According to psychologist Carl Jung, there are divisions into one's mind. The "Self" (often described as "Higher-Self" or "Soul") is what hold all of those divisions together (or try to). It is what gives balance and stability of who you truly are or can be.


The hero archetype is the personification of the ego (I won't explain it here, it would be a huge explanation.). In Campbell's and Vogler's writings, there are mentions about the "Shadow" as well. It is portrayed as an antagonist to the hero, but not necessarily the villain.

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This "ego-driven" journey is about proving something to the world. The Hero has something that is not well acepted in his society and he has to left in order to mature himself for then he can return renewed and stronger. They often want save the world aganist what he (or his society) considered to be evil, but there are other people on the other side that have their own heroes. So we got ourselves a bunch of blue and red heroes fighting aganist each other.

There isn't, a specific journey for the Self, which is the central part of the human's psyche. We tend to forget it in our polarized society as we need it more than ever.

What journeys and/or archetypes can be told as a journey/archetype for the "Self?"

I'm not talking about the "I'am" the "me" but the psycholical concept of the Self. If You are not familiar with it, here are some brief explanations:

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If you want more information, the key-words are: Self, Soul (in psychology), Ego, Carl Jung

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    Could the soul character be Obi Wan (in E4), Gandalf, Dumbledore, etc? Wisdom, and of help to the hero, but ultimately less invested in the material outcome than the hero.
    – SFWriter
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 16:29
  • That's the part I'm trying to find out. When they are driven by the ego or by the soul? Can a hero be driven by the soul and still be called as a hero or not? There are these images I like when thinking about this question, and I have not reach a conclusion about it. Guess I'm thinking too much about "Will he save the world or try to change something in it?" but thats not the issue. saraelman.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/… godbeautyperfectionlove.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/…
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 19:10
  • The main difference between a ego and a soul driven character is that the soul see's him/her shadow as equal. There is no good and evil, only people who needs help more than others. I would say that only Obi-Wan fits in that because he still doesn't see Vader as evil, but "corrupted" or something like it. He will rather try to convert Vader instead of destroying him. Gandalf, by other hand, is facing a "god-like" villain, he is pure corruption, and maybe he could be considered as Soul-driven in that case.
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 19:31
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    Gandalf accepted his demise when he went from grey to white. He fought the Balrog, aware that his fight was not for his own self preservation. Same with ObiWan and Dumbledore. They all 'died' for the preservation of the hero. And they all knew they wouldn't die.
    – SFWriter
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 19:44
  • Yes, but in that case, Luke Skywalker could be considered a soul character as well by the end of Star Wars VI when he let the Emperor almost kill him. You see my point? When does the hero is driven by the ego and when he is driven by the soul? What makes a hero a hero and when it does not? Guess it is worth for another question, isn't it?
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 19:54

6 Answers 6


I've heard that the "Heroine's Journey" from fairy tales and Disney movies can be considered as the "Soul's Journey" because the heroine often needs to receive help from other people in order to reach her goal. Different from the masculine hero, it is common that he passes the dangers all by himself. But the female hero needs connection and relationship.


  • Redhood was helped by the Huntsman to kill the wolf.
  • Cinderella only outbraves the stepmother after she met the prince with the help of the fairy godmother.
  • What about the seven dwarves that follow Snow White?
  • Other examples can be found throughout other tales.

The soul can only live with a relationship. There is no such thing as an individual soul. What can be called as "individual" is the ego, and the ego is egoist by definition. The soul, on the other hand, embraces the totality of the subject and even embraces the shadow, often told as a friend.

I think that one may also say that a "Mentor's" journey or archetype can be said as a journey/archetype for the Self, as psychology say that its function is to give more consciousness, perception and comprehension of life. But in this case, in order for you to "conduct" and teach like a mentor, you must first be conducted and be taught as a student.

Like you are doing now.

The hero's journey is the most common structure in Hollywood movies and stories, but we are not heroes all of the time. Nowadays we live polarized by opinions and politic views because everyone wants to be a hero, but a hero defends what one believes. It is too easy to be King when there is no one left to pawn.

So, are you going to be a hero, or you will be your self?

  • I've never noticed this difference between heroines and heros, but now that you say it, I've found myself doing it in my own work. I guess it is quite reflective over our society.
    – A. Kvåle
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 10:56

You shouldn't approach this like a science. Carl Jung's pseudoscientific theories have long since been abandoned by academic and scientific psychology, because there has never been found any evidence for their veracity. They are still popular in lay psychology (e.g. women's magazines or new age philosophy) and up to the middle of the last century literary scholars used it to (try to) understand authors and their work, so that's where you will still find it floating aroung: old literary theory and pop psychology. From what we know today, the human mind is nothing like Jung made it up to be.

That Jung's archetypes have seen a revival in how-to-write books does not make them any more true. In fact, like most pseudoscience, they are fundamentally inconsistent and riddled with contradictions.

That being said, if you want to understand Jungian archetypes, you have to keep some things in mind:

  1. The ego is a concept from Freudian psychology. It is the realistic part that mediates between the instinctually driven id and the morality driven super-ego. For Jung, on the other hand, the ego is merely consciousness and it does not play much of a part in his archetypal theory at all except as a stand in for the person as he or she is aware of him- or herself. Do not mix up Freudian and Jungian psychology, they are largely incompatible.

  2. The hero is the inner-psychic representation of the person him- or herself. As such, it partly coincides with the Jungian ego, but encompasses self-idealization as well: the hero is both who you are and who you believe yourself to be.

  3. All other archetypes are a part of the self. That is the whole point in Jungian psychology. All the archetypes represent ascpects of a person's personality. As they are (initially) not conscious (in the sense that the person is not aware of these aspects of him- or herself), they are part of the "self" (that is, the person as a whole), but not part of the ego (the consciousness / the self-concept). Thus, they are separate from the hero.

  4. The shadow, as its name implies, is the unacknowledged part of the hero (or person). As such, it is both an antagonistic force to the hero and an integral part of the hero. The shadow is "overcome" by acknowledging it and consciously integrating it into the self. (Ursula K. Le Guin has beautifully illustrated this idea in her famous novel A Wizard of Earthsea. I can wholeheartedly recommend it, if you want to understand the relationship between the hero and the shadow.)

  5. As the different archetypal characters are all aspects of the person, and as the hero is the inner-archetypal representation of the person, therefore all archetypal figures are also basically a part of the hero. They have no existence of their own. (You can think of communicating vessels to illustrate the connection of the archetypes with the hero and each other.)

  6. The self is not part of the archetypal system. The self is the whole of a person's psychology. It encompasses all archetypes (and more). Therefore, there is no archetypal journey of the self.

  7. Jung disagreed with fixed and universally applicable definitions of the archetypes. For him, the archetypes are a fluid concept and different in each person. The hero's journey is an attempt to use Jungian archetypes to identify common narrative structural elements. Do not confuse literary theory with Jungian psychology, and do not attempt to understand one through the other.

  8. The hero's journey is only one and a very limited way to look at literature. Do not limit yourself to it.

  • I like when you say that the Self have no specific archetype and when you say that Jung didn't agree with fixed archetypes. You've brought a more scientific point of view to the discussion, and that's nice. But both Campbell and Vogler uses Carl Jung's theories in their books, and therefore, we cannot ignore them, as both screenwriters and book writers use those theoris today. Even if they are, how you've called, pseudoscience. (Also, the shadow is a Jungian concept.)
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 23:11

Consider the Self the axiomatic being.

An axiom, in science, is something we take as self-evidently true. It is axiomatic that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line: It needs no formal proof, if you reflect upon it there is no way anything else could be shorter. It is axiomatic that in geometry a point has zero width or height (or depth): because if it had a width, more points could fit inside it of lesser width, and it wouldn't be a point!

Your axiomatic being consists of your beliefs about the world, yourself, and others that you cannot prove but accept as truth nonetheless, the givens of your personality.

I should think a journey of Self would consist of arriving at a NEW such truth, or changing such a truth, and therefore becoming a different person.

For an example, consider a person that changes from racist to non-racist, or religious to atheist, or capitalist to socialist, or in all those cases: Vice versa. That something challenged one of their axiomatic truths, provided a counter-example that truly mattered to them, and in the process changed who they are at a most fundamental level.

For example, most atheists come to their lack of faith by logic, but there are many other reasons for people to lose all faith in religion and embrace atheism: just imagine the tragedy of children raped by priests, or those kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. A fundamental belief in God's protection and benevolence is shattered, while atheists recognize there are sick and evil people in the world and that collective human action is the only way to minimize the misery and horror such people create.

A story of a person dealing with tragedy by moving from devout faith to agnosticism to full on atheism and perhaps even an outspoken enemy and prosecutor of the Church would therefore be a story of Self.

  • Your answer ir clear as an axiom. Ver good indeed, I must say. I had not come to this conclusion. This is in physics as well, you know? When you change the point of view or/and perception of something, you change that thing. And, therefore, you change yourself. Very good answer indeed! ^,^
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 23:50

What is the Self? or Who am I? are perennial questions which are addressed by all great religions and philosophies - with substantial disagreement on specifics.

Here's my take on writing about this.

The Self is beyond ego, earthly goals, and time itself, so you can't directly tell a story about it.

The Self is not just a wise/holy man/woman. It cannot be contained in such a vehicle which can only express some of its qualities.

The only exception to this which I am aware of is the concept of an Avatar or incarnation of God which is at the root of several major religions.

But, while such "stories" (which I am not judging in any way!) are deeply loved and believed, they are based on the premise, taken on faith, that the story is the Truth, not fiction. They all come down to the protagonist doing human things so we have something to identify with and have some way to relate to their Divine nature.

What you can have is a hero's journey where the goal is the Self rather than some outward prize.

The movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon is a great example of this. In many ways, The Matrix (first movie only!) also fits this pattern, but stops short because of the limitations of the world/world view in which it is set.

Even the New Testament presents Jesus as a man going through a transformative process to become the Messiah (at least from the viewpoint of those following him and telling the story. They are being led to discover and accept his Divinity.)

A key point here is that Divinity cannot be attained. It is the essential nature of existence and beyond and can only be realized. You can't "become" what you already are, but you can come to accept and consciously embody that.

The many processes and variations of events and experiences leading to Self realization can and do make great stories, some of which have had great impact on our world.

This doesn't mean that you have to birth a new religion to tell such a story.

A few examples:

Saved By The Light by Dannion Brinkley. This is a great (far less conventional) autobiographical story.

The Dune series by Frank Herbert.

Note: Some of these assertions are based on personal experience and understandings. I cannot prove them to anyone but myself, so feel free to disregard any that don't fit with your personal belief systems.

  • After that, I think I should consider reading Dune. Just the first. The others, from what I've heard, are not just as good.
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 0:31

In my writing class, the teacher once explained that most TV shows are built upon the contrast between what the Hero "is" (or looks like, to the world) and what the Hero "wants to be".

An example: in Sons of Anarchy, Jax Teller is expected to be a ruthless gang leader, but he wants peace and freedom with the family. He strives for compassion and mercy, not for blood.

This is good for series, where the conflict needs to be repeated and never solved. The main obstacle to the character's goal is the struggle between his inner self and the social role, responsibilities, expectations, etc.

This poses multiple situations for conflict:

  • An inner conflict: I want to be that, but my weakness leads me to be this
  • An external conflict: I want to be that, but the external world forces me to be this

and so on.

The contrast between inner or true self and external layer, or mask, can lead to many interesting complications:

  • Self discovery: I don't know that I can be more than what I am, but slowly I learn about it. The awareness is progressive, and often unclear or fuzzy. Example: John Snow in Game of Thrones.
  • Tragedy: I want to be a peaceful man, but I find that I enjoy being evil which is something that brings me away from my goal, like a temptation impossibile to resist. Example: Breaking Bad, The Shield.
  • Trial and failure: Everytime I try to get closer to my goal, something happens to bring me back and requires me to be what I don't want to be. Example: any given heist story where the character says "this is our last hit"; any given policeman who is one step away from retirement.
  • Call to heroism: I don't want to be the hero or leader, but people need me to step up and act. Example: Jack in Lost, or any given super hero.

To conclude, I believe that what you describe is the typical hero's journey in conflict with the world, where the goal is the self-realization and the obstacle is the social role expected.

  • 1
    But this is the conflict of the "Ego" not the "Self" as mentioned above in psychology theories. I guess I have to edit the question for more people to understand it. (And also, give some more information about what is the "Self" I'm talking about.)
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 23:36

It strikes me looking at this that what the difference between true self and false self here can be summed up as contentment vs discontent.

I would like to think that contentment was the true self and discontent a false self, but I think that is bollocks. Man is born to trouble and the sparks fly upward. Discontent is the natural state of man.

But, of course, discontent strives for contentment (which is another way of saying that appetite years for satiation). Stories are about the striving of discontent for contentment. Thus there is not one story arc for each, but rather the story arc runs from one to the other (or to lost hope and death). Comedy is discontent to contentment. Tragedy is discontent to death.

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