Why the Monomyth.
Aka: My Story
"That's why there are great villains, & great heroes, & great literature - because you want to know how to be a great hero."
~ Dr. Jordan Peterson - professor, psychologist
In his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell shone a light on a pattern that has been operating in the background of our collective human psyche since time immemorial. The Monomyth, or Hero's Journey, is the pattern followed by nearly every great tale; from ancient myths and legends, to classical literature, to contemporary blockbusters. Campbell discovered a consistency to the structure of these stories that deviated little between languages, beliefs, cultures, and even time periods.
You can put any character you want into this framework, but to Campbell, every hero story was essentially a story about the self. The myths from ancient times were seen to him as a metaphor for the journey of personal transformation. Stories connect people to their subconscious and unconscious minds and this explains why the narrative structure has survived to the present. What’s more, the heroes themselves are what renowned psychologist Carl Jung called, “archetypes” which are primordial patterns of story that are encapsulated into a single character, easily understood and interchangeable between stories.
The subconscious and unconscious minds are a part of the brain that influences our actions and feelings, although we are largely unaware of that which stirs under our own mental surface. Ancient cultures from around the globe understood this on some level because to them, reality was divided into no less than two worlds: The World of Man, which we are all familiar with, and the World of Shadow, which was populated by strange monsters and governed by different physical laws, and this was where magic came from.
Joseph Campbell made a very clear case for the importance of symbols to our ancestors; they helped us to manifest and express elements from our subconscious minds that needed to be given the space to exist in our conscious, waking world. To them it was more than just a psychological exercise, it was the only way to keep that very real Shadow World from bleeding into this one. Shamanic ritual, in which these stories were told, didn’t just allow our ancestors to express their fears, to them it kept the monsters in check by giving them a seat at the table, and allowed human beings access to the magic that would enable them to reshape the world as they saw fit. In literal terms, playing the characters from the most important stories, in ritual, allowed our ancestors to be more than simply functioning units within a system, it empowered them to became fully engaged in the act of living itself.
When we are young we engage in play activities that help us to make sense of not only the world around us, but the worlds inside our minds. At that time, the real and unreal blend; there’s possibilities and magic everywhere. Just like our ancestors, as children we take on the role of the hero and emulate characters (both real and fictitious) that represent humanity's best attributes. As we age, however, we cease to play. We stop personifying the hero so that we can "settle down", and do our best to eek out a living, working just hard enough to keep our jobs, whether we like them or not. Many of us live in a kind of contented malaise; checking off boxes on our existential “to-do-list”, instead of trying to tap into the magic that will empower us to reshape reality. Most of us are existing, but not really living...the magic is gone. We know this, but many of us aren’t saying this without complaining...and yes, I'm saying it, but I'm not complaining.
That's because I decided to do something about it. I decided to fix my life; to find the magic again, to become the hero of my story again, and I've used the Monomyth as my guide, which is the elixir that I share with all of you.
I began my time on earth as a peculiarly idealistic and imaginative child. I spent much of my elementary school years donning a red cape, or a fedora, or a trash can lid on my arm, modeling myself after the noblest of archetypal heroes. I was raised an only child by loving parents in a safe home in a modest, yet comfortable neighborhood on Long Island, NY, where I led an admittedly sheltered life in a strict Christian sect. My dynamic intellect, high emotional sensitivity and unusual creativity made me awkward enough, but my family’s obscure and unwieldy faith compounded my difficulties in finding belonging. Years of bullying in elementary and middle school lead to extensive stretches in a psychologist’s office in my early teens. My doctor eventually helped me make sense of the alien, barbaric behavior of my peers, and I learned to use humor to manage my discomfort.
Eventually the sheep pen I was raised in got too limiting for my mind and soul to handle. I battled with alcoholism in my late teens and early twenties, and eventually sought psychological help, not for my drinking, but for an oncoming nervous breakdown that I felt was imminent. At age 20 I was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, and dysthymia. I refused medication and was paired up with a wonderful therapist that helped me develop the coping skills I needed to manage my conditions. It helped a great deal, and at age 21 I gave up drinking for the first time; a dry spell that would last just under two years when I felt like I had it “under control”. It didn’t stay that way, of course.
A couple of years after leaving my therapist’s office, I left my family’s faith, and met a wonderful woman that I later married. I then transformed from a “party drunk” to a “functioning alcoholic” as soon as I said “I do”. My subconscious and unconscious minds were well aware that I made the wrong decision, and I did my best to quiet their dissent with distilled spirits. I don’t regret my marriage, of course, especially since I got an amazing child out of the deal, but that blessing didn’t make my life easier.
Having grown up in the environment I did, I was fiscally and commercially illiterate, so despite having two careers in the health and fitness field as a massage therapist and Pilates instructor, I couldn’t make enough money to keep my new family afloat. I abandoned my careers to work crappy 9-5 jobs in offices for a few years where my creative and dynamic spirit languished in obscurity.
This time period coincided with a self-published book that flopped and the decision my wife and I reached to divorce while we were still relatively young, and our daughter wouldn’t know anything else. Throughout this time I found myself short on friends as my drinking had turned our once loving home that everyone came to hang out at, into an emotionally toxic wasteland that hardly anyone visited.
Still, I persisted in finding a way out of the hell I was in, though not until I admitted, out loud, that I was responsible for my own suffering. Once I did so, it was then a matter of putting in a lot of hard work on myself and my life. I took control of my health, got sober, and got back to my career in the health and fitness field as an instructor at Sole Pilates. I even began a venture into the world of personal development with a couple of online brands, and although they went nowhere, they laid the foundation for this one.
Now, this only brings my story to the present, obviously with events and details omitted for time. Even as I struggle to master both my inner and outer worlds, I continue to come across new characters and tools to aid me on my quest to live a more fulfilling and authentic life. I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the Mind Program, a proprietary neurofeedback system that has helped me repair and optimize my brain, completely curing my dysthymia! I’ve also repaired many of my broken relationships, including that with my parents, as well as a renewed friendship with my ex-wife, all while improving my bond with my daughter. In the past year, as a means of expressing my affinity for heroes and the hero's journey, I got into cosplay and through it, found new love!
Of course, I don’t have everything I want yet, and I certainly don’t have all of the answers to life, nor would I ever claim to present to you anything resembling original thought, but that’s kind of the point. Hero’s Breath is as much an exercise for me to advance on my own journey, as it is a way for me to help you on yours.
This company is a labor of love. Through the blogs, podcasts, and social media, as well as through live appearances (even those in costume), I strive to connect with people. I look to tell my story, and to echo the stories of those giants that came before me, to tell anyone that feels lost, alone, and powerless, that their suffering has a purpose. No matter what’s going on in your life, with hard work you CAN rebuild and remake yourself into something better, and Hero’s Breath is going to be there with you, every step of the way!