When Healing Is a Hero’s Journey

October 12, 2023

As someone who grew up with undiagnosed autism and certain amount childhood trauma, I’ve had to do my share of  healing. While I always saw emotional healing as a journey, however, it didn’t occur to me that it was a hero’s journey until I read this passage in The Spirit of Healing (affiliate link) by Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona.

All of the healers that I worked with emphasized that you have to present your wish to be well in such a way that the spirits would admire you, that the spirits would be impressed, that the spirits would say, wow you’re someone I really want to help. In short, you have to become a hero. You have to create a heroic journey for yourself toward wellness, from sickness. And everyone loves a hero. Spirits are no exceptions. Whatever your heroic journey is, the more impressive it is, the better for you. - The Spirit Of Healing by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD

As a Catholic, I might not think of spirits in the same terms as Dr. Mehl-Madrona, but I do believe that saints and angels intercede for us. And I love the idea of becoming the kind of person a saint or angel might actually want to pray for.

But I didn’t share this quote because of what it says about spiritual beings or their intercession. I shared it because of what it says about us. 

Healing IS a hero’s journey – so if we want to make that journey, we have to be heroic.

On Heroism

Because I felt I needed to really understand what Dr. Mehl-Madrona is saying here, I looked the word heroism up in Merriam-Webster. The synonyms provided included words like bravery, courage, daring, fearlessness, gallantry, heart, moxie, nerve, prowess, valor, and virtue.

These are the kind of traits that most of us think about when we think about being heroic. But the actual definition (or the definition I liked best) of heroism didn’t really talk about character traits. It talked about “heroic conduct exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end.”

To me this means that in order to be heroic we have to (a) know where our journey or quest is headed and (b) be willing to actually do things in order to get there. I think this way of looking at heroism makes a lot of sense.

Where Are You Going?

When it comes to inner healing no two people will have the exact same destination or goal.

Some of us want to be better parents or spouses or humans. Others want to feel better or achieve a specific vocational objective. There may even be several different goals. But I think it helps to narrow it down to one or two.

So I prayed and journaled on my goals and thought about where I want to end up. The next step is to figure out how to get there. To me, that’s where  courage comes into play.

How Courage Looks

For most of us, the kind of courage healing calls for doesn’t look like anything special.

It might, for example, simply look like going for a walk when the weather’s bad. Or working in the garden when we’re afraid of snakes. Or putting things right when the weight of what needs to be done overwhelms us. Or participating in things when people just don't get us.

And in 2024 courage is going to look like all those things for me. For you it may look like something totally different, but I’m willing to bet we have this in common. When somebody sees us gardening or showing up or taking part, it probably looks pretty ordinary.

Very few would even realize that what we’re doing takes courage – or that it’s part of an epic, hero’s journey to healing.

But it is.

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