Becoming the Hero of Your Own Journey: Q&A with Jean Houston
Jean: You can be both at the same time, and most people are. You're a hero when you accept the fact that you're on the road of challenges calling you to a life larger than the one you thought you were in. And you're the antihero when you're always in the state of resistance, frustration, pulling back. But often the heroic role is "Let's get on with it!" You're only alive once, as far as we know, and this is the time in which we are—especially in this time—where we are the ones who will make a difference in this world.
Q: Can different myths guide different parts of your life?
Jean: There tends to be an overarching narrative path, which is called the Heroine and the Heroine's Journey, which is something we described on "Super Soul Sunday." But, yes, sometimes you're living the life of little Dorothy—going into new worlds, new experiences. Sometimes it's the life of Percival, who's on a quest to find the Grail. That about which can be said, "Abundance is scooped from abundance, and still more abundance remains." And sometimes it can be a story like the Odyssey, where you're always on another island of unique experiences. Where you are growing into the larger and more passionate possibilities.
Sometimes, it's the great stories of death and rebirth that we find throughout so many of the world's myths. Like the story of Inanna, who descends into the depths and dies for a while before she is reborn for renewed purpose and renewed possibilities. Persephone also buried down into hell, or Hades. And what does she do? She civilizes hell. And there's her mother, who is longing for her and turning the world bleak and gray until her daughter can come up in six months, a year or more. Many young women today find themselves in the "Persephone"—in a place of not knowing but knowing that they have to find their way through. And someone back home still, or some great friends, who are holding their excellence for them while they're in the dark night of the soul.
Q: Is there a myth that you identify with?
Jean: Well, I love Odysseus, who is always in travels, and I'm always in a state of travel. I'm always on islands of experience and learning so much from different people and countries. The character, the archetypal character that I like the most for my own life is the Athena character because she is the principle of wisdom and also a principle of helping to make the world work better.
Q: Can you choose your own myth, or does it choose you?
Jean: It's both-and. It's always both-and, plus much, much more. When you talk about myth, you can never say either-or. Either-or is never so. It's both-and, plus much, much more.