Uses of Heroes | Permission

We have seen that when we are younger we look to heroes for qualities that we wish to realize within ourselves. It is worth noting that our perception of these qualities can be both conscious and unconscious - we may be drawn to a person without a thorough understanding of the subtleties of our attraction, whilst in other cases the basis of our admiration may be quite obvious.

In admiring these qualities in others, we are also recognizing them within ourselves; they may exist only in embryonic or partially realized form, but our detection of them within another is often a signpost towards our own potential.

The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires.4

In looking to a hero, we are marking out a path for ourselves; from the point at which we currently exist towards that of the person that we admire. In this way, heroes can show us what is possible.

For example, we may wish to enjoy life more, to inject more joie de vivre into our day-to-day existence. This realization is itself a start, but it can be tricky to know where to go from here, or how to do it. To have someone who we can look to that embodies this attitude provides us with direction; their actions and words light a route that may otherwise have been dark, and inspire us to venture along that path ourselves. In identifying with a hero, we give ourselves permission to be like them, and to assimilate those characteristics that we admire.

The most important permissions are to love and to change and to do things well. A person with permission is just as easy to spot as one who is all tied up.5

Attaining permission to do something is often a unconscious process. For example, a fundamental benefit of Art School is that it gives its students permission to be creative. Being surrounded by others who are creating, within an environment in which creativity is a day-to-day normality, facilitates an inner shift. The process of Art School allows the student to think of themselves as a creative person, which then enables them to go on being creative for the rest of their lives.

Heroes can provide us with permissions in much the same way. In looking up to someone you bring them into your life, and this proximity is crucial.

In becoming close to certain people, we may find ourselves able to think and act in ways that previously seemed unavailable. For example, if a person who is used to the company of largely introverted people were to suddenly become friends and spend time with an extravert, it may free them up in unexpected ways; things that were formerly unacceptable become normal and opportunities arise where before there were none.

The closeness of this person allows us a glimpse into another way of being, and their company affords the opportunity to assimilate elements of their persona. In truth, what we are really doing is opening up areas of ourselves that had previously lain dormant or undiscovered. This is a process that many of us may have experienced whilst growing up.

A similar thing can also happen with heroes; in bringing them into our lives (with the affirmative, ‘this is a person I admire’) we are privileged with their company, and through this proximity we may be afforded a variety of permissions.