Redefining well-being through the best practices of Jungian psychoanalysis
Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces first brought the Hero’s journey to life; when asked by author Maureen Murdock about the Heroine’s journey, he responded. “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological tradition, the woman is already there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”
“So many women having taken the Hero’s journey, only to find it personally empty and dangerous for humanity. Women emulated the male heroic journey because there were no other images to emulate;” Maureen Murdock
Maureen was inspired to develop an archetypal pattern for the Heroine, which she refers to as the woman’s quest for wholeness. The Heroine’s journey begins with the separation from the Feminine and ends with the integration of the Masculine and Feminine.
It is a journey each one of us takes, knowingly or unknowingly. Each stage has lessons to be learnt; without them, we cannot successfully move to the next step. Many of us feel stagnant, we feel lost, and we battle to identify our purpose. But what if this year, we focused on our own innate journey and made the quest for wholeness our purpose?
“Every journey starts with that first step along with the desire to achieve something. Even if you can’t totally see it yet.” Chris Costello
Separation from the Feminine sounds rather dramatic. It is often associated with “leaving” our mothers behind, going out into the world to make our indelible mark. And let’s be honest, mother-daughter relationships are complex at the best of times. But for our journey, it is about rejecting our feminine side. We live in a patriarchal society, and somehow, we have devalued the Feminine. Feminine qualities are seen as weak. And for us to be successful, we have come to believe that we need to leave them behind, and so we enter the next step on the Heroine’s journey, that of identifying with the Masculine.
As we enter a male-dominated world, we try and emulate male behaviour – for some of us being seen as one of the boys is an achievement. We suppress our emotions and our essence in an attempt to compete, in an attempt to be perceived as strong. We continually strive to be considered worthy. We are denouncing our femininity so that we can fit into the patriarchal world. Take a moment to contemplate which feminine traits you perceive as strong and which you think of as weak.
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” Seneca
As with any journey, we encounter challenges and obstacles along the way. It is how we confront these that defines our success. For many of us, this can feel like we have stepped onto a tumultuous path and are being pulled in all directions. From a mythical perspective, we have ogres to defeat and dragons to slay. Our path to success often forces us to step away from who we inherently are as we continually strive to reach that end goal which, unfortunately for many of us, has been defined from a male perspective. This has never been more obvious than when we enter the corporate world. We feel the need to prove ourselves beyond what is reasonable – we try and outstudy or work longer hours or be tough; after all, the “weak” don’t succeed.
We live in a society where people working overtime are praised. I always wonder why no one thinks that either they are overworked or that they have bad time management. Balancing our personal and professional lives is something we forget to do. It feels like it isn’t an option if we want to succeed. It is something we can do later because, for now, we have goals to achieve, and we have things to prove to ourselves and everyone else.
Having slain our dragons and defeated our ogres, we are stronger. There is something about success and achieving our goals or dreams. It gives us confidence and inspires us to continue but have you ever found that old friend doubt raising its head? We have succeeded. But by whose definition, ours or the worlds? Women are famous for letting the imposter syndrome sneak in. We start to doubt ourselves, and despite our successes, we feel empty on some level.
Perhaps you think you are the only one to experience these nagging feelings, but they are in each of us – “I still have a little imposter syndrome. It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.” Michelle Obama
So, if one of the most recognised first ladies feels that way, we know we are in good company.
There is nothing worse than feeling empty on a spiritual level. We feel that there is more to life, but we are unsure of how to attain it. Our successes have not fulfilled us; on the outside, we keep up this pretence that everything is just fine, but inside we feel hollow. Our Heroine’s journey has reached the point where our inner voice calls out to us. I think Valerie Frankel sums it up perfectly, “While the hero journeys for external fame, fortune, and power, the Heroine tries to regain her lost creative spirit. Once she hears the cries of this lost part of herself needing rescue, her journey truly begins.”
It is so much easier to avoid acknowledging these feelings and carry on as we are, but the call will not be silenced. Try as hard as you may, it will not be silenced, and if you are like me, it is often at night, as I try and fall asleep, that it speaks. What is your inner voice trying to tell you?
It is here where Joseph Campbell says that we experience the dark night of our soul. We each react differently; some of us find ourselves withdrawing as we realise that our definition of success is no longer applicable; it is no longer fulfilling. We are destined to face our Shadow – the representation of all the things within ourselves that hold us back. It always is a jolt and often a lightbulb moment when we realise that we are the only ones holding ourselves back.
It is time to become aware, and it is time to be present, it is a time to just be, a time of contemplation, not action!
“Being is not passive; it takes focused awareness.” Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey
“Women need the archetypal image of a Divine Female. We need to reconnect with the inherent sacredness of woman as creator and nourisher, rather than accept a vision of ourselves as less-than-divine inferiors.” Layne Redmond
We have now reached the stage where we reconnect with the Feminine. It is now that we have come to understand that the pursuit of external success no longer satisfies us. Our journey of spiritual growth takes us inward, and now is the time to nurture our mind, spirit, and body connection. There is great joy in discovery, in finding what feeds your soul.
“You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.” Maya Angelou
But for us to truly move on, we need to heal the mother/daughter split. Don’t worry; you don’t need to rush out there and have deep, meaningful conversations with your mother. It is more about going back to your roots and reclaiming your feminine traits, which you previously may have defined as weak. It is about regaining your innate essence and embracing all aspects of yourself; each one plays an important role.
Many of us have cast our ability to nurture aside, and as a result, we have not only forgotten to nurture others, but more importantly, we have forgotten to nurture ourselves.
“When we lack a strong connection to either the masculine or feminine parts of ourselves, we suffer. Remember that your soul contains both sides. You deserve to have access to all parts of your inner self.” Aletheia Luna
Before we can successfully move to that place of alignment, we need to heal the wounded Masculine. Just like rejecting our feminine traits leads to imbalance, so does rejecting our masculine traits. Masculine traits are equally important, but they should never dominate. Valour, strength, assertiveness, and power are typical masculine traits, and we need to be able to draw on these.
The final step on our journey is the reintegration of both Masculine and Feminine. We have come full circle, and I find it powerful to acknowledge that it does not matter if we are male or female; we all have both masculine and feminine traits. At last, we have created a solid foundation where we are able to integrate both male and female aspects into our personality. You can be soft and gentle and still win the battle. We forget that our feminine traits are equally powerful and can be just as effective.
I leave you with this quote from Sadhguru, “When I say masculine and feminine, I’m not talking about male and female, I’m talking about those two aspects without which our life will not be beautiful. If you are not looking at life as dominance, if you are looking at life as integration, cooperation and oneness, then without these two dimensions there is no existence.”
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