“We are responding to tigers within using a system designed to respond to tigers out there.” I’ve had this quote sitting in my phone notes for a few weeks now. I should have noted where I heard it though. My apologies to the insightful person who said it.
Classical stories of the Hero’s Journey frequently have the Hero battling monsters like the Scylla or the Anzu or the Minotaur as a part of their Tests and Trials. I’ve heard a lot of modern Hero’s Journey stories and documented many in my book, Exploring the Magic of Your Hero’s Journey, and not one had an external monster.
The modern Hero’s Journey (yours?) has a lot of internal monsters to deal with. Monsters like:
The voice in your head that calls you stupid.
The voice in your head that you’d swear was your dead father saying you’d never amount to anything.
The voice in your head that asks you why are you even bothering to do this.
The voice in your head that goes over and over why your neighbors put up that stupid flagpole…. when it just doesn’t matter.
The monster that listens to others who question your goals.
The monster that can’t imagine what you imagine.
True, these are all a part of you. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, there is also a part of you who listens to these monsters and a part of you who observes every exchange with these monsters. Where, then, is the monster? Where is the tiger? We respond to these tigers with physical pain, anguish, and tummy-turning anxiety just as if they were an 800-pound real, live, lurking tiger. We let these tigers be the monsters we need to battle through our own Tests and Trials.
The author, Geneen Roth, tells a story in one of her talks (I’m paraphrasing.) My nephew says, “Imagine you are being chased by a tiger! What are you going to do?” So I say, “I don’t know. Can I run? Can I climb a tree and get away from it? Can tigers climb trees?” My nephew says, “I would stop imagining.”