In the typical hero’s narrative, he/she has to survive the night sea journey, slay the dragon, free the dragon's human captive and discover the gold.
We all know about the night sea journey: it is lonely, frightening and dark. We are in a state of disorientation, depression and fear. We have lost our co-ordinates, and suddenly when all might previously have seemed well, confusion and darkness set in.
We have to face up to the overwhelming, regressive pull of the unconscious, where the instincts and personal shadow material eclipses a relationship to the archetype of wholeness within us, or the "Self."
The slaying of the dragon is an old Mesopotamian creation myth describing an encounter with the primordial forces of darkness and cutting them up into digestible pieces that can be integrated into consciousness. Jung speaks of the fact that there is a multiplicity of light in the complexes and archetypes. There is light in the darkness, as the Gnostics too believed, and this light has to be released from the darkness and appropriated or integrated into conscious creative living.
Rescuing the human in captivity is to find a new way of relating to the great mystery of life and to facilitate a new relationship with unconscious processes. It is the capacity to relate through feeling, and to reflect. The gold, becomes the precious psychic energy that strengthens the ego and rescues us from being trapped by regressive instinctual, emotional and archetypal forces.
For this one needs psychological language as a rampart against the chaos of the personal or collective unconscious.
The hero is the symbol therefore, of the individuating dynamic in our psyche. It helps us to separate subject and object. The hero, the dragon, the gold, (the ocean, the cave in which the captive is held and where the gold is hidden) are all symbols that arise from the relationship between the rational ego conscious position and its non-rational unconscious processes.
The psyche produces symbols through an unknown process called the "transcendent function," as a way through the tension between the opposites that always rise within us, and bring about conflict. Symbols offer images that allow for psychological transformation, by facilitating a transition from one attitude to another. They offer a way forward and release us from suffering, because they offer meaning.