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New Study Finds the Key to a Meaningful Life: Be the Hero in Your Own Story

An expert explains why. 

What is the key to living a meaningful life? Researchers claim to have discovered the answer to the age-old question, and you might be surprised by what it is. Here's a hint: Some of your favorite characters from television shows, movies, and books have already taught you the lesson. 

New Research Claims That Seeing Yourself as a Hero Is the Secret to a Meaningful Life

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According to a new review of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, seeing your story as a "Hero's Journey" will make your life more meaningful. According to the researchers, who analyzed eight separate studies, the story told in books and movies like Beowulf and Harry Potter should be aspirational for everyone and that "enduring cultural narratives like the Hero's Journey both reflect meaningful lives and can help to create them." When people begin to view themselves as heroes, they experience less depression and gain better coping skills. 

Psychotherapists Goal Is Helping You Rewrite Your Narrative

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Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., author of Fragile Power: Why Having It All Is Never Enough, explains one of the fundamental goals of psychotherapists is to "help clients find peace of mind and a sense of place in what is too often a chaotic, unfair and uncertain world." First, they must restructure their narrative and, yes, learn how to see themselves in a more heroic aspect by providing them with the time, space, and structure to "create a cohesive narrative around what has been perceived by their central nervous system as a fractured and traumatic set of random events." 

Once You Heal, You Can Start on a New Journey

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"Through this process, the therapeutic relationship becomes healing in that it gives human beings who have experienced pain, be that pain emotional, physical, or spiritual, an opportunity to tell the story of their life in the presence of another human being who bears witness to their journey," Dr. Hokemeyer continues. 

There Is a Lot of Research Supporting Narration

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While it might sound poetic and a bit airy fairy to some, he maintains that there is a lot of solid scientific data to support both the process and outcomes of narrating our lives in the healing process. 

It Also Has to Do with Neuroplasticity

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"In this regard we look to the science of neuroplasticity," he continues, explaining that it is the "dynamic process through which our brain adapts and rearranges life events in a more organized and structured way."

Trauma Will then Lose Their Destructiveness

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"In so doing, challenges, disappointments and even traumatic experiences lose their destructiveness and are converted to hardy scaffolding upon which we can appreciate our agency, resilience and grit," he says. And become our own heroes. 

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more
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