Seeing yourself as the hero in your own journey
As we face the prospect of emerging from another pandemic lockdown, this situation we have not chosen can feel like it’s come out of a SciFi novel or film, in which an apocalyptic global virus threatens us and those we love, and de-rails all our plans.
Can there be any choice about how to respond to this ?
Many stories from fairtytales to movie scripts are based on the idea of the ‘hero’s journey’ – there is a call to action and to leave the daily routine, which the hero is challenged to respond to. Think Gandalf arriving at the home of Bilbo Baggins – which kicks off the story of ‘The Hobbit’, taking Bilbo on a perilous journey into adventure, and out of a comfortable life in the Shires.
We are now all being taken out of the rhythm and norms of our daily lives by the arrival of the Covid-19 virus, and rules which affect what we can do.
We may not be able to travel externally – but internally it would be incredible not to be experiencing our minds, bodies and spirits responding to the threat, news, and changing situation in a range of ways.
How might it be to see yourself as the hero in your own journey ?
Listening to yourself
How often have you felt really listened to? Listening to ourselves at this time of unprecedented uncertainty and change, can help us to begin to observe what we are experiencing.
What is coming up for you now? It may be a sense of bodily tension, hope things can go back to how they were, or fear of hopes being disappointed.
Finding a space to listen to ourselves and to be listened to – and truly heard – can help us to notice what sensations, thoughts and emotions are surfacing, and create the space to explore possible ways of responding to them.
Our outcome-focused and extrovert society doesn’t often pay attention to how active a process listening is.
“Listen carefully. To hear is to let the sound wander all the way through the labyrinth of your ear; to listen is to travel the other way to meet it.”Rebecca Solnit
Meeting yourself with respect
Once we begin to listen ourselves, how do we respond to what’s surfacing in our inner life ? Does what you notice prompt any judgements of yourself? How might it be to witness what’s coming up for you with respect, care and empathy?
It may help to think about this in terms of what you want to fill the backpack you are taking with you on this journey of living through pandemic times. What do you want to carry with you to help you along the way?
The process of finding empathy involves travelling imaginatively to meet someone else…including yourself!
“…you travel out of yourself a little or expand. It’s really recognising the reality of another’s existence that constitutes the imaginative leap that is the birth of empathy…a translation of the German word ‘Einfuhl’ or feeling into, as though the feeling itself reached out.”Rebecca Solnit
Society may prize travel and experiencing new places – something that’s not too possible for most of us right now…
It may be more rare to find encouragement to reflect on the inner journeys we could go on to discover more about, and meet ourselves in new, and perhaps more caring ways. This is a possibility that may have been highlighted for some by an enforced period with fewer opportunities to go out, and to meet others.
In the wonderful poem ‘Love after Love’ the poet Derek Walcott imagines a new relationship with oneself emerging from a time of pain and difficulty:
‘The time will comeDerek Walcott
when with elation.
you will greet yourself arriving,
at your own door..’
Being in good company through tough times
Noticing how you talk to yourself if feeling low or under pressure, and what tone of voice you hear those thoughts voiced in can be a good start point.
Do you tend to give yourself a hard time? Is the way you talk to yourself critical, dismissive or undermining – perhaps very different to how you would talk to someone you care about? Imagine what you might say to that person if they were in your situation, and feeling the way you do now.
If it feels impossible to consider being caring to yourself, it may be helpful to consider getting some support to look at what barriers may get in the way of your giving yourself the same compassion as you would a loved one.
Not to make that observation yet another reason to give yourself a hard time! There are very good reasons why any one of us may be in the habit of adopting a punishing attitude to ourselves at times – such as experiences of early relationships, or of bullying.
Becoming an attentive, warm, and encouraging companion to yourself – as you journey through these challenging and often frightening times – is a practice that observing yourself as the hero in your own journey can help you begin to develop.
“Loving yourself means being your own best friend, standing by yourself at all times, including times of failure: being there for yourself no matter what.”Anita Moorjani
Rebecca Solnit quotes are from ‘The Faraway Nearby’ by Rebecca Solnit published by Granta.
Extract from Derek Walcott’s poem ‘Love After Love’ which can be found in ‘The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013’ published by Faber and Faber, and in anthologies including ‘Soul Food’ published by Bloodaxe.
Antia Moorjani’s quote is from her book illustrated by Angie DeMuro ‘Love A story about who you truly are’ published by Nick of Time Printing LLC.