Psychology and the Hero

As we continue to unpack Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces”, I feel it is important to not only go through the Hero’s Journey, but also dive into the symbolism involved in the journey. To do this you need to have a basic understanding of psychology.

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Freud and Jung

Much of Campbell’s book is based on the prevailing psychological theories at the time of his writing. Essentially, Freud and Jung both held the role of the “unconscious mind” as key to understanding psychological problems. Freud often sexualized everything. He viewed the mother as the first person a child wanted to have sex with. Yes. He believed this. He believed that people who were unwell still wanted to have sex with their mothers on some level.

Jung on the other hand believed a lot more in the power of dreams. He believed that the symbols that appear in dreams are fairly universal and can help you understand psychological struggles.

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What does this have to do with Campbell?

Campbell took what Freud and Jung had to offer and applied it to mythology. He noticed patterns in stories and universal symbols across cultures. He believed that these symbols came from the “unconscious” mind and the realm of dreams.

Dreaming that you are naked in front of the whole school is a common dream. Other common dreams include losing your teeth, falling, and flying. These dream symbols have universal meaning across cultures. Therefore, in writing a hero’s tale, taking note of these symbols is essential!

Key to the journey is also the overcoming of issues with both mother and father. Essentially, the hero either loves their mother and hates their father or they hate their mother and their father is the hero. Consider Hamlet and Oedipus. Of course, a hero can hate both their parents or love both their parents, but according to Freud at some point we all idealized one parent over the other. Therefore, there still needs to be the symbolism of overcoming these childhood issues in the story. I will be diving into the whole mother/father issue later in this series.

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Applying These Concepts to Your Story

  1. Consider what symbols you want to have in your story. What is going to represent the mother? What is going to represent the father? How can you symbolically represent real world problems with fantastical elements?
  2. How does your character respond to these symbols? How they respond to them says a lot about your hero and their journey.
  3. Think about your own nightmares and dreams. What might they say about you? How can you include these symbols in your story, perhaps with a different perspective than your own.
  4. Do some research on common symbols. A good place to start is by picking up a copy of Power of Archetypes. This is seriously interesting read and will not only help your writing, but help you understand yourself.

Examples

Fear of success: A hero who is afraid of success may find that they can fly, but find the whole experience terrifying.

Fear of Exposure: Does someone throw your character naked out into the street? This can represent a fear of being exposed in some way.

Apathy: Maybe your character loses their teeth and they don’t care. This is a good way to represent not caring about life anymore or accepting things as they are.

If you’re interested in learning more about symbols in writing or need some help interpreting a dream feel free to message me on Instagram. You can also subscribe to this blog using the form below to get updates on when I post. If there is enough interest this is definitely a topic I’d like to share about in greater detail.