The Monomyth, Joseph Campbell, and Me

Damn I hate it when this happens. I didn’t pick up this book to learn something about myself. It’s not me I was trying to impress.

The quick synopsis that won’t get you even a “D” on any pop-quiz is this: The Hero With a Thousand Faces is Joseph Campbell’s influential study of world mythology. He set out to explain his hypothesis that every story has already been told, and will, necessarily, be told again, and within this is the journey and the need for the journey. Campbell uses the hero’s journey as a means to understand the universality between life and literature.

The journey is something innate and common in everyone. Campbell asserts being aware of our own journey, and using each step along the path to achieve something, is the secret to happiness.

I am on a journey. I tried to return home too soon. My adventures and experiences are not complete. Neither is my story. I use the practice of story-telling to my own purpose, as do all story-tellers.

“The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form.” Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Stories come from the experiences of humanity as a whole. This is why the hero has a thousand faces.

We are each a hero. We venture from our everyday world into something supernatural. We battle forces and emerge sometimes scathed, every time enlightened, if we listen. We return home to tell our tales.

The journey is not a choice. There is a catalyst across the threshold. We enter our supernatural world, our existence beyond our visible universe, with trepidation. The journey is guided by a higher power, someone with more experience, more knowledge, and more patience. And here is where I stop understanding with experience. I have certainly started sharing knowledge, but my journey is not yet complete. I am at 7 8.

"We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path."

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path.”

My journey began when I escaped Donkey. The catalyst across the threshold was a threshold. (1) I was in my ordinary world of abuse. It escalated and he said, I never wanted to do that again. (2) I knew I had to leave; I was called to change my situation. (3) We moved to Florida two months later.

(4) I spoke with lawyers, DV court advocates, and shelter counselors. I spoke at length with Llona. (5) I stayed at her shelter for six weeks. (6) The divorce took two years to complete, and even though the Final Judgement has been signed, sealed, and delivered, it lives on as a Motion to Amend.

(7) I faced darkness and lived in it. (8) One journey is crossing paths with another. (9) I wonder if I’ll know, or trust that I know, when I have landed safely on the island of enlightenment. (10) I tried to return home before the trials, allies, and enemies. Full-circle as it is, I am where I needed to be at the start of this.

When the journey is complete, the story, the experience, and the knowledge is to be shared. I am sharing early, but every skeleton’s skin is its own.



  1. So here’s where my English fails me. I can’t express how much I love this post 😦

    But I do. Lots!

    1. You’ve said it perfectly. Thank you.

      1. Hi Melanie! I enjoyed your post, which I linked to from Freshly Pressed. Congrats! I wanted to recommend “The Heroine’s Journey” by Maureen Murdock. It tracks Campbell’s hero’s journey from a female perspective. Thought it was interesting that I found your post by chance as I’m reading the book, and felt I had to comment! I’ve followed and look forward to more posts.

        1. Thank you for the recommendation. I bought it used. I can’t wait to start. Let me know if you write about your experience with this book.

  2. Divorce is a nasty business.

  3. i’ll bet you’ve found you’re stronger than you knew. 🙂

    1. I’m starting to think maybe I am.

  4. Buckwheat is right. You are. We all are.

    1. Yes. We all are.

  5. Very well said. I will think on it and that is a gift I appreciate (something worth thinking on).

    1. Thought is a gift. Thank you for the highest of compliments, also a gift. I’d be interested to hear the results of said thinking, if you have the time and desire.

  6. merbear74 · · Reply

    I started my journey 11 years ago next month. Still trying to tell my tale. I loved this post.

    1. Tis the toughest of tales to tell. Honestly, I don’t know why I can tell my story. Sometimes I approach it dry with the who, what, when, where, and how (though sometimes assumed, on my part; must be confusing…) and then I fill in the scene with storytelling, except using facts.

      1. merbear74 · · Reply

        Part facts..part storytelling, as though it didn’t really happen to you..I get that. It’s a gift you have, for sure.

        1. I wish I could make it feel like it didn’t happen. But at least it gives me plenty to practice writing with.

          1. merbear74 · · Reply

            Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, BTW.

            1. Thank you. It’s quite fun!

  7. Hi, I found this post while being professionally interested in “storytelling”, check out the recent book “The Story Wars”, also refers to Campbell a lot. Then I understood the “donkey story” (took a while, I´m German…). Thanks for speaking out on the issue and all the best for you and the kids – I hope you reach the “10” which, as far as I know, includes bringing a big, fat treasure home 😉

    1. Danke. Meine Deutsch ist nicht gut. Ich verlor es mit Alter. Ich lese “Story Wars.” Danke für die Bemerkung. Ich hoffe ein grosses Geschenk zu meine Haus zu bringen.

  8. What a wonderful combination of subtlety and directness. This makes me want to read more of your story, and I will! Glad FP introduced me to you. Love, too, Dante’s portrayal of the spiral journey – we travel up and around the spiral, so we encounter the same things time after time, but our perspective is different — higher. Either way, it’s circular, and it all leads towards a redemption of the pain, if we follow the path we’re given. Blessings and be well – glad you escaped. That takes so much courage.
    p.s. – I like your name : -)

    1. I like your name too. It’s a good one. Just common enough that people have heard it, but not so common that everyone has it.
      Dante is another good one. They both talk about being willing to be on the journey and there’s something to be said for that.

  9. veronicahaunanifitzhugh · · Reply

    reading this piece reminded me of my favorite hero story “jonathan seagull.” it changed my life. guess i should read it again. thank you for sharing. 🙂

    1. I looked up that book. It is definitely going in my book queue. I just finished reading “The Poet of Tolstoy Park” for a second time (first time is my post titled Hermit Highway). I enjoy reading books more than once. I learn what happens the first time and how it happens the second, and sometimes third, time.

    2. Absolutely. One lifetime transcends another and we strive to become stronger and wiser with each step along the road to enlightenment. Living stone Seagull is a wonderful book, as too your post!

  10. My journey may not be as painful as yours, but I take comfort in the fact that when I look at the Journey of a Hero map, I know that enlightenment will come, that the pain and the tribulations are lessons wrapped in a bitter pill, that I will emerge from the journey hopefully wiser, more discerning, and better prepared for my next journey. The battle scares and battle scars are reminders of growing up and becoming more human.

    May you emerge from your journey victorious and whole.

    1. I happy to hear the map gave you some comfort. I think if we believe we return from our journeys wiser, more discerning, and better prepared for our next journey, then we will. I hope yours brings you success.

      1. Every day is a journey; the difference rests on how long it takes. It takes all forms – from making a decision which school to enter, or which vocation to embrace, or living a life free from abuse and violence, we all make our own Lemniscates. Awareness, Consciousness and Choice plays a big part in our journey. We cannot finish the journey without these traits.

        1. I spent most of this journey unaware I was on a journey. Now I am aware and I should give more weight to consciousness and choice. With knowledge comes responsibility.

          1. Oh yes. The journey becomes more painful if you are aware you are on a journey, yet you wilfully let go of your Choice and Consciousness. Its not just a Sin of Omission anymore, but a Sin of Commission. Ignorance is Bliss is not really true.

            1. No, ignorance is not bliss; it is quite painful.

  11. Holy crap. This is an incredibly deep, awesome, meaningful post. Nicely done.

    1. Thank you. That feels good to hear.

  12. Powerful writing. I peek at your blog in tiny bits, from past experiences it does make me uncomfortable sometimes. But I deeply appreciate your voice in this.

    1. Mine is a difficult blog. I understand that. Thank you for telling me you appreciate my voice in this. It feels good to hear.

  13. Joseph is good but Carl Jung takes it a step further… ;> They both get a cause and effect thing going that is wonderful… it is called synchronicity… and to share is the key to you and their knowing…;;> we are all in this together.!! Journey on OH CAPTAIN !!

    1. “Oh Captain! My Captain!” Literature has so many greats to learn from. And Campbell learned from Carl Jung. He relied heavily on Jung’s theories on dream interpretation for his myth interpretations.

  14. Your journey will make you a stronger person. Trust me on this. Awesome blog, can’t wait to read more from you.

    1. Thank you. I will trust you that the journey will make me stronger. I feel it already.

  15. I love your hero’s map. If you are at #8, that means you’ll be a hero sooner than you think.

    1. I think we are probably all heroes a couple times over.

  16. That is an inspiring journey you have shown, I think your right that by discovering the commonalities of Campbells journey we will have an easier time understanding ourselves and we must overcome along the way, the stories of the gods always mimicking our own because that is what we need in order to carry on. It’s funny, I work for a company and there is a certain degree of mythology used in a modern context to help children become better people. Again thank you for sharing as I enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Mythology is fun for kids. There is magic and good and evil. There are good lessons in there too.

  17. Gracie More · · Reply

    I haven’t yet read through all your blogs (i will) I am new to this, so bear with me… but this post caught my eye, and i wanted to wish you well… and to agree, the Hero’s Journey is a remarkable one, and Joseph Campbell’s work is amazing when you read it… enlightening. I wonder if you have read Vogler’s ‘Writers Journey’? It is based on Campbell’s work, and in my opinion is equally amazing.. i was completely overwhelmed with it when i first got hold of a copy.. and it is very apt for one who is sharing their story as you are.

    1. The Writer’s Journey sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m reading Campbell’s “Myths To Live By” right now. It’s another gem. I’m enjoying his writing.
      Thank you, also, for the well wishes.

      1. Gracie More · · Reply

        My pleasure… a collection of ‘gems’ serves us well on such journeys:-) Never give up. I have read a few of your other posts since i was on earlier, and they are heart breaking and too familiar… you are very brave. Leaving is not always the ending people assume, but often merely the middle. Your ending will come though, as will your new beginning. Keep strong, keep reading… and keep writing, it is really admireable and it WILL get you through:-) x

        1. So it actually turns out I have read part of The Writer’s Journey, but it was a single segment online and I didn’t connect the two until I was almost asleep. It’s the third bullet in my references list.
          I was completely pulled into the writing. I read the entire selection without hearing anything go on around me. It was this writing that solidified the thought about everyone being a hero, about the thousand faces being the thousand people who, every day, knowingly or not, had decided to fight their fight.
          Must finish entire book…

          1. Gracie More · · Reply

            🙂 x

          2. Gracie More · · Reply

            it is amazing when you plough through it all… along with the ‘oh blimey’ moments. It will serve you well:-) Keep at it. x

  18. Yet Another Mind · · Reply

    But sometimes, the limages of evil and good are quite blurred, and they mix with each other…it leaves you doubting if you’re on the “right” side. What would you do then?
    On the other hand, I loved this post, I’m saving it to me computer (if that’s all right)!

    1. You make a good point. The lines between good and evil are often hard to discern. I know there were times I was fully on the evil side, but I like to think I’ve landed on the good side. Sometimes it’s hard to know. Sometimes it’s hard to care.

      Thank you. Of course it’s all right. I appreciate the compliment.

  19. L love travelling, but seldom put it into my calendar. Cos’z I can often find excuses like not enough money, no holidays, no accompanies etc. for not getting out. All is really annoying, so I will have to travel in day dreams.

    1. Travel doesn’t have to be a grand planned out event. I often take a half day and drive somewhere close and free, or close to free. I like history and it’s easy in Georgia to go somewhere in just a few hours and find somewhere to spend a few hours and few dollars. I also use the drive to listen to books.

      1. Sounds good, maybe I should try like you do!

        1. I wrote a column in college about places students could go on a student budget. I found so many places that only cost gas and parking. I’m a big fan of day trips, and this experience showed me it didn’t have to be grand and expensive to be worth the time.

          1. That’s pretty cool, thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with me!

  20. By the way, really good post, thanks for sharing.

  21. Hey–I just checked Freshly Pressed and saw you there! Congratulations 🙂 Good post.

    1. Thank you much. It’s amazing. Everyone has been so nice. I’ve had fun with it. And the numbers! Oh, the numbers. I will never see stats like this again. 🙂

      1. No kidding! I had a post Freshly Pressed. It still accounts for about 10% of my total views in a year. But you’ll get some new people who stick with you, and that’s the important thing.

        1. I read your pressed post yesterday. I missed it back in August, but that was right around when I had to take the kids back after our summer together.
          It’s been an amazing experience and I’ve enjoyed meeting new people.

  22. […] The Monomyth, Joseph Campbell And Me – An example of who a piece of writing can show the reader more about themselves […]

  23. This was a great post! You’ve in a way summarized what many stories tell and kept the wisdom in there. I also personally believe tat we are all ‘heroes’ , I simply believe that we all have things that we need to do, we all have dreams and we need to do our best to reach them and that’s how we remain happy. Your dreams can be anything but to you it’ll mean the world. Obviously, there are things that’ll stop you from getting there and that’s where we learn lessons. Sometimes, it’s through these lessons that we reach our goals. What you’re going through is not easy, keep at it and hope your achieve your goal.

  24. Woo! Freshly Pressed! As far as the contents of the post… beautifully written, well expressed, eloquent and intricate in thought as always. 🙂 *hugs* You are definitely a hero!

  25. Great post! And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I really enjoyed reading this.

    1. Thank you. it’s been an amazing adventure being Freshly Pressed. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading this.

  26. This is an awesome post! Thank you.

    1. I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

  27. So moving. So brave. Thank you for sharing and best of luck on your journey.

    1. I don’t know about brave. I’ve already endured danger and pain; this is just the story of that. I don’t know why I can tell either, except that I like to write and there’s plenty to write about with this.
      Thank you for reading.

  28. There is great courage in the hero’s journey. And in yours.

    1. Yes, there is. Sometimes it takes great effort to put one foot in front of the other.

  29. I’m studying in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence, where Joseph Campbell taught for most of his career. I discovered his work long before, however, and the hero’s journey has always remained a key component of how I not only plot my stories, but how I try to think about my life. Thanks for the great post.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I was introduced to Campbell in college, and I read parts of this book as research for a paper on a Robert Frost poem, but I never saw it in my own life until now, at least not like this. I also picked up his collection of Cooper Union lectures “Myths to Live By”. I’m fascinated, and I’m at a point in my life to be open to new interpretations.

  30. Well said and well lived!

    1. Thank you. And thank you for taking the time to say this.

  31. […] What’s in here can cut deep. I’ve stood wounded before God and Human. […]

  32. I really like your blog and would love you to feature on mine, All you have to do is write five suggestions along with a link back to your site. Please check out the blog and see the sort of things people have written about.

    1. Thank you. I took some time to read through your blog. I will work on something for you, and get it to you in the next couple of days. I’m grateful for the invitation.

      1. Thank you so much. I look forward to you sending me them.

  33. Shruty Sikhamani · · Reply

    Great Post !

    1. Thank you, Shruty. I like the Campbell quote on your homepage.

  34. How delightful to see such a thoughtful post featuring, among other things, Joseph Campbell.

    Glancing back on my own life at the age of 78 (and counting) I realize that joseph Campbell probably influenced my philosophy of life & living more than any other writer.

    Clint (my real name)

    1. Thank you Clint. I think when I’m 78 and looking back I will probably say the same thing about Campbell. I really feel like I’ve learned something about myself, as well as reading and writing.
      Thank you.

  35. Sending soothing, peace, ease and flow for your journey back to you. Blessings to you, Melanie!

    1. Thank you. That’s very kind.

  36. Thanks for an enlightening post. I’m glad to find and to follow your wonderful style. Congrats on FP, may your numbers always be this high! And having travelled the DV -Court System yellow brick road to nowhere, I commend you on your persistence in staying on track. All the best to you and yours. ALWAYS. – A survivor.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. I doubt my numbers will always be that high. I think that’s ok for now.
      Persistence is the only thing that gets any attention in the court system. I hope it works.

  37. monadsamadhi · · Reply

    Reblogged this on monadsamadhi and commented:
    So much I wanted to say you wrote so beautifully. God bless you

  38. You are a wonderful storyteller. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    1. Oh thank you! I had a good muse with this one.

  39. […] as influential in his business and personal life. That one worked out pretty well, getting all Freshly Pressed and everything. I’ve asked about what meetings and workshops I can attend to better […]

  40. I really liked reading this blog. Thanks for writing it.

    P.S. Want to learn how to make money with your blog? Go here to find out more.

  41. I remember reading this a while back. I enjoyed it. Campbell always writes interesting stuff.

    1. He is an interesting writer, and he doesn’t sound pretentious so he’s not hard to read either.

  42. Reblogged this on faclubeglaupivae comentado:

  43. thetruth2013 · · Reply

    Reblogged this on thetruth2013's Blog and commented:
    Powerful stuff…made me really think..

  44. jumeirajames · · Reply

    Congratulations on being Pressed!

    Loved the picture of the journey.

    Hope you reach the normal world with the treasure!

    1. Thank you. The picture isn’t mine. It came from

      The journey is important. It’s as much a part of our lives as it is literature.

      1. jumeirajames · · Reply

        The journey is not only important it is inevitable, I near its end.

        As Thoreau wrote…
        “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

        1. There is much to learn from Thoreau. There is no sense in living desperate. We must act decisively and be conscious in our actions.

          1. jumeirajames · · Reply

            I’m afraid experience tells me other wise.

            1. Did I misunderstand your comment?

              1. jumeirajames · · Reply

                In general my thrust was that despair is inevitable, and that has been my experience – and I’m a happy go lucky person who has had a fantastic life. But in the hearts of men (imho) despair is never very far away

  45. LOVE YOUR BLOG!!! Have you heard of the documentary FINDING JOE? Its all about Joseph Campbell’s teachings and how to apply them to our lives. Id love to send you out a copy to share with your community.

  46. Looking at a literal and visual chart of the journey just reminded me my path as a Priestess has been very much like what’s on the chart, however some events occurred at different times compared to others. Like the “Darkness” happened before I found my path as a Priestess, though it has tried to “revisit” a few times in my life after the worst of the Darkness I have experienced.

    When you reach your Island of Enlightenment, I have a feeling you will know when you have as I believe I will know when I have reached mine. I wish you luck and blessings upon your journey anyway despite my feelings of Faith. 😉 🙂 Never hurts.

  47. It’s been years since I read Joseph Campbell. Thanks for posting – great title, great analysis. : )

    1. Thank you. I hadn’t picked him up in years either, since my college days when he was required reading. I’m glad I sought out this book for a second reading.

  48. […] In order to protect myself from myself and others, I secluded myself in self-imposed solitary confinement. I neither went out, nor invited others in. It doesn’t sound healthy, but it was, in the short-term. It was necessary for strength and clarity. I lost myself to my ex-husband, and I wanted to find me again. I lost myself to myself, and I wanted to find me again. […]

  49. […] watched rated R movies from start to finish. I have written nonfiction, essays, and poetry. I have read books and reflected on how they speak to my past, my current, and my future. I have laughed. I have made new friends. I […]

  50. This is an incredible representation of those things that Prof. Campbell was asserting about the Power of Myth and our shared humanity. Wonderful post.

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