Rebecca Armstrong, Ph.D.

How to Follow Your Bliss
(What Joseph Campbell Really Meant)

April 18, Saturday Lecture 7:30 pm
members: free; non-members: $20; students: $10

When Joseph Campbell coined the term, Follow Your Bliss, he could not have foreseen the impact it would have on the American psyche. When the phrase first caught on in the 1980s with an American public eager for reasons to pursue their individuality and personal passions, some began to find fault with what appeared to be an excessively selfish pursuit of hedonistic pleasure.

But this “If-it-feels-good-do-it” interpretation of the Campbell quote misses the mark. In fact, it is almost diametrically opposed to what Joseph Campbell really meant. In his later years, Campbell was often heard to lament, “I should have said ‘follow your blisters’.”

Finding the path of bliss requires self-reflection and the courage to act upon what one sees when looking into the deep heart’s core. Campbell’s advice to those who would seek this path was:

“When you follow your bliss—and by bliss I mean the deep sense of being in it and doing what the push is out of your own existence—it may not be fun, but it's your bliss and there's bliss behind pain too.”

This linking of bliss with pain and “the push out of your own existence” corresponds with what other sages have advised over the years. The great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, realized at mid-life, after his painful break as the favored disciple of Sigmund Freud, that he was disconnected from his sense of this push out his own existence and made radical efforts to reconnect with what was most central in his life. To do this, he turned within to ponder what had most fascinated him as a child and deliberately began to recreate the experience, in spite of the fact that it must have seemed incongruous for a well-respected, middle-aged doctor to be doing “childish” things with his spare time:

“I went on with my building game after the noon meal every day, whenever the weather permitted. As soon as I was through eating, I began playing, and continued to do so until the patients arrived; and if I was finished with my work early enough in the evening, I went back to building. In the course of this activity my thoughts clarified…”

Yes, the eminent doctor was making little castles out of small stones in the mud and sand behind his Zurich home and all the while trying to feel his way back into the flow of his own life.

Finding the push from the center of your own being is a much harder task than it appears at first blush. The cacophony of voices clamoring for the attention of the ordinary American makes this call to adventure one of the most difficult, for we must first find the necessary silence and stillness to recognize the stirrings of the soul beneath the persona constructed to maintain our place in this aggressive and often toxic public sphere.

As both Campbell and Jung discovered, the methods for following the pathways to bliss have always been known to the initiated, and the maps through the psyche are to be found in the great myths, fairytales, and religious stories that have been handed down from time immemorial. But like all great truths, these are encoded in image and metaphor and require a different set of skills to hear anew the voices of the wise animals offering their aid, or see the magic amulet provided by the wise old man or wise old woman and recognize it in its new form.
Every generation comes with its own thirst to the great ocean of story, and it is our task to fill the cup and drink the elixir, and then dream the dreams that will come to those who are ready for the quest.

Are you ready to take in the stories and be moved to change the life you had in order to live the life that is waiting for you?

Rebecca ArmstrongDr. Rebecca Armstrong is a professional storyteller, mythologist, minister and teacher. Her family was close friends with Joseph Campbell during the last fifteen years of his life and they are featured in the Campbell biography, A Fire in the Mind by Stephen and Robin Larsen. From 1993 to 2005 Rebecca served as the International Outreach Director of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, visiting dozens of countries and helping to establish mythological study groups who explored the repercussions of Campbell’s work in their own lives. She represented the Joseph Campbell Foundation at three of the Parliaments of World Religions (Chicago ’93; Capetown ’99; Barcelona ’04) and wrote the monthly Myth Letter for the international online membership. She holds three graduate degrees and teaches courses in myth, religion, ethics and philosophy at Indiana University and DePaul University.

Upcoming Events

March 13-14
James Hollis, PhD
The Seven Deadly Sins Viewed Through the Lens of Depth Psychology
Friday 7:30 p.m.-10:00
Portraits in Pathology
Saturday 9:00 a.m - 1:00
more ...

April 18
Rebecca Armstrong, PhD
How to Follow Your Bliss (What Joseph Campbell Really Meant)
Saturday 7:30 p.m.-10:00
more ...

May 15-16
Jeffry Kiehl, PhD
A Jungian View of Climate Change
Friday 7:30 p.m.-10:00
Mandala as a Path to Heal Our Split with the Sacred Earth
Saturday 10:00 a.m - 5:00

June 20
Joseph McFadden, MD
Overview of Trauma & Dissociation in Contemporary Inter-personal Psychology
Saturday 7:30 p.m.-10:00

July 18
Jutta von Buchholtz, PhD
Mythes and Fairy Tales: Maps From the Collective Unconscious on Your Travel Through Life
Saturday 7:30 p.m.-10:00

August 22
Stuart Smith
Saturday 7:30 p.m.-10:00

September 18-19
Fanny Brewster, PhD
Friday 7:30 p.m.-10:00
Saturday 10:00 a.m - 5:00

October 17

November 13-14
Gary Sparks, Jungian Analyst
Carl Jung's Red Book: Healing the Chaos
Friday 7:30 p.m.-10:00
Saturday 10:00 a.m - 5:00


Sandy Springs Christian Church, 301 Johnson Ferry Rd NW, Sandy Springs, GA 30328
church's web page:

Coming from GA 400, take the Abernathy Rd, Exit 5, towards Sandy Springs. Go about 1.5 miles on Abernathy Rd and the church will be on the right, just past Brandon Mill Road. Proceed to the next light (River Valley) and make a right into the parking lot.