Like millions of people around the world, I watched Lance Armstrong admit his life was “one big lie” to Oprah Winfrey last night. There were no real surprises. I finally stopped believing Lance last summer when he announced that he would no longer contest doping charges brought against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and wrote a Psychology Today blog about it called Cheaters Never Win.
Last night, Lance finally came clean to Oprah. What did you take away from the Lance/Oprah interview? As a collective society will we ever be able to forgive Lance for what he did? Can an apology alone offer redemption? I find sympathy for Lance by realizing that he is following a classic archetypal pattern called the “Monomyth” or “Hero’s Journey” as described by Joseph Campbell. I believe that Lance can do tremendous good for humanity now as an ‘enlightened’ messenger and that the next phase of his journey is an opportunity for him to prove if he is indeed a true ‘hero’.
What is the Monomyth?
Joseph Campbell described the monomyth, or ‘the hero’s journey’, as patterns of life experience that are repeated again, and again, as classic archetypes and narratives throughout the ages and across cultures. These archetypes reveal themselves so frequently as a universal part of the human experience that we can use them to prophesize trajectories and outcomes in our lives.
The basic story of the monomyth is that an adventurer aches to leave the safety of home and go on a quest that takes him or her to the farthest reaches of the stratosphere. On this journey he or she overcomes huge obstacles, finds the ‘holy grail’ and returns ‘home’ to the village to share the lessons learned from the journey with those who stayed behind.
Campbell borrowed the term monomyth from James Joyce’s book Finnegans Wake and described the journey in The Hero with a Thousand Faces by saying: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
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