I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately as I prepare the curriculum for my Heroine’s Journey course (coming soon in Spring 2015).
The Heroine’s Journey transports you from the ordinary to the extraordinary mythical landscape of soul where the archetype of the Heroine engages a grand wrestling match with her shadow, the most wounded part of woman, the Handless Maiden. The 5 stages of her journey are a healing system that serves as a road map for your emotional and spiritual development using the energetic current of your deepest desires as fuel.
An archetype is a cluster of emotional energies and beliefs that cause you to act in certain ways. Archetypes are autonomous “invisible others” that can hijack of your entire sense of reality. They are universal to all humans, and live in the collective unconscious as motifs of human potential and development. Each archetype has its positive and negative expression, and possesses a sense of purpose driven by desires.
Your personal psychology that is shaped by your individual experiences (Jung called these “personal complexes”) and cultural influences is the playing ground for archetypes.
If your lover leaves you, how do you respond?
Do unresolved wounds from a parent who abandoned you act like a door for Kali (the Hindi Destroyer Goddess) to enter and wreak havoc on your life?
Do you remain a simmering volcano for years on end, destroying any possibility of love by isolating yourself in work or destroying your self-esteem by attacking your beauty or worth?
You can, in a sense, be held hostage by these large energies. An Archetype magnifies your personal suffering. You are not only feeling your feelings, but the larger sensory experience of humanity’s suffering. Kali in her shadow expression is the world’s feminine rage. When she enters you, you feel the intensity of this collective experience. It consumes you and holds you hostage, separating you from the rest of the energies that make up your whole self. Because you are busy annihilating yourself and others, you don’t have access to your empathy, faith, or desire to surrender to the possibility that the perfect person is on his or her way to you.
So how do you know if you’re being held hostage and how do you escape?
1. Pay attention to the ways you are reporting on your life. What kinds of conversations are you having with your close friends, coach, or therapist? Anything stand out about your “storyline”? What stories do you repeat frequently? Are you a perpetual victim like the Handless Maiden?
2. What movies or books are you drawn to? What is the meta-story tucked invisibly into the storyline?
For example, in “Wild” (a new movie starring Reese Witherspoon), the meta-story is the Heroine’s (Hero’s) Journey. The lead character in the movie is a woman going on walkabout into the borderlands of her inner wilderness (the Pacific Coast Trail) to confront and transform all her worst fears and drug addiction (the handless maiden). It is a redemptive story.
Do you notice yourself going for these redemptive stories? Ask, “how is this story speaking directly to me? What part of me wants to be redeemed?”
3. What mythical figures have influenced you? Was your father a narcissist and your mother an echo? Familiarize yourself with the mythology with a quick Google search. I also recommend consulting the Encyclopaedia Mythica. Make yourself conscious of the ways in which you continue to let these figures play in and through your life (the types of people you love, work for, have conflict with).