The Feminine Way

 Posted by on March 15, 2012
Mar 152012

The Heroes Journey is a familiar metaphor for psychological maturation in our culture. We have taken it for granted that women, like men, follow some version of the Hero’s course, thrusting forward with horse and sword, slaying all that needs to be slain, analyzing what is not yet understood…

The myth has captured our collective imagination. Its symbols are deep and resonant. Men and women alike measure success by the Hero’s standards. In identifying with the energy, stoicism and self-reliance of the Young Masculine, we muster the confidence to go after dragons in whatever form they may arise. We believe that if we hurl ourselves into the air, something magnificent will happen at the top – all our efforts will be worth it.

As romantic as it may be, the Hero archetype is a poor representation of the female experience. Following the masculine model, viewing the world through the eyes of the male, distances us from our essential feminine nature. In our one-sided fascination with the Young Hero, we lose touch with our feminine instincts and the subtle, more intuitive workings of our inner lives.

As women transitioning into the second half of life, we need another image, a more accurate metaphor, to track the journey we must take. While the mythic journey symbolizes the discovery of our deepest selves, a women attains this treasure in a very different way. While the masculine thrusts forward, the feminine turns inward. A woman’s quest is bound to the earth, silent and inert. It is a gestation – an introverted, vegetative process as opposed to an extroverted, active one.

Introversion is the feminine equivalent of masculine heroic action. In contrast to the goal-driven orientation of the Hero, a woman’s experience has a layered, inward spiraling momentum not visible to the outer eye. Though the woman continues to move about her daily life, her heart and mind seem to live elsewhere. It can appear to those around her that her life is stagnant – she is going through the motions but nothing new is happening.  But in reality, it is a time of initiation and incubation when a deep inner split is cured and inner problems solved. -MLVonFranz

Dr. Christiane Northrup explains that menopause is a time our brains make the change from one way of being to another. A woman’s thoughts, her ability to focus, and the amount of fuel going to the intuitive centers in the temporal lobes of her brain all are plugged into, and affected by, the circuits being rewired.

Biologically, at this stage of life we are programmed to withdraw from the outside world for a period of time. One of the most common threads running through women’s descriptions of how they are feeling during the menopausal transition is the longing for time alone, for a refuge that provides peace, quiet, and freedom from distractions and demands. –C. Northrup

Our culture provides places for striving and success, but it doesn’t provide a place for us to grieve and to feel our humanity. Silence itself can be that place, a container in which we can shift our attention from the outer to the inner life. Silence is a vessel that holds that which is about to be birthed.

There are times when words go limp and lose their electricity – when there is nothing more to say. Mother Teresa defines prayer as listening to the silence of our own heart…listening with the bodily ear, with the imagination, with the heart, or with the whole being. Silence and solitude invite the truth of our experience to arise within us.

The words solitude and solace have the same root – comfort. In solitude the external is calm – it doesn’t move and shift. The soul needs not be disturbed or distracted. The outgrown self can rest and the space can open to be occupied by a deeper, more vulnerable, undefended part of the self that can live and breathe and speak to us. –Clarissa Estes

The Feminine Way is a quiet, introverted process rather than an outwardly heroic one – a surrender rather than a thrusting forth. We might think of it as a Journey of the Soul, one quarter inch long and many miles deep.If we allow ourselves to enter the solitute and listen to the silence of our own hearts; if we, in the words of David Whyte, go to that place where everything waits, we can discover our own pearl of wisdom and an authentic new part of us can be born.


DeborahDeborah Hill is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Group Facilitator in Sonoma, California.

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