"Congratulations on your achievement, we all want to wish you life’s best as you enter into and create new worlds of professional and personal accomplishments using your skills and knowledge to make this a better world for all."
The Hero’s Journey
I want to extend the heartiest welcome to the 2019 Doctoral Hooding Candidates of Adelphi University. Let us all give special thanks to President Riordan, Provost Everett, the members of the Board of Trustees, Deans, Chairpeople, Faculty, Administrators and the hard working Staff who have made this exceptional day happen. I would like us to take a moment and give thanks to the Partners, Friends and families of the doctoral graduates from the College of Nursing and Public Health, the School of Social Work, the Derner School of Psychology, and the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. You have provided the necessary support, encouragement and love which has made this important day, and this incredible journey, possible for your graduates.
Writing a doctoral dissertation is a unique, challenging and often painful project. It is unlike other academic and professional projects because it is a singular, isolated struggle which brings to the fore our hopes and dreams while we are forced to wrestle with our inner demons. The doctoral dissertation is something that we undertake by ourselves, often spending years, locked away in our rooms, traversing inhospitable landscapes, never certain of when, and if this project will end. I remember the day that I had my final orals: my wife was driving us to Amherst, and I was sitting alongside her terrified that I would fail, that a member of my committee would find an obscure statistical error and I would have to redo the entire dissertation. Of course that did not happen, in fact, just the opposite happened, I experienced a sense of pride in my accomplishment, recognition from my mentors and was launched on an extremely rewarding career as a professor, clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst.
I was honored and excited to be asked to be the Key Note Speaker today. I awoke early the next morning with two ideas in my mind which have become the theme for what I would like to talk about today. The first idea was the “Hero’s Journey” which was quickly followed by images from the Odyssey, one of the many myths that represent the myth of the Hero’s Journey. These myths, like dreams, create powerful, emotional narratives that express our unconscious, unexpressed thoughts and feelings.
I have often wondered why psychoanalysis has remained centered on the Oedipal story rather than the Odyssey. The Oedipal narrative is about fear of authority and the necessity to conform to reality. These themes were important to Freud as a nineteenth-century clinician and scholar. The Odyssey, like other versions of the Hero’s Journey, is about the process of growth and transformation, of leaving the security of the known, taking risks, making terrible mistakes, and through the many trials and challenges which we face, like those that Odysseus’ confronted, we return home, having been transformed, becoming more mature, thoughtful and loving professionals, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers.
The imagery in the Odyssey, like those of our dreams and nightmares, is highly evocative, externalizing our fears and desires into a dramatic narrative, filled with frightening and beautiful images including: the Cyclops, the Lotus Eaters, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis. The Odyssey metaphorizes our challenges and trials, projecting them into the outside world. The Odyssey, like other myths of transformation, involves three stages. The departure in which the protagonist who lives in the ordinary world receives a call to go on an adventure. Often the hero is reluctant to follow the call, but is “helped” by a mentor. The next stage begins with the hero traversing the threshold into the unknown, the “special world,” where he/she faces many trials and challenges. The hero eventually reaches “the innermost cave,” the central crisis of this adventure, where he/she must undergo “the (final) ordeal” overcoming the main obstacle, becoming transformed and gaining his/her reward.
The biblical story of Jonah and the Whale is another version of the “Hero’s Journey.” This story highlights our reluctance to embark on this frightening journey and the challenge of telling the truth to a potentially critical audience, while also highlighting the impossibility of fleeing from your “fate.” Joseph Campbell suggests that the narrative of Jonah and the Whale represents a process of rebirth as the hero goes inward to confront his/her fears and desires and returns home transformed into a different person.
These narratives of the Hero’s Journey have been told and retold through out the centuries, in myths, literature and the movies. Some of the better-known narratives include: Spenser’s The Fairie Queene, Melville’s Moby Dick, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, George Lucas’ Star Wars, and more recently the Marvel films like the Black Panther.
I would like you to think of this day as your return home and remember the hard work, the pain, suffering and joy of your Hero’s Journey as you embark on the final step when you will be transformed through this ancient ritual of the Hooding Ceremony, as your mentor proudly places your doctoral hood on your shoulders.
I hope that as you celebrate your achievements you tell your loved ones, your family and friends the story of your journey, your narrative, your experiences of pain and joy, your myth. Your story is as compelling, unique and exciting as any other narrative of the Hero’s Journey. I hope it will be told over and over again.
Congratulations on your achievement, we all want to wish you life’s best as you enter into and create new worlds of professional and personal accomplishments using your skills and knowledge to make this a better world for all.
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