My heroine’s journey, a road less travelled

It is a long car ride from Kuta to Ubud. While the threat of a volcanic eruption at Mt. Agung has reportedly reduced the number of tourists in Bali, the traffic does not bear witness to the lost numbers. I needed something to occupy my mind. It would do no good to feel increasingly frustrated by the constant honking of horns, swerving around slow motorbikes and then coming to a complete stop for a vehicle which turns into our lane. The lack of laws on the road, is only topped by the apparent system of courtesy which the traffic operates under. Somehow it all works. But, I find it too chaotic. Best to tune out.

As a fitting choice for the journey, I chose SuperSoul conversations, with Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Gilbert. The discussion harked back to the book that started it all, “Eat, Pray, Love”. (The Love section of the book’s title taking place in Ubud, Bali).

This is a 2-part conversation where Elizabeth Gilbert introduces her heroine’s journey. Seems like a simple enough concept, just change the classic hero’s journey to a woman character and you are done. If we do away with personal pronouns, any sense of controversy disappears. Or, does it?

As Elizabeth points out, (and she maintains her loyalty to Joseph Campbell as a huge fan of his work), there are no female hero stories to mentor us. They just don’t exist. We are the first generation of women who are writing the guidebook on this heroine’s journey. We are building on the work of historical feminists, and rewriting the male version of the hero’s journey into something for our time, for modern women.

At the moment I heard this explanation, I immediately felt a sense of connection and understanding to my own story. I have always felt as if I have walked my path alone. I didn’t know who my role models should be. Where were the heroines who had come before me and I could look to for guidance? Look closely, in historical accounts, in literature, in every corner of the globe, there are so few heroines journeys it is shocking. At least to me.

However, times have changed. The women who are answering the call are doing it now, in modern times. We are a new breed, living in a new age and we are rewriting what it means to be a woman, to be feminine. Now, we can look to each other, our sisters, and find the heroine’s journey everywhere. We can even see traces of it in women who have had to overcome incredibly difficult circumstances. It may not have been the entire arc of a women’s life, but they survived significant trials. 

So what is the heroine’s journey? 

Maureen Murdock is generally regarded as the first to chart an alternative to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey narrative paradigm that she believed is more appropriate for women’s life journeys.  As a student of Campbell’s,  Murdock,  came to believe that the Hero’s Journey model did not adequately address the psycho-spiritual journey of women.

Maureen Murdock received acknowledgement from Jospeh Campbell, he reportedly said, “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.” Luckily, Murdock didn’t accept Campbell’s answer and went on to create her version of the heroine’s journey.

Murdock’s model, described in The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness, is divided into the ten stages:

  1. Heroine separates from the feminine – I chose to focus on my education, then pursue my career full-time while my husband looked after our children.
  2. Identification of the masculine and gathering of allies – I worked in male dominated companies, with very few other like-minded women.
  3. Roads or trials – my children had teachers in school who claimed I was a neglectful mother. The path is so lonely at times, it is hard to stay on course.
  4. Experiencing the boon of success – I stuck it out, got promoted, made more money as time went on. (This is where the story ends for some).
  5. Heroine awakens to feelings of spirituality aridity/death – my success started to feel increasingly shallow and required a betrayal of my sense of self, something which was getting worse over time.
  6. Initiation and descent to the goddess – I had always thought I didn’t need to surround myself with women, that the company of men was preferable. As the years passed by, I began to question this wisdom and I began to think that a significant part of my feminine self was being left to die.
  7. Heroine urgently yearns to reconnect with the feminine – If I continued on the corporate path, the majority of my time would continue to be spent with men. Reconnecting with my feminine side and with other women would be difficult.
  8. Heroine heals the mother/daughter split – my mother had taught me to be creative and crafty, she lit the flame in me as a child. I spent my career at a distance from all that, it was time to revisit that decision.
  9. Heroine heals the wounded masculine withinTBDHeroine makes peace with the “masculine” approach to the world as it applies to herself.
  10. Heroine integrates the masculine and feminineTBD, to face the world or future with a new understanding of herself and the world/life.  Heroine sees through binaries and can interact with a complex world that includes her but is larger than her personal  lifetime or geographical/cultural milieu.

I’m still on my path, I have not completed my last steps. But, it has been a worthwhile quest, particularly now that I know there are others walking with me. I’m starting to meet them, to understand their stories. The internet and social media is on the rise at a time when I need it most. There is no end to what I can learn, if I choose to be vulnerable. So it is with grace which I attempt to write the last chapters of my story. Stay-tuned.

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