And now for the scariest part of your Hero’s Journey: The Cave.
The Cave is that part of your Hero’s Journey where you face that thing you are most afraid of — that thing you may not have even known you were most afraid of.
The Journey has been giving you hints all along. It showed up in a Guardian at the Gate. It always shows up as one of your Tests and Trials. It may even be reflected as an aspect of your mentor that you don’t like. Until you vanquish it, it will keep showing up. It has to; it’s you.
There’s one point-of-view that says your entire purpose for your Hero’s Journey is vanquishing your nemesis, not your stated goal.
Here’s an example: You decide you are going to get your college degree decades after “most people” do. You really want to. It’s not easy to get the momentum that high schoolers take for granted. But you do it. You save and apply and beg for grants and scholarships and get work to let you out early some days and get help for watching the kids. You inch your way into the semesters and take classes you enjoy and get good grades. It’s tough, but you do it. You find out there are a lot of other older students just a bit ahead of you who give you good advice. Then one day it happens. You’re taking a tough class, and it’s just not clicking. You’re having a tough time getting all the reading done. The prof doesn’t give you the kind of laudatory nods and smiles you’ve gotten up to this point. Why does she remind you of your grandmother? Is it the frown? Is it the sigh after you comment– then she calls on another student? You’re not even halfway through and it’s just gotten so hard. Maybe college really isn’t for you. No one else in the family has been to college. Why do you think you can do it? Why should you?
You have found yourself in The Cave.
If you remember that this is a standard part of the Journey, it can help. On one level, you knew this was coming. It’s you facing your idea of being not good enough. It feels real, but it’s not. It seems dark, but you just haven’t turned on the light. It feels like cold and forbidding rock, but you haven’t fully felt it. You think you’re alone, but you just haven’t called out for help yet.
There is a way out of The Cave, but it’s probably not a method you’re comfortable using…yet.
- Ask for help or just talk about it with your allies and mentor. Someone has been in this cave before you and can help you navigate your way out of it. Remember that it’s not a true Hero’s Journey if you try and do it alone.
- Shine a light on it. Use a bright light and look at it from all angles. Really see and describe your experience. Is this cave really that scary? Is it as big as you thought?
- Feel all the way around where you are. Is it really rock? Is there really no way out? Do you have to abandon your goal? Do you have any evidence to the contrary?
Photo by Enrico Perini: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-wearing-black-coat-standing-near-gray-mountain-804605/