You Have to Face the Darkness to Fully Appreciate the Light

What's the most important take-away from this year's World Series?

Posted Nov 04, 2016

Many consider baseball to be the ultimate All-American sport, although not all Americans are big fans of the game. However, this year’s World Series turned non-fans into fans and gave the country something to get excited about, just as the country had grown much too weary of the negative election campaign coverage. It probably didn’t hurt that the team colors of the Cubs are red, white, and blue—about as All-American as it gets!

Underdogs and Hidden Heroes

There is something to be said about rooting for the historical underdog team and maintaining the hope that magic is still a possibility in this gritty world. The Chicago Cubs have gone from being the “lovable losers” to World Champions over the course of 108 years. Curses, legends, superstition, and folklore have played a role in the shaping of the identity and reputation of this team and it is in these aspects of magic and myth that the power of this team was created and nurtured.

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is a symbolic descent into the unknown in which a monumental challenge is faced before the hero’s return to the everyday world, which he enters as a transformed entity. This journey plays out in superhero movies, literary masterpieces, and our own fantasies. Being able to successfully face down your demons and experiencing transformation is a pretty normal desire. Longing for some kind of magical assistance or supernatural powers is pretty normal, too. The Cubs were thrust into their own symbolic “Hero’s Journey” shortly after the World Series of 1908, where they celebrated their second consecutive World Series victory.

Since their glory days ended, this team has been facing its own enemies, monsters, and villains in the form of their competition on the field and the jaded hearts of their loyal fans. Diving into the deepest reaches of their quest, the team’s seeming bad luck or inability to meet the challenges it faced encouraged fans to cling to the “just wait until next year” motto.

The Hero’s Journey usually requires that atonement occurs between the Hero and the most significant force in his life; appeasing the fans with a strong season was not going to be enough; atonement this year was greatly aided by a league championship before the final test, the World Series, could be faced.  Now that this final challenge has been overcome, it is time for the Hero’s Return. Although the team will be the center of “Chicago’s Celebration of the Century” for a few days, the ceremonies and hoopla will eventually wind down and the routines and requirements of mundane everyday life will take their place.

Real Life isn’t All Glory, but it’s Certainly Real

This is likely the most unwelcome and difficult aspects of the journey—facing down enemies can be invigorating, spreading butter on toast or listening to kids whine or arguing about what movie to watch not so much. That’s where a person has to hold onto the sense of magic and transformation that the vanquishing of their enemies created. Even those who lead charmed lives must still deal with the daily hassles of everyday life.

There’s a Cubs t-shirt that sports a Nike swoosh and the slogan, “Make Someday Today.” While inspirational quotes appear everywhere in life, perhaps the drama and the magic of this recent match-up—7 games, ties, extra innings, and rain delays—might leave a little lasting magic for people to carry with them for a little bit longer than they might.

Removing the Limits of the Past from your Successes in your Future

In solution-focused therapy, when a client complains about a problem with phrases like, “I can’t deal with all of the stress,” “I feel like I’ll never succeed at my job,” or “I just don’t feel like I can trust others,” the counselor quickly flips the client’s statement into a more hopeful perspective—“Up until now, you have not been able to cope with the stress,” “Until today, you have not felt capable of succeeding at your job,” or “Up until now, you were not ready to trust others.”

The trick of this response is that it puts control and power back into clients’ hands for changing their lives. We seek help when we are in the abyss, or the belly of the whale, and the counselor provides the support and, for some, the “supernatural powers” that help the client enact change. Having someone to bolster their sense of personal potential is often all it takes to get clients onto a “winning streak” in their lives. Empathy, non-judgmental support, and authenticity make a significant difference to those “unrecognized heroes” among and within us.

If you see yourself as a perpetual “loser,” “wannabe,” or “also ran,” this victory of the legendary lovable losers should be appreciated as an inspiration for yourself. Just because others have tried to beat you down or write you off, this does not mean that you must give them the power to break your spirit or script your story. Cubs fans have been reminding the world for over a century that “ya gotta’ believe.” Winning takes more than luck and more than superstition. However, without authentic belief in yourself and a commitment to success no matter how high the odds are stacked against you, there is little point in even showing up for a challenge. Changing your self-talk from “woulda, shoulda, coulda,” to “yes, I can” can move you far from the place where you allow your beliefs about the past to constrict your future.

Where will your own Hero’s Journey take you?