Joseph cambell&your client’s story

A great deal has been written about the connection between script and screen play writing to our trial planning. The source of the most generally accepted way to write a story for a movie or book is a pattern identified by American scholar Joseph Campbell applicable to drama and story telling. It’s basic format involves the hero who goes out doing great deeds on behalf of his or her tribe, group or civilization generally. Here’s a general outline of Joseph Campbell’s "the hero’s journey." This is the basic outline for every successful movie, novel or play. All successful movies follow this script.

Now, as you read this, think about the story of your client. When you tell the story of your client’s case think about this outline. For example, your client suffered an injury that set them off on a journey of recovery into a previously unknown world of treatment and life changes. They didn’t ask for it. It was thrust upon them. As they were forced to make this journey they faced many challenges which they overcame and have reached a point where they are doing the best they can with what has happened to them. They have been transformed by the experience of injury, treatment and adjustment. They are a hero.

1. The Call to Adventure We start with the ordinary world and the hero is shown against that background, but then the hero’s life is filled with stress pulling him or her in different directions. Everything is about to change. The hero is called upon to answer a call to be a hero for the tribe or community. The hero may feel the call from a sense of duty or obligation Something changes the situation, either external forces or internal forcing the hero to face change. For example, the tribe must obtain a magic elixir to survive. They need someone to go on a journey to obtain it, but it is in another unknown land full of dangers and in a cave guarded by a dragon.

3. Refusal of the Call The hero fears the unknown and refuses the call, but only briefly. The hero changes their mind and agrees to go.

4. Supernatural help Once the hero agrees to accept the call to go on a journey to obtain what is needed to save the tribe or community, they encounter mentor, some seasoned person who provides training, equipment or advice to help with the challenge. The hero might also find within themself a source of courage or other guide to help them on their journey.

5. Crossing the first threshold The hero leaves the ordinary world he or she is familiar with and starts out into the unknown with unknown rules and dangers

6. The belly of the whale This is where the hero makes a final separation from what was the familiar world. It is usually the hero’s lowest point. It is the turning point into something dark, frightening and unknown. The hero agrees to go ahead undergoing a change in themself

7. The Road of Trials. The hero faces a series of trials, ordeals and dangers. The hero may fail some of the tests which usually come in threes.

8. The meeting with the Goddess At this point in the journey the hero experiences love that is all powerful and unconditional. The hero finds someone they love completely.

9. Woman as temptress The hero is faced with temptations that may lead them to abandon or stray from the journey. The woman is a metaphor for the temptations of life.

10. Atonement The hero overcomes the temptations or challenges as the center point of the journey. There is a transformation in the hero and death to their old self. The hero has a period of peace and wisdom.

11. The elixir The hero achieves the goal and the reward needed to save the tribe or community. This is the reason the hero went on the journey in the first place. Example: The elixir is guarded by a dragon in a cave. The hero has to overcome the dragon and escape with the magic elixir

12. Refusal of return The hero is now faced with not wanting to return. The return journey has dangers and the threat of losing the elixir.

13. The return The hero decides to return, but needs help on the way back just as they did on t he journey here. They need powerful guides along the way. The hero faces the road back about three fourths of the way through the story. The hero now has to bring the reward home and there is often danger in this mission home. The hero overcomes more challenges and tests.

11. Return home challenges There is a resurrection when the hero is severely tested once more right on the threshold of reaching home. He or she faces a moment of death and rebirth, but purified by the experience.

12. Victory The hero returns with the magic elixir of the treasure they obtained and has thepower to transform the world just as the hero has been transformed. They are a hero to the tribe or community which has been saved.

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One Response to Joseph cambell&your client’s story

  1. Ed Semansky says:

    Thanks Paul for posting this material on Joseph Campbell.

    Unfortunately there’s a pervasive misunderstanding of what he was addressing in “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” I think this is because most folks don’t get a chance to read his book. Looking at his initial chapter (pgs 3-25), he states that what this book is about, what the Hero’s Journey is about, is “the adventure of discovery of the self” (p. 8). This involves a retreat from the normal world, and a journey into the psyche, into the unconscious part of our mind (p. 17). This is the genuinely Heroic Journey to becoming your real Self. It is not a book about storytelling or script writing or our clients or juries or trials or trial lawyers in their day-to-day activities. What this book is about is the same thing Gerry Spence is addressing in the first chapter of Win Your Case: “The Power of Discovering the Self.” It’s quite revealing to read these two chapters sequentially, Spence’s 10-page initial chapter followed by Campbell’s 23-page initial chapter. My impression is that both of these chapters are very important, very valuable, and often ignored, probably because they describe a journey that is both challenging and quite out of the ordinary (thereby causing discomfort). A person cannot accomplish this journey in several psychodramas. Both authors say that this is the work of a lifetime.

    Warm regards, Ed Semansky

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