(Last Updated On: December 23, 2023)

Scam Victims And The Crossing Of The River Styx

An Interpretation of the Recovery Process

•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

The Recovery Process Has Greater Meaning Than Just Feeling Better For Scam Victims!

It Is A Mythological Journey From The Land Of What Was Once To The Land Of What Will Be

For most scam victims their recovery process is a journey of rebirth and renewal. It is a journey through the emotional underworld and that journey is a heroic beginning to their new and future life. And like most hero’s journeys, most of those who could make the journey will never take it, yet ironically, everyone could.

Scam Victim’s Recovery as a Mythical Hero’s Journey

The very sad reality is that fewer scam victims are seeking out professional help to recover from relationship scams. Almost 50% (as of December 2023) of scam victims are turning away and toward denial – meaning that either they cannot accept what was done to them or they cannot face the harsh realities of recovery. Many believe they are just fine on their own and that they do not need help, a profound mistake, but sadly trauma simply does not work that way. By burying the pain, the grief, and the trauma, they are assuring that they will be living in a constant backdrop of emotional damage for the rest of their lives.

The scam victim recovery process is very much like the true purpose of the mythical ride in Charon’s boat across the river Styx. Taking each person from the land of the living to the land of Hades in Greek mythology. It is multifaceted and open to interpretation, but here is our view on how it relates to the scam victim’s journey to becoming a new survivor, a true hero able to face their fears and find real acceptance and happiness in the process.

The Relationship between the Crossing and the Scam Victim’s Journey

The true purpose of the ride in Charon’s boat is not as we always imagined in mythology. It was a transformation a process of becoming, in the same way, that victims transform themselves from scam victims to survivors and then to thrivers! They become the heroes of their own life stories.

Paying the Price for the Crossing

In the Greek legends of crossing the Styx, each soul had to pay the Ferryman an ‘Obol’ (a small coin) for passage.

Interestingly, Charon demanded payment for the ferry ride: a single obol (a small coin). This detail traditionally symbolized the need to sever all ties with the material world before entering the afterlife. However, for those who take this hero’s journey, there is a different payment – the commitment to reaching the other side!

Of course, most scam victims have already paid a very high price for the betrayal of their trust and any money they lost. But that is not the price for his journey of recovery, there is something more valuable and precious.

Those who take this journey of recovery must make the commitment necessary to make it through, or else the journey fails and they fall back into emotional purgatory. That commitment is the essential coin that it takes to make this crossing and come out the other side.

Symbolism of Transition

The boat ride itself served as a symbolic representation of the irreversible transition from mortal life to the afterlife. It marked the point of no return, a final separation from earthly existence, and a journey into the unknown. This is also very much like the scam victim’s journey into the unknown after the crime.

Scam victims board the boat – the recovery process – to transition from who they were during the crime to who they need to become to overcome it. They leave behind who they were, and embark on the journey of understanding, enlightenment, mindfulness, of acceptance, and if successful reaching the other shore to begin their future. During this journey, if they are committed they will learn who they truly are and what matters to them. They learn how their mind really works – both for them and against them – and how to be a better human being, more grateful and humble in the process.

A Journey of Purification and Judgment

Some interpretations suggest that the River Styx carried a cleansing power, washing away the impurities of the earthly world. Crossing it was a form of purification before reaching Hades for judgment. Here too the journey has these qualities.

Scam victim must judge themselves, coming to the understanding that they made a simple mistake, but that the crime was not their fault, and in the recovery process they are not alone. That the judgment of others does not matter because they are their own most brutal critic. The journey allows them to become survivors able to accept who they truly are and forgive themselves while building new boundaries to ignore those who would judge them out of their own fear.

The hero’s journey through recovery is very difficult with emotional and psychological monsters along the way, but as they near the point of full acceptance of their grief and pain, and learn to manage their trauma they achieve peace and joy again in their lives.

Social Implications

In the mythology, the ability to pay the price of the crossing was not universally guaranteed. Those who died penniless, or committed certain crimes, might be denied passage and condemned to wander the shores of the Styx eternally.

Just like in the mythology, there are many (a majority in fact) who never make the commitment to their journey of recovery. These are the ones that lose their soul to denial or anger. They do not understand or are unwilling to make the commitment needed to recover, and instead choose the seemingly safer path of giving in to the emotions to hide and bury their feelings, or to release their anger against anyone in their way. Both of these paths do not lead to healing, just a kind of resigned stability where they feel they can live with their emotions. But the science is clear, failing to process grief and learning to manage trauma leads to a life of inhibited opportunities and relationship failures.

Arrival on the Opposite Shore

For those scam victims who are realists and committed enough to make the journey across the river, they are rewarded by returning to who they are, maybe not who they were, but to who they have the potential to become. A wiser, kinder, more grateful human being. The journey of recovery transforms scam victims in many ways, and to be sure, it is not an easy journey. The process forces a deeper understanding of who each person is and relies on acceptance of the situation and their fears and pain.

Recovery brings forward all of each victim’s shame, guilt, and self-blame. These need to be let go of, and each victim finds the path to self-forgiveness and full acceptance along the way. Not just accepting what happened but accepting who they are now and will be in their new future that lies in front of them.

It is not a process of bias or magical thinking but of realism and increased self-awareness. Of truly understanding what matters in their life and where they now want to go in their life.

Recovery is about Standing in Full Acceptance

The Acceptance phase of the grief cycle, often misunderstood as “being happy about the loss,” plays a crucial role in the healing process, this is also one of the hardest aspects of the recovery journey.

Acceptance is not about forgetting the loved one, the money lost, or the deep betrayal, or minimizing the pain, but rather coming to terms with the reality of the situation and finding a way to move forward with life.

In Acceptance through Recovery, each Victim can:

  • Embrace Reality: This involves accepting the finality of the loss, the betrayal, the heartache, and the pain, acknowledging that what is gone is gone and will not be coming back. While initial denial is often a coping mechanism, acceptance allows scam victims to confront the painful truth and begin rebuilding their lives around it. This means making it a part of their story but not the defining feature of it.
  • Find New Meaning: Acceptance doesn’t erase the pain, but it allows scam victims to reframe it. They can start cherishing the memories of their life, recognizing the impact the crime had on their life, and finding inspiration to move forward with resilience and honor again.
  • Move Forward: Acceptance doesn’t mean forgetting the grief, trauma, and pain or pretending it never happened. Instead, it empowers scam victims to find ways to integrate them into their life stories by learning how to manage them and not be slaves to them. It allows them to rebuild their sense of purpose and once again have realistic hope for the future.
  • Accept Change & Uncertainty: Life has changed irrevocably due to the crime. Acceptance helps victims adjust to these changes and become survivors, develop new activities and take new journeys, and navigate the world with the new reality. It doesn’t erase the grief, the trauma, or the pain, but it equips each person with the emotional resilience to adapt and rebuild.
  • Make Room for Joy: Though some memories of the crime and the criminals may always be present in some form, acceptance creates space for other emotions and happy memories to coexist. Survivors can experience moments of joy, laughter, and love again without feeling guilty or ashamed for what happened in their past.

It Takes as Long as It Takes

It’s important to remember that grief is a process with no set timeline, and the journey to acceptance can be gradual and non-linear. There may be setbacks and moments of intense sadness, but with time and support, acceptance can pave the way for a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

Can You See How the Hero’s Journey Compares to the Recovery Process?

Joseph Campbell describes the hero’s journey as a universal narrative pattern found in myths, stories, and legends across cultures. He articulated this concept in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” If you have never read it, we highly recommend it.

Campbell identified several stages or elements that commonly appear in hero narratives:

  1. The Call to Adventure: The hero is summoned away from their ordinary world to embark on a quest or journey. This call might come in the form of a challenge, a threat, or a revelation.
  2. Refusal of the Call: Initially, the hero may resist answering the call due to fear, insecurity, or a sense of inadequacy. They might doubt their abilities or fear the unknown.
  3. Meeting the Mentor: The hero encounters a wise figure or mentor who provides guidance, advice, or tools to help them navigate the challenges of their journey.
  4. Crossing the Threshold: The hero commits to the adventure and crosses into the unknown, leaving their familiar world behind. This step symbolizes their willingness to undergo personal transformation.
  5. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: Along the journey, the hero faces trials, meets allies who offer assistance, and encounters adversaries or obstacles that challenge their resolve.
  6. Approaching the Inmost Cave: The hero approaches a significant challenge or ordeal, often a symbolic representation of their innermost fears or weaknesses.
  7. The Ordeal: The hero confronts their greatest fear or faces a life-threatening challenge that tests their skills, determination, and character.
  8. The Reward: After overcoming the ordeal, the hero emerges stronger, having gained knowledge, insight, or a treasure. This reward might be literal or symbolic.
  9. The Road Back: The hero begins the journey back to their ordinary world, often facing further obstacles or challenges.
  10. The Resurrection: The hero experiences a final test or challenge that demands a greater sacrifice or demonstrates their transformation.
  11. Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to their ordinary world, sharing the knowledge or treasure gained during their journey, which often benefits their community or society.

Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey is not a strict blueprint but a flexible framework that captures the essence of transformation and self-discovery inherent in many myths and stories.

It highlights the universal elements of personal growth, challenges, and triumphs that resonate across cultures and time-periods.

Can you see how the Hero’s Journey, as we have described it in relation it the crossing of the river Styx compares to the scam victim’s journey of recovery? We hope you can, and how this philosophical comparison may give comfort and strength during those dark times when you feel alone and unable to go on.

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The Joseph Cambell Hero's Journey

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PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







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