“Look harder.” (Rafiki)
“There’s one in every family…two in mine, actually.” (Zazu)
“I’m surrounded by idiots!” (Scar)
With each phrase, we call to mind an entire scene. Bringing any scene into our conversation causes an instant reframe.
For example, in The Lion King, the sage Rafiki encourages young adult Simba to look at himself and see his potential. “Look harder,” says Rafiki.
Here’s how it might go in our household:
Me: You would be great at that.
Daughter: I can’t see it.
Me: Look harder.
We both smile with pleasure at our playful reinterpretation, and at the intimate shorthand we can share in our communication.
Of course, The Lion King is meant to describe our lives.
The movie and the play tell an archetypal story of heroic action. Young lion Simba runs away from his mistakes. Young lioness Nala sets out to find the means to overthrow an evil regime. When their paths intersect. Simba rises to Nala’s challenge. He discovers his strength, takes responsibility, and teams up with Nala. Together, they restore peace and prosperity.
At the end of the story, they take their place in the Circle of Life. The old order has been restored. All life is comforted; all creatures celebrate. The world goes on; nothing has changed.
Except, inside Simba and Nala, everything has changed.
That’s the psychological meaning of a hero’s journey.
I want my journey to health to be like the journey of Simba and Nala. If it can look from the outside as though little has changed, I will be comforted. Yet, inside me, everything is changing, and that is comforting too.
Recognizing my story in an archetypal story is comforting, too. An archetype is an ancient model, and it has likely been a guide for many people. When I let it guide me, I better understand my own story. As my story is disclosed to me, the archetype comes to life. When I see it expressed in the experience of others, I can understand them better as well.
Of course, I don’t expect every archetypal insight to bring a shared intimate shorthand. But once in a while, two of us may find ourselves drawn to the same story, where our playful reinterpretations will bring pleasure, kinship, and understanding.Image: broadway.com, where we saw the amazing musical The Lion King: what the arts can look like when money is no object, a weaving of music, dance, drama, costume, puppetry, stage design, history, and culture.