Refusal of the Call: The hero often refuses the challenge or the journey at first, often because s/he are scared.
Wait, OK, let me check something out with you. When you look at this picture, do you get a squiggly feeling in the pit of your stomach like I do? Whew. I’ll be honest, I didn’t ride roller coasters much when I was a kid, but I loved the ferris wheel. That feeling in my stomach as we went down was a tickle compared to how it felt when I went on a rollercoaster! Well, if you feel the inevitability of the drop on this wild ride, excitement and fear would hold hands and head down with you. Excitement..”Yeah!” Fear…”Oh no, I’m not ready! Is there a way to get off??”
In his work with the Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell noted the inevitable fear, the refusal of the adventurous ride. Whether it’s a new challenge at work, a difficult conversation with a spouse, a letting go of an outdated belief or behavior system, we inevitably have that moment where we think “Woah, what did I get myself into here??? Can I just go back to the way it was?”
We do usually have a choice. We can definitely stop the movement, the process forward and retreat back into what feels safer. The familiar, the what we know. Making New Year’s resolutions has one of the biggest reputations for the refusal. Frequently, we start out excited and full of forward momentum, only to backtrack into old habits when we hit a certain weigh point in our brain & body. As we push into unchartered territory one or both begin the questioning, the rationalizing, the backtracking. And yes, there are ways of counteracting the refusal, the biggest being to recognize it for what it is as soon as it shows up. Expect push back, expect your brain to want to go back to safety and gently but firmly note the refusal and move forward anyway.
But what if you can’t go back? What if there’s no way you can undo the momentum, as it has a life of it’s own and you don’t have the option to unring the bell?
Almost six years ago I experienced something that affected me profoundly and left me a different person, in many ways. It was the Hero’s journey of being fully present at the birth of my sweet grandson, Hoyt. My courageous daughter opted for an at home birth with her Naturopath Midwife and two assistants. No drugs, no cuts, no laying in a hospital bed. Just pure, raw, and miraculous step by step birth process. I know it seems like this wouldn’t be so heroic on my part. After all, giving birth is one of the most natural, common processes we go through as human beings. And, I have obviously gone through it myself, duh! But there was a delicious, exhilarating danger in being so fully present to this flat out miracle that was unlike anything I had experienced. It took all my willpower to stay in the room when my daughter was in so much pain and then this extra wild thing happened. My daughter is within minutes of giving birth and looks up at us all with this mix of pain and fear on her face that I had never seen before. “I can’t do it,” she firmly stated. “I can’t do it.” I was stunned, scared and wanted to reassure her, so I looked over at the midwife and her assistants with expectation. To my shock, they were high fiving each other and shouting “YEAH!” I almost lost it…but gathered the tiny amount of emotional resources I had left and asked: “What are you talking about? She needs help!” The midwife looked at me with almost a gleeful knowing. “Linda,” she said, “I’ve delivered babies in 18 countries and it’s the common cry right before the birth…’I can’t do it’. That’s how we know the baby is ready to be born!” And sure enough, there was sweet Hoyt, making his earthly debut about three minutes later. Healthy, happy and whole. And the fear on my daughter’s face turned instantly to awe and joy. It was the most perfect example of how the inevitability of what we can’t control, pushes us to let go completely and allow the new to be born.
We’ve all found out that there are numerous things in life we don’t have control over. And the only real option we have is to let go and see where the ride takes us. It doesn’t mean we don’t have power or can’t take action. We always have those options on a personal level. Our power is in how we relate to it while our actions follow suit. It may seem like a small concession, but it’s more powerful and effective then we can imagine.