ride and soak in not just what had happened, but why it happened.
Shortly after I got my driver’s license I hung out with gear heads and street racers. I learned a lot about cars, but mainly how to drive them really well. Fast, but not reckless – strategically – like a fighter pilot: head on a swivel, looking ahead for trouble, knowing which moron was about to cross three lanes without looking, where cops tend to hide, and so on. And although I mellowed out over the years and shook the lead from my foot (mostly after becoming a dad) I kept that strategic edge on the road and I was proud of my twenty-year, accident-free record. And yes, I know that pride goeth before a fall, and I certainly had a big one that day. It was not the first, and it won’t be the last, but the accepting and integrating of my pride did not happen immediately or directly. It would be a few more months, and a few more twists and turns before the lesson from the event started to sink in. It’s not that I’m stupid, (although I can already hear my ex-wife laughing) it’s that with each round through the monomyth, the challenges get greater, the healing becomes more intense, and the caves we go into get much deeper, and much, much darker. In more tangible terms, it means that the issues we confront get more complicated and nuanced.
Now, what’s possibly needed for an introvert to go through this process is some extended time alone with their thoughts, and books, and maybe a few documentaries…or days of total silence in a dark room, I don’t know how introverts think. I’m extremely extroverted with unmedicated (but well-managed) ADHD – thoughts don’t actually come FROM my head, they merely bounce around in there for a little while until it explodes out of me. Every idea that I have, regardless of its origin, needs an external interface in order to take solid form, or else it just remains a vague, amorphous notion, chattering away in the back of my mind, probably adding to the constant anxiety that I live with and (mostly) ignore. But I don’t want to keep ignoring my problems, I want to solve them. The gods, for their part, were happy to oblige…so they hit me with a fucking Honda.
YouTube intro: https://youtu.be/4mBCCi1SNLQ