(10/12 on the Heroic Journey)
Refusal of the Return
Fear of Greatness
Use it or Lose it
Fear of Greatness
Use it or Lose it
“Even the Buddha, after his triumph, doubted whether the message of realisation could be communicated.”Joseph Campbell
This stage of the Heroic Journey is probably the most confusing one of all. Having come this far – after negotiating Threshold Guardians, fighting fierce battles, and discovering treasure – why would any heroine or hero in their right mind refuse the gift?
Here are three possible answers:
- – The return to the Ordinary World seems too daunting.
- – The gift comes with a hefty ‘price-tag’ attached to it.
- – The heroic traveller doesn’t recognise the value of the gift.
Many heroic travellers are likely to experience a combination of these 3 ‘reasons’ for refusing their gifts, at least for a time.
The mythological hero’s journey is only complete when the heroic traveller returns and brings the treasure back to the home tribe. After all, s/he doesn’t set out on the journey for personal pleasure and private accumulation of wealth or fame. The main purpose of the whole venture is to make her/his world a better place.
In everyday life returning with the gift to our home tribe may seem daunting. Despite having left our place of origin, fought our heroic battles and discovered our treasure, our home remains the place where we belong.
This doesn’t mean you have to literally go back to where you started. In the context of the Heroic Journey it implies bringing your unique gifts ‘back to your people’, whatever that means for you.
Refusal of the Return
“The hero has reason to fear that the wisdom and magic of the ordeal may evaporate in the harsh light of common day.”Christopher Vogler
In the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces this stage of the journey is called Refusal of the Return. According to Joseph Campbell many heroes choose at this point to remain in what he calls the ‘special world’.
Having left the Ordinary World in search for your gift the temptation to remain in the ‘special world’ is understandable.
It is like having to go home after an exciting adventure, or like returning to your native country, having spent some years abroad as an expat. It can be a real culture shock.
The resistance to return may be enhanced by the fear that you won’t be able to share your gifts and experiences with those who stayed at home. This fear is well founded.
In his book E=mc2 author David Bodanis recounts a remark made by Chaim Weizmann during a journey with Albert Einstein across the Atlantic in 1921. Weizmann reportedly said: “Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and soon I was fully convinced that he understood it.”
Depending on the nature of your gift, it may be hard – or impossible – to share it with others. This is especially true in the early stages.
Inspiration enters the mind of an individual as highly complex information packed into a single idea. The recipient is able to grasp the idea in a flash. However, to explain it to others is a different matter.
Paradoxically, one form of expression of the rejection of a heroic gift is that we try to share it too soon. It is as if you can’t wait to ‘bring the gift home’, complete your mission, and be free to get on with your life.
After receiving my gift in 1998, I wrote and published a premature version of the Solo System. It didn’t go any further, and I concluded that my gift was probably intended to be my personal ‘secret weapon’. The thought of not having to share it with a larger audience came as a great relief.
The journey home can be as challenging as the initial stretch of trials and ordeals. Especially if the gift is of an unexpected nature, it may take time to adjust, to accept your mission, and to develop some further vital skills.
Fear of Greatness
“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?”Marianne Williamson
When I received the basic model of the Solo System I instantly knew what to do with it. I developed a daily practice, which I now call Self-Knowledge Management.
My practice enabled me to restore and maintain my internal balance in any situation without emotional repression. I learned to transform any negative experience into a valuable personal source of information.
The process of my daily inner workouts gave me plenty of opportunities to witness the gradual transformation of dysfunctional beliefs, unsustainable self-perceptions, and other subversive elements within my inner world into inner strength.
The most persistent belief within my Consciousness was a conviction that I had nothing to offer because I was ‘inadequate’. At first sight this seemed to contradict Marianne Williamson’s claim: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Through my work I found that a sense of inadequacy is deeply engrained in human Consciousness in general. We develop coping mechanisms and survival strategies to overcome this apparent flaw.
We compensate for our perceived imperfection, each in our own way. In our culture this has lead to an epidemic need for approval and attention, on which the entire social media industry thrives. If you want to build an online business, most experts will tell you that you’ve got to ‘fake it till you make it’.
A false and pretentious image of greatness, however, cannot soothe our fear of our perceived inadequacy. On the contrary, it can only make it worse.
Since the problem is an internal one, any external solution will be ineffective. External solutions usually add complexity to the internal dilemma. This explains why people who achieve high external success can end up living in an internal hell.
A relatively simple and elegant solution to our fear of inadequacy is to approach the delicate issue with honesty and compassion. As soon as you acknowledge your fears and sense of inadequacy you are able to see that this perception is perfectly adequate in relation to your current undeveloped potential.
In fact, your sense of inadequacy will tell you more about your dormant potential than about your actual inadequacy. It is a natural ratio: The bigger your heroic gift, the more you need to learn, and the more inadequate you feel.
Your recognition of this natural ratio provides the basis from which you can grow into your greatness. As you engage in your own genuine maturing process, your fears of being inadequate – or powerful beyond measure as the case may be – fade away as a matter of course.
Use it or Lose it
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”Helen Keller
The most treacherous form of refusal of our gifts is our own ignorance. Over the years I have met several people who had great gifts and lost them due to lack of awareness of the unique opportunity. One of those people was Randolph (not his real name)
When I met Randolph, he was in his 70s. Apparently he had been a gifted healer at a younger age. Many people who had benefitted from his gift admired him greatly and kept in contact. By the time we met he had lost his gift without being aware of it.
Randolph continued to see himself as a ‘gifted healer’. He was very casual about how easily his ‘healing powers’ had come to him. He spoke about his gift as if it was ‘nothing’ – which was precisely what it had become.
We all have gifts that we are oblivious to or take for granted. When I followed my Call to Adventure nearly 20 years ago – the call to become a writer – I had no idea that the seeds for the Solo System and the discipline of Self-Knowledge Management were lying dormant within my Consciousness.
Since following my Call to Adventure 2 years ago – the call to bring the Solo System and Self-Knowledge Management to my home-tribe– I discovered many more gifts to which I had been oblivious, and I continue to do so.
In search for one ‘special gift’ that is supposed to save your life it is so easy to miss all the good stuff. The fact that something comes easy to you doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Our gifts are not a personal property to which we are entitled. They are not something you’ve ‘got in the can’.
All personals gift are opportunities and privileges. It is up to us what we make of them. We can either lose them through arrogance or use them with humbleness and gratitude.
“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world!”Anne Frank
At this stage on the Heroic Journey we want to have our gifts and expect that the rest of life remains unchanged. This is not only impossible, it is also immature wishful thinking.
You have to be prepared to step into the unknown life that is big enough to embrace your gifts.
Josh and I recently watched A Theory of Everything. The movie tells the story of the 30 year marriage between the famous scientist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane. Hawking is not only a gifted cosmologist, he also received other unique gifts throughout his extraordinary life.
When he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, doctors told the 21 year old Stephen Hawking that he had only 2 years to live. The love between him and Jane Wilde turned out to be a gift that lifted his depression and revived his zest for life. Their children possibly gave him an additional reason to live, and time to develop the famous theories that he gifted to the world.
Even his terrible degenerative disease can be considered a gift. Hawking says himself, “My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field, which is theoretical physics. Indeed, they have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in.”
Everyone is offered a complex combination of gifts. Some of them look attractive, others are less appealing. Through the acceptance of our gifts we transform them, and they transform us in return.
My journey has taught me that it is important to focus on one gift. It doesn’t really matter which one it is, because they are all part of the same package. Just pick the one that is calling you the loudest, and follow that call. When we nurture one gift in its development, the other supporting gifts in the package show up spontaneously.
When we receive our gifts they are not necessarily ready to be shared with others. Take for example a gifted musician. Despite having received her gift as a ‘birthright’, she has to practice for many hours before she is ready to go on stage. The same principle applies to any of our gifts. They want to be practiced and brought to life.
The Heroic Journey is like starting an intimate relationship with our gifts. At first you court one another. You’ve got some romantic idea about your heroic gift, and your gift sees only your dormant heroic potential.
Then we begin to notice imperfections in each other, and we need to learn to accept one another as we are. This is a critical stage. Now you can either abandon your gift and yourself, or you make a firm commitment. The challenge is to love your gift – and yourself – at a younger age so to speak. This is naturally a stage of relative imperfection.
Through unconditional love, faith and dedication you can give life to your heroic gift. As it unfolds and grows up, it makes you come more alive and become more mature too. In the process both must be transformed.
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