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
- 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
I 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.
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