As recounted by Kyle Gillett, Founder & Executive Director of Solstice
Kyle has dedicated his life to helping others. After years working in several different therapeutic settings, he founded Solstice RTC with Dan Stuart and Keoni Anderson. Four years later, he moved to North Carolina to open Solstice East. From the beginning, one of their primary goals was to create a program focused on the individual. Solstice uses the archetypical Hero’s Journey seen throughout literature and folklore as a way to frame the progress students and families achieve.
“Like any classic story, the Hero’s Journey helps our students at Solstice understand that life isn’t a destination—it’s a journey,” Kyle commented, “Journeys have ups and downs—bumps and stumbles are expected. Success in life isn’t defined by simply avoiding the bumps. The key is how you handle and overcome them in your Journey. The challenges we face have the ability to provide lessons that lead to our very greatest successes in life”
One of Kyle’s favorite stories during his years at Solstice reflects the power of the Hero’s Journey in helping students see their success in a new light.
“This young lady was in the Transformation Phase of her journey. At this stage, a student is fairly far along in her process,” Kyle continued, “she is typically a leader who is respected by her peers for the great work she has done this far in her journey. But this girl starting struggling for a few weeks–dropping the ball left and right.”
Kyle reflected on some of the specific ways she was struggling, “She was being disrespectful; short with staff and students—finding it difficult to follow some of the little daily expectations that were laid out before her.”
Kyle wasn’t the only one to notice. Staff and other students were worried this student had taken a step back over those couple of weeks and were unable to identify why.
Then came a moment of insight during one of her weekly group therapy sessions
“She came into the therapy session down on herself,” said Kyle. “She was in a downward spiral, clearly recognizing her struggles and feeling like a failure. She said, ‘I’m on transformation phase and should be a leader and a great example—right now I just feel like a loser…’”
A door was opened to a great teaching experience. This girl’s particular challenges were impactful to and useful for the entire group—many of whom weren’t even on the same phase of their own Hero’s Journey. Kyle felt it was important for all of them to understand that a Journey isn’t without its challenges.
He continued, “Enter from stage left the magic of the hero’s journey… We asked this young lady to reflect on all that she knew about the Hero’s Journey—particularly her understanding of the Transformation Phase. She stated, ‘Transformation is where you do the hardest work of your journey. You’ve identified your dragons and you go down into the abyss to slay them.’”
Kyle continued in his story, “Remaining in the metaphor of the journey, I said, ‘Okay—let’s keep this story going. We have a gallant knight riding her spirited steed to the mouth of a deep, dark abyss. She dismounts and begins the descent on her own—knowing that she alone has the ability to slay this dragon. She finds herself face-to face with this enormous, mythical creature that has scales that are virtually impenetrable by even the sharpest arrow, sword, or spear she could wield. How likely do you think it is that this gallant knight successfully slays the dragon on her very first attempt? Isn’t it likely she was hesitant to even enter the abyss at first? Maybe the second time she saw the dragon and ran the other way…”
“It’s also probable that the first time she got up the guts to face the dragon, she came out battered and bruised with singed eyebrows—smelling like a campfire.” Kyle then drew the parallel, “The same is true for your Journeys—all of our journeys—here at Solstice and for the rest of our lives. There will be stumbles. There will be falls. We end up facing our dragons more than a few times before emerging successfully. We have to identity their weaknesses and develop a plan before they can be successfully slain…”
Reflecting on this metaphor, the girl spoke again to the group. Her realizations helped her set aside her feelings of failure, and she determined that she would stop giving up on herself when she stumbles.
“This young woman was able to recognize that she was worthwhile. She wasn’t falling backwards, but simply enduring some of the most challenging, yet most important, parts of her journey. The metaphor of the Hero’s Journey had empowered her to challenge and overcome her self-defeating thoughts that had historically led her to giving up, and down the path of unhealthy behaviors.”
“Challenges and trials are not only a part of our journey, but one of the very most important parts from which we grow the most.”
Kyle shared that this young woman pushed through her challenges and slayed her dragons. She came into Solstice a high school drop-out without motivation. She left as a straight-A student energized and hopeful—ready to face the journey ahead.