Previously, I wrote about Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, on how there's a known mechanism to any new quest. I myself have been through multiple Hero's Journeys.
What blew my mind, body, heart and soul was to discover Maureen Murdock's book The Heroine's Journey!! It was the missing piece that I couldn't put my finger on. Instead of transforming a hero from lone outcast to victorious warrior, The Heroine's Journey transforms a heroine from abandoned girl to reclaimed goddess.
STAGE 1 • SPLIT FROM FEMININE
In stage 1, The Heroine splits from the feminine because patriarchy has taught her that the feminine is weak (eg. damsel in distress, good little girl, doormat housewife) and that the masculine is the golden standard (eg. bread winner, killin' it, law maker). So she casts away the feminine and entirely becomes the masculine.
Eg. I vowed at 7 to NEVER end up like my mom, shackled to the apron and at the financial mercy of my dad for survival. Unknowingly, I set out to be the best white man I could, with my own money, independence, power, and influence. I did it so well that I became a single father at 14, providing for the financial, emotional, social, physical and spiritual well-being of my parents and younger siblings. Eek.
STAGE 2 • ROAD OF NON-CONFORMITY
In stage 2, as The Heroine attempts to become the best man she can be, dragons and demons appear early on in the quest, in the form of:
- external enemies: critics, conformists, and traditionalists, and
- internal enemies: busyness (over-burden), perfectionism (over-please) and overwhelm (over-work)
Eg. I moved to NYC to work with an international humanitarian aid agency so I could earn a great living and do good. But internal enemies drove me to the edge of burnout, while external enemies shamed me with "a women is worthless unless she marries and pushes out babies" and my Asian culture shamed me with "unless you are a doctor, lawyer, or accountant, you're a complete failure."
STAGE 3 • ILLUSION OF SUCCESS
In stage 3, The Heroine has slayed the dragons and demons and risen up the proverbial corporate ladder or serial entrepreneurial shuttle. She now has society's gold stamp of approval of: money, independence, power, and influence. Classically, this is where The Hero's Journey ends. There are still 5 more stages of The Heroine's Journey, mind blown!
Eg. I was at the peak of my career, living in NYC, between Times Square and Central Park, making six-figures (tax free!) doing good for the United Nations. But deep inside, I could feel the bubbling of:
- Is this it? Is this all there is?
- I thought I'd feel happier than this when I got everything I wanted...
STAGE 4 • SPIRITUAL ARIDITY
In stage 4, The Heroine stops the "go, go, go!" just long enough to realize that all that blood, sweat, and tears was for but an illusion of success, defined by patriarchy and imposed upon her without her consent. With the inner and outer enemies gone, she's given a window to realize how empty she feels. Her heart is starved and unfulfilled, her soul an arid desert.
Eg. By the end of my time in NYC, I had earned over $80,000 in scholarships and mastered 11 careers. I did and got everything I was expected to do and get. But my body didn't dance, my soul didn't sing, my heart was devoid of love and my soul was too arid to even shed a tear about it all.
STAGE 5 • DESCENT INTO THE ABYSS
Inevitably, in stage 5, the Heroine plunges into a deep dark depression or identity crisis. She doesn't yet know that this an opportunity for death and rebirth. If she refuses the descent into the dark abyss, Life will find a way to drop her down there through health crisis, divorce, lay off, death of a loved one, or various forms of heartbreak. She needs to realize that all those decades invested exclusively into her masculine have failed her.
Eg. After waking up one day unable to move my wrists (ie unable to type, therefore work), I decided to leave everything that was glorious about my peak life in NYC to move half way around the world for love. My ex-partner turned out to be a mega narcissist who betrayed me. I left and rebuilt my life. It cost me a mega fortune in time, money, blood, sweat and tears, but I am eternally grateful to have descended into the abyss and freed myself from narcissism.
STAGE 6 • RECONCILIATION WITH FEMININE
In stage 6, having shed the lie that a woman's worth is pegged exclusively on her masculinity, and with the help of mentors and angels, The Heroine is reborn. She finally surrenders to her yearnings for beauty, softness, sensuality, delight, love, sisterhood and being, which are elements of feminine power. By reclaiming her time from energy vampires, her values from cultural indoctrination, and her feminine power from patriarchy, The Heroine reconciles with her feminine.
Note how mentors and angels appear later on The Heroine's Journey (between stage 5 and 6), compared to The Hero's Journey (between stage 3 and 4). She must reach and descend the abyss by herself to reclaim the depth and beauty of her soul. And when she emerges, mentors and angels will be waiting for her to cheer her all the way home. This explains why the first half and masculine portion of the quest is stingly lonely.
Eg. Through my cousin's colleague's colleague, I found a holistic healer to unlock my wrists and eliminate the guilt of filial piety. As I rebuilt my new life in Vancouver, in my glorious condo by the beach, I learned to stop parenting my parents, to stop trying to become the best white man I could be, and to start filling my life with love and light.
STAGE 7 • HEALING OF WOUNDED MASCULINE
In stage 7, having welcomed back her feminine, the Heroine is wise enough to know not to cast out her masculine, but to discern which elements of the masculine she will keep or discard. She now recognizes the toll that patriarchy also had on her masculine, isolating him from radiant love. She grows in compassion and heals her wounded masculine, who also suffered at the hand of patriarchal conditioning.
Eg. After 6 months of entrepreneurship, I declared No! to busyness, No! to hustling, and No! to future burnouts. So instead, I decided Yes! to freedompreneurship, where grace (ie ease, peace, joy, truth and trust) would lead the way. My time got freer and freer, not busier and busier.
STAGE 8 • INTEGRATION OF FEMININE / MASCULINE
In stage 8, with a reconciled feminine and healed masculine, the Heroine emerges whole, clear and true to her original, integrated self. She can now alchemize both feminine and masculine powers to turn lead into gold, to achieve anything that is aligned with her soul.
Eg. My stage 8 took the form of an "Exquisite Freedom" tour of 16 countries in 16 weeks, which surprisingly lead to an impromptu lifestyle of 56 countries in 52 weeks the year after.
THE LIBERATOR'S JOURNEY
Until this day, I'm still blown away by the archetypal contrast of:
- The Hero's Journey of slaying external dragons and climbing up physical ladders vs.
- The Heroine's Journey of slaying internal dragons and descending to the spiritual home
And just like we have multiple Hero's Journey in a lifetime, I've had about 4 Heroine's Journey so far. OMG, so many journeys!! Does it ever end?
Live fierce and free,
(First Published Jul 23, 2018)
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