The Leadership Quarterly , 20 , Deifying the dead and downtrodden: Sympathetic figures as inspirational leaders. Hoyt, G. Forsyth Eds. Westport, CT: Praeger. In Goethals, G. Cambpell, J. Psychology Today , July Diehl, U. Human suffering as a challenge for the meaning of life. Making heroes: The construction of courage, competence and virtue. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 46 , Unpublished manuscript, University of Richmond. The role of suffering in human flourishing: Contributions from positive psychology, theology, and philosophy.
Walking the Line Between Good and Evil: The Common Thread of Heroes and Villains
Journal of Psychology and Theology, 38 , Allison and George R. The opening scene of the movie is jarring. The dead body of an adolescent boy, Jack, floats upward toward the ice-covered surface of the lake in which he has just drowned. We see what Jack would see were he alive — a jagged hole in the ice above him, growing closer as he rises in the water, and beyond that hole we see an impossibly big, beautiful full moon shining down on his lifeless body.
You probably know the rest of the story. Our hero, Jack, is dead physically but not dead in spirit. That beautiful moon, which pulled him toward its light, decides to endow Jack with immortality along with the power to create instant snow and ice. He is now Jack Frost. The moon, of course, symbolizes a divine or higher power, a source of immense light, wisdom, and authority.
Rohr argues that all heroes are summoned by a higher power to a great journey, and that the catalytic agent of this journey is some type of death, deficit, or wounding suffered by the hero. The story is as old as the fall of Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis, and it emerges in countless stories of ugly ducklings, Cinderellas, and other underdogs who through magic or divine intervention turn their wounds into triumph. In Rise of the Guardians , the large, luminous moon pulls Jack toward its light in a manner consistent with many accounts of near-death experiences.
His physical failing is necessary for his spiritual rising and for his true identity to emerge. In his new life as Jack Frost, the boy is tormented by the fact that no one can see him or his icy cold handiwork.
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For centuries he remains unrecognized and unloved, and he is haunted by his lack of memory over the circumstances of his death in the icy waters. This knowledge empowers Jack to complete the heroic journey that the moon set in motion centuries earlier. He uses his wounds to transform himself and to redeem the world, much like the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament. Richard Rohr argues that nearly all hero stories follow this pattern.
Unlocking the divine secret of our wounds is the surest path to heroism. Rise of the Guardians is not the best film of , nor is it the best hero story of the year. Richard Rohr believes that a higher power summons all humans on this heroic path. Our falling is necessary for our rising, with setbacks serving as the essential redemptive seeds of our own heroism.
Both are the mercy of God. What is your purpose in life? This question is as old as the human race itself. Some argue that our purpose is to find happiness. Still others say there is no purpose to life at all. I believe that our lives do have a purpose, and that the clues are all around us in plain view. Our purpose is so deeply imbedded in our culture that we easily overlook it or take it for granted. Hero stories endow our lives with meaning and reveal how a human life is meant to be lived. You will go on a journey. At some point during your life, you will journey away from the comforts of your familiar world.
Sometimes heroes choose the journey; sometimes the journey is chosen for them. Brace yourself — your life always includes some type of voyage, fraught with discomfort but crucial in revealing your life purpose. You will grow from adversity. Overcoming obstacles and failures is a central part of your life journey. The three little pigs find a way to outsmart the big bad wolf. Heroes use adversity to better themselves. When you are challenged by the darkest of life circumstances, know that your journey is fashioning you into a wiser, more resilient individual. You will assemble a team of allies.
You should never undertake your journey alone. Heroes find a way to attract sidekicks, friends, and mentors to help them overcome obstacles. Remember that the point of the journey is to transform you into a stronger, better person. Trusted allies will guide you through adversity and will assist you in becoming forever transformed by your journey. Once you return from your journey, you will use your new-found gifts to make the world a better place. In 12 Years a Slave , the hero Solomon survives his ordeal as a slave and then works to end slavery.
In The Odyssey , Odysseus endures his turbulent voyage home and then becomes a wise ruler of Ithaca. Your life purpose is to use your own personal transformation to help transform society. Once mentored by another, you will now mentor others. Your selfless service to the world will forge your place in the human chain of love shown by people who came before you and by people who will follow you.
These three legends lived the four truths of heroism outlined above and used their gifts to forever change the world.
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Perhaps you are in the process of overcoming cancer, a difficult childhood, a financial setback, or some major transgression. Each human life is meant to be a heroic life. In the prototypical hero story, he or she is called to an adventure, sometimes reluctantly, and is swept into another world fraught with danger. In this strange world the hero undergoes many tests and trials, gets help from unlikely sources, and is often distracted by a romantic interest. In the end, the hero overcomes great obstacles, returns home as a person transformed, and is the master of both worlds.
It is a timeless story structure that has assumed countless forms in hero tales across the globe. But what of the villain? Nearly every hero story has one, yet far less attention has been devoted to understanding the life story of the prototypical villain in myth and legend. Do heroes and villains travel along a similar life path? Or do villains experience a journey that is the inverse of that of the hero? The answer to the first question appears to be, yes, there are parallels between the lives of heroes and villains.
Christopher Vogler , a noted Hollywood development expert and screenwriter, once wrote that villains are the heroes of their own journeys. Vogler believed that whether a character is working toward achieving great good or great evil, the general pathway is similar. Both heroes and villains experience a significant trigger event that propels them on their journeys. Heroes and villains encounter obstacles, receive help from sidekicks, and experience successes and setbacks during their quests. That is, hero stories often start with the villains firmly in power, or at least believing themselves to be superior to others and ready to direct their dark powers toward harming others.
Examples abound. In these examples, the story begins with the villain securely in power, the master of his or her world. The heroes of these stories, in contrast, are weak and naive at the outset. The two journeys, one the inverse of the other, are completed. And so here we see that Vogler and RemusShepherd may both be correct — heroes and villains may follow similar life journeys but these journeys are often staggered in time within the same story structure. This temporal staggering may create the illusion that heroes and villains follow inverse paths.
Movie franchises may later release prequels that reveal how the villain acquired such power in the first place. A fine line often separates heroes from villains, a line that is clearly delineated in their opposing moral ambitions. But the line can also be blurred when we recognize that all transforming journeys — whether for good or for evil — must share many common storytelling elements.
Sensitivity to the changing fortunes of others. The fragility and lack of resilience of the ego is probably the biggest liability to the Sociopath, and why he tends to go down the path of evil after a major emotional trauma. The Sociopath may seem tough as nails, but in reality, he is just a broken, closed-off emotionally damaged result of being in the worst possible situation for what he is biologically and neurologically capable of handling.
The outward appearance of toughness and strength in an attempt to hide his frail ego makes the situation worse; instead of getting the support he desperately needs to build confidence and strengthen his identity at a young age when intervention is more effective, he appears untouchable and bulletproof, while acting selfish and cruel.
Meanwhile, he grows more volatile by the day, in a self-perpetuating cycle of detachment, which leaves him cold and unfeeling towards others. He started out with the foundations to be a potential X-Altruist, but without the superpowers to allow him to survive and manage the intensity, steering him towards good, rather than evil. In a way, the development of Sociopathy following environmental trauma is an adaptation, an automatic psychological survival mechanism that ends up detrimental to the whole world, including the Sociopath.
And that leads us to the question: Can a would-be Sociopath be steered into X-Altruism, thus having potential to be a great hero instead? It may be possible, if they are identified early enough. So given what we know about the weaknesses of Sociopaths, the traits that prevent them from being fully functional X-Altruists, what are some things that could be targeted?
We know resilience is important, as well as a strong ego, or self-concept, and emotion regulation. So in addition to the obvious effort to avoid extreme psychological trauma, what variables do we know we have some element of control over? By getting kids involved in activities that are esteem-building, and give them a sense of self-confidence, accomplishment and courage, you are strengthening their ego. If we know we have some element of control over these things, it does seem possible to create conditions in which we can steer potentially risky kids into a much more advantageous psychological situation.
If they have the intense and extreme behavioral traits already, we can help teach them control over them. Think about it as Jedi Training for kids. Which then leads us to this final point: How do we, as a society, encourage X-Altruism and support them on their quest to make a better society?
This is probably one of the more important questions that is also the most difficult to answer. By definition, X-Altruists are rule-breakers. But they break rules in order to promote the social good. Is there a way to take these kinds of situations into account when considering our current legal system? How do we separate out the criminals from the heroes? They make it clear that they are out to create real social change, even if it starts in their own neighborhoods. But most X-Altruists are not so forthcoming with their identities, so it is up to us to be more aware and observant.
When we see this happening, and it is clearly an X-Altruist on a mandated mission, it needs to be recognized as such. Harsh, punitive punishment for the violation of laws that were broken with the intent of serving a much greater good should, on some level, be tolerated. At the very least, it should be taken into account when deciding on punishment or consequences. We should question authority. If no one ever broke a rule and unquestionably followed the given outline, there would never be any advancement in this world.
However, there needs to be a way to recognize rules that are being broken for the sake of doing social good, and those that are broken for illegal or immoral intent. At any given point in time, there is a significant portion of the population fighting against conformity, refusing to get shoved into a box, breaking rules in order to advance civilization—but what if they all stopped? What if every single person stopped bucking the system, stopped challenging convention, and marched obediently to take their expected place in society?
I am not defending nor arguing against his position, only pointing out the distinction.
Dietrich, A. The reticular-activating hypofrontality RAH model of acute excercise. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral reviews. Iris B. Mauss, C. Automatic emotion regulation during anger provocation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology , Katz, M. Developmental Neuroscience. Kring, A. The future of Emotion Research in the Study of Psychopathology. Emotion Review , Lykken, D. The Antisocial Personalities. Psychology Press. Salcedo-Albaran, E. Rule-Breaking from creativity to illegality: A transdiscilplinary inquiry. This article originally appeared at Scientific American.
What is Heroism? Heroism to the Extreme A hero is someone who goes out of their way to help others at the expense of their own safety and well-being. Smithsonian Channel. Video Contest. Games Daily Sudoku. Universal Crossword.
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