Sep 3, 2023 8 min read

12 Stages of The Heroes Journey with Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell's advice is to embrace the changes and emotions life brings and to learn the lessons. He encourages us to use pain and pleasure, each feeling being neither positive or negative, as signals to whether we are on or off track.

12 Stages of The Heroes Journey with Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell, The Heroes Journey

What's your own unique HEROES Journey?

We all have a story. Over our lifespan we bounce between PAIN and PLEASURE, seeking harmony, bliss, happiness, inner peace, meaning, and fulfillment. However, no one tells you that pain, happiness, bliss, and euphoria are all part of the same human experience. Each feeling is neither positive nor negative, it's simply a signal that you are IN or AWAY from your alignment. You are heading on the right path, or down the wrong path.

  • Pain has been my greatest motivator and course corrector.
  • Excessive pleasure, euphoria, growth, and thrill-seeking have also been my greatest distractors.
  • It's about the dance of life between these experiences until we eventually find balance and harmony with it all.
  • However, life is like the seasons, it is continually changing. The isolation and coldness of winter are always followed by spring and periods of growth. Summer love and expansiveness are always followed by autumn, as we prepare for inevitable winter again.

Life is s cycle of heroes' journeys. Rather than resisting the natural cycles of change and emotions that come with each season. It's our lesson to embrace the seasons, learn to dance in the rain, remain calm in a storm, and appreciate the abundance and stillness that comes along the way.

Many of us get caught up in the journey is the point of life, not the destination. Inevitably, we are just walking each other home anyway, to the same universal source from which we were born. So let's have some fun, learn the lessons, embrace the beauty, stop to smell the roses, and treat people in a way that we could only hope to be treated along the way.

Let's be the directors in our own life play and start to script and act in a life worth living.

"The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dream, in real-time" Oprah Winfrey

The 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey


"10 seconds of courage overcomes any fear"
  1. The Ordinary World. This is where we meet the hero and identify with him or her. Recall Luke Skywalker helping his uncle, Frodo, prepare for a party talking with Gandalf, Harry Potter is at his aunt and uncle's home. He seems out of place, and Mulan is studying to impress the matchmaker. You are known to your circle and likely view yourself as ordinary. This is the very beginning of the story.
  2. The Call to Adventure. A challenge or quest is proposed. Likely there is an event, conflict, or problem that prompts the adventure. Maybe drug and alcohol use has placed relationships on rocky ground. Or, your boss smelled alcohol on you as you walked by at work. Perhaps legal consequences are pending.
  3. Refusal of the Call. The hero initially rejects this call because of fear, hesitation, insecurity, or another reason. Perhaps family or friends have suggested that you go to treatment, and you aren't quite ready. You might be afraid of what to expect in therapy. Whatever the reason, the call to adventure is rejected initially.
  4. Meeting the Mentor. The mentor helps the hero gain confidence, gives insight, or advice to overcome the fears. You might encounter a friend or family member that has had experiences with drugs and alcohol abuse. This person can give advice, guidance, and insight to help you gain confidence.
  5. Crossing the Threshold. This signifies that the hero has committed to the journey. Frodo packed food to take and set out past the Shire. Luke Skywalker leaves Tatooine. Harry Potter gets on the train at platform 9¾. Mulan sets out to the military camp. This is where our hero – You – say yes to treatment and head out to begin the adventure of reclaiming your life.
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies. The hero needs to learn who can be trusted. A sidekick emerges, like Hedwig, Hermione, Ron, Sam, Mushu, and R2D2 and C3PO. Tests might be barriers to treatment like childcare, time off work, finances, or looming court appearances.
The Heros Journey and stages of change model


  1. Approach to the Innermost Cave. Preparations are needed and might include maps, and reconnaissance to enter the cave. In treatment, the innermost cave refers to working through feelings of shame and guilt. Women drink and use mainly to cover painful, negative emotions. To continue your journey, you must face the reasons why you chose to drink and use.
  2. The Ordeal. This is the greatest fear and most difficult challenge. Perhaps you were physically or sexually abused as a child or had a miscarriage that was so painful. Your therapist in treatment will ask you to delve deep into your psyche to address your most significant challenge. The work is challenging, but so worth the reward.
  3. The hero overcame the greatest fear and challenge to earn the reward. Mulan’s life was spared after it was discovered that she was a girl. Luke received the Death Star plans, Harry Potter received the Sorcerer's Stone, and Frodo received a sword. Your reward is much higher. The freedom from being entrapped by maladaptive behaviors is priceless.
  4. The Road Back. This stage is comprised of the hero recommitting to complete the journey and accept the road back to the ordinary world. You completed treatment and are preparing to return home. Your clinical team will work with you on a relapse prevention plan. The relapse prevention plan is like a roadmap after treatment to help you stay sober. It might include craving and trigger awareness, social and emotional support, and alternative behaviors.
  5. The Resurrection. This can be the most dangerous life-and-death ordeal for the hero and is the climax of the story. A final test that represents a cleansing. It might be a showdown between the hero and the Shadow. During the ordeal phase, you looked at shadowy places in your past. During the resurrection, one final challenge awaits. Mulan warns the rest of the army that Shan Yu is hiding to attack. No one believes her, and she must convince them of the danger. In your resurrection, you might face the deep, dark secret that you forgot about.
  6. Return with the Elixir. The final reward after the hero was resurrected, purified, and has returned to the ordinary world. You have done the difficult work of looking within at the reasons you drank and used. With the help of mentors, allies, and self-efficacy, you are prepared to return home.



For me, giving this book to the world is my "return with the elixir". Which is the reason why it feels like the end of a chapter. A cathartic release... A time for rest and rejuvenation. Before, I prepare for the next hero's journey. Which from experience will have the same steps.

At 34 years of age, it feels like every 7 years, Is one hero's journey after another. These days, I'm learning to enjoy and welcome the journey as much as the destination. Knowing that there will be the same trials, tribulations, and rewards.

However, with each journey, I bring new emotional and conscious awareness with me. Plus the wisdom of experience, more friends, more tools, and more simplicity. I may even stop to smell the roses a little bit more on the next journey.

I'm also learning to slow down, before speeding up again. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, right!? The paradox is that many of my biggest life lessons have come in the stillness, not in the motion. Often when I stop to realign and reassess my direction, the answers are always there, hidden in plain sight.


A lesson will keep repeating itself until it is learned. Life first will send the lesson to you in the size of a pebble; if you ignore the pebble, then life will send you a brick; if you ignore the brick, life will send you a brick wall; if you ignore the brick wall, life will send you a demolition truck.

Imagine if your life lacked direction and you ended up running in circles for years or even decades. Jumping from one shiny object to the next. Letting others guide your life with the promise of quick money, status, or success! Only to find that they were high on confidence, but low on the direction. Perhaps, not aligned in the first place.

Imagine you did what others told you to do or listened to who they think you should be. Only to find that you had been heading due "South", in the exact opposite direction to where your heart and gut intuition have been calling you to go?

Whatever you do, start with the heart. Take time out of this busy world, to be still, to feel and listen to your intuition. It will guide you towards a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life. And, it's likely it will be unique compared to your peers, friends, and even your family! and that's ok!


If you can believe in Santa for 10+ years, then you can believe in yourself for a minute or more.

“You can do it or you wouldn’t be here. Don’t look to the world for clues, not even to your family, friends, or career. Look within. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s possible. You write the script and lay down the laws. You are the door, the path, and the light.” – Mike Dooley, Notes From The Universe


Why do you get out of bed each morning?

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you spend all your time "thinking" and "dreaming" about that "thing"?

Why is it important and meaningful to you?

Finding your WHY can be difficult and hard to communicate to others. WHY? because that heart has reasons for which the mind will never "know" or be able to comprehend consciously. It's a feeling, a gut instinct, a calling...It's something deeper. Whatever it is for you, listen to it and let it guide you.

Remember - When it makes you cry, you know your real why.

It's linked to a deep emotional driver, not just nice thoughts and intentions.

It's personal, it's unique and it's within you. Nowhere else.


Happiness is the experience (the end result, not the pursuit) of joy, contentment, and well-being. We can discuss "subjectively" anything that promotes, empowers, or enables feelings of happiness, good health & a sense of connection more often.

These three feelings are combined with a sense that one’s life is good and meaningful. Which means it's personal! What makes one person happy, might make another miserable. Humans are unique, huh!?


Joseph Campbell's advice is to embrace the changes and emotions life brings and to learn the lessons. He encourages us to use pain and pleasure, each feeling being neither positive or negative, as signals to whether we are on or off track. He uses the analogy of different seasons to describe this cyclical nature of life and emphasizes the importance of having fun and treating people well along the way. We all have our own unique Hero's Journey to go through, comprised of 12 stages: - The Ordinary World - The Call to Adventure - Refusal of The Call - Meeting the Mentor - Crossing the Threshold - Tests, Allies, Enemies - Approach to the Innermost Cave - The Ordeal - The Hero Overcame the Greatest Fear - The Road Back - The Resurrection - Return with the Elixir Finally, he encourages us to listen to our heartbeat to uncover our true why, and instead of chasing happiness, encourages us to search out activities that bring joy, contentment, and well-being.


This is directly referenced from the best-selling amazon SelfCare Book "Lifestyle Medicine For the People" by Rory Callaghan.  If you would like to read more content like this. Grab the free online chapters of the book or a hard copy.

We have done our best to reference everyone’s expert opinions, peer-reviewed science, and original thoughts, all references available here and referenced in the text.

We also understand that most thoughts are not our own and there is a collective unconsciousness, unconsciousness, and universal mind stream of energy that is always at work.  How are references are sorted and filtered is here


Rory Callaghan
Rory Callaghan
Rory is the founder and CVO for the Selfcare Global Movement. He is a curious soul with multiple health degrees and an integrated toolbelt, Inspired to share all the insights from the SelfCare book
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