Many of us are familiar with the arc of the hero’s journey, as mapped out by Joseph Campbell and present in many of our most beloved stories and movies.
It goes something like this: The hero receives the call to new adventures, which involves separation from what is known (like his home and family). After first refusing, our hero accepts the call and begins what is known as the road of trials, where he will be slaying the external dragons to prove himself worthy. Eventually he reaches the treasure and then finally begins the long journey to bring it home (and yes, this is an oversimplified version).
When I imagine the hero’s journey, I see it as scaling a series of mountains, undergoing a series of challenges to prove our own mettle.
There is nothing wrong with the hero’s journey; it’s a necessary facet of life. It helps to grow us into who we are meant to become. But there is another journey that acts as its complement which has been all but buried in our culture: the heroine’s journey.
While our hero goes up and out, escaping the external cages and slaying the external dragons, our heroine goes down and in, confronting and dismantling the cages she internalized and befriending and reclaiming her inner dragons.
Because our culture is much less familiar with the heroine’s journey, I think many of us are trapped in the cycle of the hero’s journey, searching for a boon that is not to be found somewhere “out there”.
Oftentimes, without realizing it, we are looking for ourselves. Our deepest sense of aliveness. Our place in the world. Belonging. Self-worth. Meaning. A sense of home in our own bodies and lives.
This is not something the hero’s journey is equipped for. And yet, because we know nothing else, we continue to seek these treasures on the tops of proverbial mountains, hoping that we will finally find them when we have achieved our next goal.
But as we slay goal after goal, at some point we start to realize that what we have been seeking seems to remain continually out of reach. We are exhausted. When we finally give ourselves permission to slow down, subtle, nagging questions start arising from deep within our core: What is this all for? Is this all there is to life or is there something more?
These questions signal a turning point. You can numb the voice that pipes up with its problematic questions (that sound an awful lot like they want to turn your hard-won life upside down and inside out) and continue to press on, your dedication and determination applauded by the culture at large. Or you can turn towards that voice and follow it into a wild, new realm.
Where instead of scaling yet another external mountain, you begin to descend into the valley of your own heart, body, and soul.
Instead of looking for yourself out there, trek down into your own uncharted territories to reclaim the facets of yourself that you lost or set aside on your quest for achievement and approval.
This is the Heroine’s Journey to reclaim the buried feminine.
The wild soul within that has laid dormant in our bones, waiting for us to remember ourselves back into wholeness.
The eternal wellspring of life that lies deep within.
This is a journey back home to ourselves.
To the truth of our feelings. Our deepest yearnings. Our most sacred dreams.
To our bodies and their wisdom and their poetry.
To a life rich with meaning, depth, and magic.
In this soul journey, you pick up the strands that were dropped in your quest for external accolades and weave them back into the beautiful and utterly unique tapestry that is your life.