The Heroine’s Journey – Step 5

Today’s post is Week 5 of 12-wk series, exploring the different stages of 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 the previous posts, please visit: Week 1,  Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Step 5

  • Campbell: Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • Murdock: Heroine awakens to feelings of spiritual aridity/death
  • Schmidt: The eye of the storm

What the experts say

Campbell: The hero meets obstacles – in the form of physical challenges and enemies. He continues his journey, discovering who he can trust and who he can’t as he is tested at every turn.

Murdoch: When the heroine achieves the success, autonomy, and independence in the male-dominated world, she finds herself lost and disappointed. She feels “out of sync” and “off,” unsure of what is wrong. Her body begins to offer warning signs like insomnia, the flu, and exhaustion. If she continues to ignore the stress of the male-defined world, she may experience issues like unscheduled bleeding, find a lump, or have a nervous breakdown; or she seeks refuge in drugs or alcohol. Trying to face the limits of her body and the yearning of her soul, until she is forced to make a change.

She needs to face the internalized patriarchy, to stop seeking approval of the father figure, and begin to listen to her own voice. She must learn to say no.

She experiences anxiety, a fear of letting others down and a sense of emptiness because she is not measuring up to expectations. At the same time, she gains strength and courage in her own voice and struggles to manage the tension until she fully emerges with new clarity.

Finally, she begins to redefine the inner masculine voice and heal the split with her feminine nature.

[Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness (p. 72-85). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.]

Schmidt’s heroine, at this point, believes she’s reached the end of the journey and relaxes. She still hasn’t reached her goal, but she feels strong and safe after facing her problems. She might even reach out to help someone worse off than her as she continues on her journey.

[Schmidt, Victoria Lynn. 45 Master Characters, Revised Edition: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters (Kindle Locations 2356-2373). F+W Media. Kindle Edition.]

 In My Experience

heal your bodyI totally relate to Murdock’s description of the heroine at this point in her journey. Her descriptions of how a woman’s body sends warnings reminded me of one of my favorite books, “Heal Your Body” by Louise Hayes. I don’t know where I happened upon the book, but it is simply a list of ailments, the negative thought processes that lead to the ailment, and the positive affirmations that can help to heal those ailments. I’ve kept the book in my possession for about 25 years and swear by it. While I don’t believe that affirmations alone heal serious illness, I have always found that when I am experiencing an issue, the negative thoughts connected to it are spot on.

Also, when I was 28, my body began falling apart. I was still in the convent living in Hong Kong, had recently attained my post-graduate certification in education, was the department chairperson and teacher at a secondary school, and had just pronounced my final vows promising to live in perpetual poverty, chastity, and obedience. I had accomplished the ‘success’ Murdock speaks of for the heroine’s journey. I also discovered that my father who’d abandoned us when I was seven had remarried, had children, and had been living happily near his family of origin for 20 years – despite their insistence that they had no idea where he was. Talk about betrayal and disillusionment.

When the Western medicine doctor prescribed Metamucil and sent me on my way, I turned to a natural medicine doctor. During my first visit, he looked at my eyes, my tongue and my hands, and rubbed his hand along my arm. He sat me down, and without me saying anything, he began listing all the symptoms he believed I was experiencing. In summarizing he stated that I was not seriously ill at the moment but that if I didn’t make drastic changes to my lifestyle, I would die of cancer in about 10 years. In the very back of my mind, a little voice whispered, “You need to leave the convent.” But, of course, I ignored that voice.

family 030

It took another very painful three years to actually leave the convent.

When I look back on that time and the few years following my leaving the convent, I relate to Schmidt’s ‘eye of the storm’ where all is quiet and the heroine feels empowered. Leaving the convent gave me strength and courage I would never have imagined – and after the initial pain of transition, I relaxed in that energy.

I met and married my husband about that time and began having children. In a sense, I began the heroine’s journey all over again as a wife and mother – and rebuilt my career.

And, when I hit a pinnacle in my career, the world crashed in once again. I experienced disillusionment and betrayal, I struggled with depression, and I worked to reinvent my life in a way that felt more authentic – at the same time, my children headed away for school and we live a semi-empty-nest lifestyle.

And I begin again. Not in a position to retire, I continue to rebuild a career but this time I listen more to my heart’s desire, my body, and my soul. I am hopeful that I’ve come through the other side – which all three experts promise will happen.

Your Heroine’s Journey Experience

  • Have you experienced your body warning your soul that something isn’t right in life?
  • Have you come through a struggle to regain a sense of self after feeling betrayed or disillusioned with newfound courage and strength?
  • Do you find that midlife is an opportunity to integrate your feminine and masculine selves?

Next week we’ll reflect on:

  • Campbell: Approach to the Inmost Cave
  • Murdock: Initiation and Descent to the Goddess
  • Schmidt: Death – All is Lost


  1. I think the whole concept of success followed by struggle followed by recovery followed by whatever comes next is a common theme for a lot of us. I still struggle with feeling completely happy because I wonder if there is a struggle on my horizon – something I’m trying to move past, but after a life of ups and downs, it’s hard to trust that I’m ever going to have arrived somewhere safe. Interesting that all three of your examples follow a similar path.
    Thanks for linking up again with us this year at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂


    • Leanne – I so relate to your “waiting for the other shoe to drop” syndrome. This is the little voice in my head that I have to combat with positive thoughts all the time. Thanks for joining the conversation and sharing on SM!


  2. Hello Janet, I am constantly inspired by your writing and I learn more about you and who you are each time I visit your blog. I too have been through difficult times and come through them. I believe I am stronger for the experience and resiliant. I also agree that our bodies do talk to us and tell us when something is wrong. The problem is that sometimes we are too busy trying to help others that we don’t listen to our own body and help ourselves. Thank you for sharing this wonderful series with us at #MLSTL and I wish you a wonderful 2019. xx


    • Sue, thanks so much for your encouraging words. I am happy you are appreciating this series and find insight from my posts. I think so many women have gone through struggles and come out stronger – heroine’s in our own right. Thanks for joining the conversation!


  3. At this time of my life I relate more to Schmidt. I feel strong and safe, and have tacked my problems. I look to help others through the lessons I’ve learned. I think I’ve finally come to listen to my own voice and discover who I can trust and not trust. I’m just learning to set healthy boundaries. Like Donna, I think Id like to read your memoir. Thanks Janet. I’ll be sharing on FB and Twitter for #MLSTL


    • Mary Lou – I’m so glad that you are feeling strong and safe at this point. I think that midlife does that for many of us. According to the heroine’s journey though, Step 5 is the calm before the biggest crisis. Hopefully we’ve already hit step 6….Thanks for joining the conversation and for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Janet ~ Very interesting! Though I feel strong and safe, I’m at that point in life where inevitable health issues are making their appearance. Wound up in the ER this past week and spent three days of tests. We don’t know what’s around the corner.


  4. I’m a huge believer in your body displaying the physical manifestation of your emotions. If my digestion is off it’s a case of what can’t I stomach at the moment – & my back always plays up when I’m under stress.


  5. Thanks, Janet, for sharing these very personal stories and also for the lessons on the Heroine’s Journey. I believe our bodies and minds are so closely aligned that we have to address both when illness or unease strike. I look forward to hearing about Step 6.


    • Christie, I totally agree that we need to address body and mind — so much of our medical approach in the West has been about masking instead of addressing the issues though. I am happy to see so much emphasis in recent years on the relationship between body and mind. Thanks for joining the conversation.


  6. Hi Janet! I’m back…finally! I have read the titles of your blog posts as they were delivered to my email inbox but with travel and life, I just didn’t make it. Until today. And I really appreciate this post (and would likely do the same with the others in the series if I can find the time!) Like Campbell, I believe we are all on a “heroines journey” of sorts and perhaps we never “arrive” but just learn, grow, and move on for the remainder. (I’ll wait to see what you say about that in your post next week!) I’m not familiar with the other authors but I do find wisdom there. But I am familiar with Louise Hay and most of her work. Much of my own background and philosophy is built on her’s and other’s teaching of what is called “New Thought.” It is a very wholistic approach which includes our physical bodies, our emotions and most especially our “thoughts.” It has certainly helped me walk my personal heroine’s path. And after reading everyone’s comments I feel privileged to have already read your memoir! You have had an adventurous heroine’s journey so far! ~Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy – isn’t the key “so far” — we all travel on our heroine’s journey and I agree, we never really “arrive”. As I mentioned in Leanne’s comment, it is easy to get sucked into the ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ but I think with each twist on the journey we get more confident to handle the obstacles we might face in the future. Welcome back home and thanks for joining the conversation.


  7. Another FABULOUS post in this series! While I’ve already read your memoir (and LOVED it) I like how you give examples of your own heroine’s journey to illustrate the archetype. I enjoyed reading Schmidt’s take on the fifth step … where the heroine feels she is already at the end of the journey and relaxes a bit. I’ve never heard it explained that way before, but it makes perfect sense.

    I need to search out a copy of Heal Your Body. I think it would help me quiet the voices in my mind that imagine worst-case scenarios and paralyze me.


    • Molly, thanks for your kind comments about my memoir. Also so glad you are getting something out of the heroine’s journey. Step 6 should be interesting.Thanks for joining the conversation…


  8. Janet, I relate to Murdock the most. I lived for years as the domineering female, because work demanded masculine traits for success. I’ve learned to be quite comfortable with those traits. I’m curious to how the next parts complete the journey because I feel like I am still at this stage – still trying to live up to expectations, seeking external validation.

    I really like how you relate the concepts to you own journey. Looking forward to more installations – no rush either! I’ve found I need to read these posts when I’m in a contemplative mindset!


    • Pat, I hope that in living this stage of needing external validation that you aren’t still going to need some ‘belly of the whale’ or ‘dark night of the soul’ moment to make the shift to trusting yourself. That is the basic heroine journey, right — to hit rock bottom and come through stronger. Perhaps your journey is of a more gentle (and therefore, slower) nature. That doesn’t make it any less important – but it does sound like you are beginning to find and trust your own voice in retirement. If you’ve seen my latest post on the heroine’s journey, you’ll see that I am wrapping up the series early. Thanks for following along though!


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