Life in this world is a hero’s journey for all living beings. We arrive here in utter need and dependence, and must all become heroes, forging our way to security and independence.
Traumatized children are catapulted ahead on their journeys to adulthood, forced into autonomy long before their childhood needs for safety and nurturance have been met. They must stalk a position well beyond their years and, like all heroes, they must brave the uncertainty and overwhelming odds of a deeply predatory, competitive world.
Under ideal circumstances, the hero initiates the heroic journey at an appropriate age, well prepared, with a deep well of inner security to be drawn upon as challenges arise. Young traumatized heroes, on the other hand, are thrust prematurely onto their journeys, without choice and the resource of confidence. To the contrary, their inner world is filled with the demons of terror and emptiness, as each encounter with the world is met with trepidation, vigilance and, often, paralyzing anxiety. The heroic journey of such young traumatized heroes consists mainly of survival; carefully reading and dodging the dangers of the outer world, and holding together inwardly against the threat of dissolution.
Such young heroes construct a false adult persona, tailored to assure survival. This persona may be quite pleasing to the outside world, a being eager to turn to and care for the needs of others, the listener everyone seeks out. This persona might exude modesty and calm self-assuredness, or carefully hide in the shadows, never seen, never picked; the classmate never noticed in a graduating class. Regardless of outer demeanor and presentation, traumatized heroes inwardly harbor deep shame, anxiety, and inferiority; feeling punished and undeserving of a place in the world. They feel no true ownership of accomplishments or the aire of confidence they might exude; it’s all about survival and holding together.
As young heroes move into actual adulthood, they often accrue the necessary skills to secure a home and career in the world. Deeply practiced in the skills of survival, they have learned how to succeed, though inwardly this success offers little safety or comfort, as anxiety, fear, and the ever-present danger of dissolution remain forever present. In addition, genuine fun, satisfaction, and relaxation seem dangerous activities—to be avoided at all costs—however longed for, as the hero remains ever-cognizant of the unpredictability of danger in the world.
As young heroes move deeper into the cycle of life, something within the self signals that it is time for the hero to take up the challenge of reconciliation with the past, as traumatized material stored for decades begins to trickle to the surface of dream and consciousness, or is triggered by resonant events in the outside world. The hero self, what I call the present self, is now called upon to take up the challenge of discovering and recovering its true nature in the process of recapitulation, by reliving the past and retrieving all lost parts of the self.
As traumatized young heroes, many experiences had to be stored away and forgotten for the sake of survival. Many needs and feelings had to be abandoned. Embedded as they were in early trauma, too dangerous to cultivate in the war zone of trauma, too confusing to understand at such a young age, these experiences and needs had to be sacrificed. A contract had to be drawn to delay their processing until well into the future, when the seed of life had matured into a more stable tree.
The present self must remember, as it opens to this most unnerving challenge of recapitulation, that it is a hero—granted an incomplete hero—but the hero that has brought life forward to this point of transition and transformation. The present self has all it needs to take the journey of recapitulation, uncharted and unfamiliar though that journey may be. The hero is called when it is called because something in nature, something in spirit, recognizes that it’s time for the young hero to finally claim its full inheritance, awaiting retrieval in the trials of recapitulation.
Trust nature; trust spirit, in the timing of the call. You have all you need. Form a partnership with the recapitulation process and know that help will be provided, but must be asked for—always a challenge for young heroes.
Trust the call to adventure. Trust the hero and its ability to fully take the adventure through the fragmented land of recapitulation and emerge out the other side of time, in the land of wholeness and calm, a fully reclaimed hero at last.
On the adventure,
One thought on “Chuck’s Place: Young Heroes”
This piece resonated deeply, Chuck.
Continuing thanks to you and Jan for your words of wisdom, humor,truth and humanity to your fellow “heroes” on the adventure!