The Heroine’s Journey – Step 2

For those who’ve been following along, the year-end wrap up with clients and preparing for the holidays has caused a slight delay in posting. I hope to post this series weekly on Thursdays moving forward.

Exploring the Heroine’s Journey

When the concept of the hero began repeatedly interrupting my daily reality – I decided to explore what defines a ‘hero’ a bit more deeply. Words and phrases jumped out: endowed with great strength, admired for achievements, noble qualities, great courage, ingenuity, bravery.

I decided to create a 12-wk series, exploring the different stages as presented by Joseph Campbell, Maureen Murdock, and Victoria Lynn Schmidt in relation to how a woman finds her voice, learns to be content, and shares joy. If you missed last week’s post visit: The Journey Begins

Step 2

  • Campbell: Refusing the Call
  • Murdock: Identification with the masculine and gathering of allies
  • Schmidt: Betrayal or disillusionment.

What the experts say

Campbell presents the reality that some heroes ignore or refuse to answer the call to adventure. When someone refuses their call, “All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration” (Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 59). Even worse, the alternative, they go crazy.

Murdock believes the heroine embraces the masculine to begin the second stage of the journey. She focuses on two types of father-daughter relationships: those who feel accepted by their fathers, and those who feel either ignored or demeaned.

“Women who have felt accepted by their fathers have confidence that they will be accepted by the world. They also develop a positive relationship to their masculine nature” which, she says, “will support their creative efforts in an accepting, nonjudgmental way.” [Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness (p. 31). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.] The woman will need to reclaim her maternal bond to heal her femininity and avoid over-identifying as a mirror of the male influence without a sense of self.

“Women whose fathers did not support their ideas and dreams for the future or who gave them the impression that they lacked the ability to carry them out meander through life and may back into success.” [Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness (p. 32). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.] This woman struggles with emotional relationships and vulnerability. She will either devolve and become paralyzed or overcompensate and become a perfectionist.

At the beginning of this journey, the heroine seeks a male role model or an ally – which can take the form of a person (male or male-identifying woman), an institution (career or religion), or even God. [Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness (pp. 36-37). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.]

Ultimately, a woman needs to find her place apart from her parents. Learning to survive alone, able to express her heart, mind, and soul will help her establish competence in her world. [Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness (p. 44). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.]

Schmidt picks up Step 2 with the young heroine living in a perfect world feeling disillusioned by her reality. Her coping strategy has failed her, her world falls apart and she questions everything. “She may have a nervous breakdown or succumb to addictions during this stage as she tries to reorganize her life.” This may happen after a devastating experience or when a chapter or role ends (empty-nest). Schmidt outlines the response based on the five coping strategies:

  • The Naïve Strategy – she is hurt, feeling abused. Someone has died. She faces a major crisis like a loss of a job or home.
  • The Cinderella Strategy – she is left without the male support and protection she relied on – they die, go off to war, end the relationship, leave her alone.
  • The Exceptional Strategy – she doesn’t get the big promotion, the account she worked on; she is betrayed by the men’s club; her marriage ends; she loses faith if she can’t take on a leadership role in her church.
  • The Pleasing Strategy – she feels devalued, taken advantage of, like a doormat
  • The Disappointed Type – she feels trapped, pushed too far by another person with power, with no escape from the humiliation coming

[Schmidt, Victoria Lynn. 45 Master Characters, Revised Edition: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters (Kindle Locations 2116-2140). F+W Media. Kindle Edition.]

In My Experience

me on motorcycleWhen I first happened upon Campbell’s Refusing the Call, I anticipated a discussion of the hesitation like the call of Samuel in the Hebrew Scriptures (1 Samuel 3) who is called three times before understanding it is God, the prophet Jonah who tries to escape and ends up in the belly of a big fish, and Elijah (1 King 19: 4-14) who ends up fearful, tired and wanting to quit. I’ve often identified with the misunderstanding of the hero’s call – as the various stages of growth and wisdom in my life. This isn’t, however, Campbell’s perspective but the idea that a refusal of the call can lead to the hero’s demise and even insanity does speak to what I’ve come to realize: if we aren’t true to ourselves, we will suffer emotionally and physically.

Reading Murdock’s Step 2, reminded me of one of my favorite songs, Daughters by John Mayer which speaks of the important father-daughter relationship.

Cardinal WuFrom Murdock’s perspective, as a daughter who was abandoned by her father, I fit into the “meander through life” and “struggle with emotional relationships.” I prefer to believe that I am fairly well-adjusted, but if I am honest, I have “meandered a bit” and have not yet reached the success I believe possible, given my level of education and my intelligence and creativity. After being abandoned by my father at age 7, I spent my life believing I’d done something wrong to make him leave – and even trying to find him. I found my male role models in God and the church for many years. When I learned (at almost 30) that he’d started a new life and family without us, I began to question everything I’d ever believed about myself. When I met him for the first time again a few years later, I found myself briefly identifying with my father and found myself ‘feeling neglected’ and being pulled into the cycle again. I began to realize that his inability to love and protect and care for me was not my fault and did not need to define me. I could learn how to live on my own and establish competence in my world. And yet, I wonder

dad photo shootFor as much as I claimed, last week, that I couldn’t really relate to Schmidt’s strategies, I must admit that I’ve experienced EACH of these aspects of disillusion in my life – and each time it led to a major life shift – beginning with the Cinderella strategy (age 7, when my father left). I experienced the naïve strategy when I learned the truth about my father and began the journey of my first mid-life crisis (age 28). The exceptional and disappointed strategy manifested in my professional life (over and over again) and each time, led directly to me feeling abused and taken advantage of – as in the naïve and pleasing strategies.

Final thoughts

This leaves me wondering if I’ve fooled myself all along – and have lots of growing still to do, or perhaps, I’ve finally learned my lessons and can NOW – at the age of 55 – simply enjoy life. The coming weeks will hopefully provide insight…

Your Heroine’s Journey Experience

  • With which step do you most identify – Campbell, Murdock, or Schmidt?
  • Have you ever tried to refuse your call?
  • Did you have a positive or negative father-daughter relationship? How has this shaped your personal and professional life?
  • Have you ever experienced the disillusion that Schmidt describes? If so, which best describes your experience? Were you young? Midlife? In your third act?

Next week we’ll reflect on:

  • Campbell: Meeting the mentor
  • Murdock: Road of trials and meeting ogres & dragons
  • Schmidt: The awakening and preparing for the journey


  1. Is that you on the motorcycle Janet? Cool!!
    I figure I’ll be growing and learning lessons right up until I leave this world! No matter how old I am.
    I’m finding again an overlap of all three ‘experts’ at different times of my life. Recognizing that if I refused the call I would deteriorate (go crazy). My father, though reserved and somewhat rigid, supported my ideas and dreams even though it was the 50s. I embraced being a wife/mother like my mother yet the 60s opened up an awareness of the Cinderella and Pleasing strategy. I found that it was my Catholic upbringing that I had to re-examine so that I could fully move forward in a healthy way and become my own ‘hero’. Very thought provoking post!


    • Yep Mary Lou – that was me on the motorcycle – but I was Sr. Jude back then. Of course, the picture doesn’t show that the kickstand was down and I wasn’t moving. 🙂 I TOTALLY identify with the need to re-examine the Catholic upbringing to move forward in a healthy way – but even leaving the convent didn’t do it. I worked in the church for another 20 years! I found Murdock’s idea that the male with which we can identify could be an institution and/or God. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Janet – I agree with Mary Lou that this is a very thought-provoking post. I’m also with her on the overlap of all three ‘experts. Thank you for continuing to share this journey with us.
    Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You know, I’m having problems identifying with this one – which is making me think…and that’s a good thing! It’s never occurred to me to refuse the call – I’m a jump straight in “how hard can it be?” kind of girl. That’s also why I don’t really identify with the third either – I don’t tend to dwell on disillusionment or betrayal. So maybe it is no. 2. I was fortunate to have been raised by a great dad. While he is very conservative (like many of his generation) & I challenged him a lot with my absolute confidence that I could do anything I wanted – regardless of gender – he never stopped me, laughed at me or discouraged me in any way. Even though he is the inveterate worrier I think that gave me the confidence I have that everything will be ok in the long run. In his insistence of being the provider and “shielding” Mum from all of that he also made me determined to always understand my own finances – and the finances of the partnership. He still shakes his head at my independence & “ideas”. Happy holidays to you & thanks so much for the connection in 2018.


    • Jo – so glad the series is making you think. Of course, whenever we try to condense the human experience to steps and stages, they’ll never totally fit. But it does sound like your supportive father set you up for success – and perhaps the example of your mother (as discussed last week) motivated you also. Thanks for joining the conversation – and happy holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

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