But while each of us travels an individual soul path that’s unique in its spiritual lessons and emotional demands, there are also archetypal themes that help us to make sense of the journey, allowing us to see where we’ve been and where we’re going.
I’ve assembled some of the more common journey-patterns that women travel, especially over the last fifty years. This doesn’t cover all the patterns and can never really describe nor capture an individual’s story, but it does provide a rough map of the more common pathways for women today.
Read the following six themes and see which ones resonate for you.
Traditional Female Hero’s Journey: Mothering and Nurturing
This has been the classic path for women, at least prior to the sixties and the advent of feminism. It’s the traditional path whereby a girl grows up, gets married and has children. Once her children have grown, she might then be able to develop her own interests and pursue a post-mothering life. This pathway is one that psychologist Carl Jung called the Path of Individuation; after we’ve fulfilled our traditional social roles as men and women and as mothers and fathers, we’re free to focus on our own personal development and become more self-expressed as an individual. Women are able to explore their so-called masculine side by focusing on their intellectual and creative pursuits after children leave home. This path is less obvious today but still plays a vital role in many women’s life journey.
Classic Male Hero’s Journey: Adventure and Adversity
This path is similar to the classic male initiation path made popular by mythologist Joseph Campbell: A man leaves home to pursue a challenging adventure, eventually being spiritually transformed by facing adversity and overcoming the odds, returning home a hero. Movies are full of the Male Hero’s Journey—just think of Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones or Star Wars. Many women today are eager to go on their own Male Hero’s Journey, enjoying new female freedoms to take off and have their own daring adventures and amazing transformations. But the female adventure journey will always be different to the classic male adventure journey for her physical experiences, emotional challenges and psychological transformations are uniquely feminine. We need to hear more from female adventurers and heroic women taking risks, overcoming the odds and returning home transformed.
New Female Hero’s Journey: (Feminist) Path of Worldly Power
Since feminism erupted onto the scene, many women have delayed marriage and motherhood or bypassed traditional female roles altogether in order to develop themselves in the world and find their power. They’ve pursued education and built careers and found success, economic independence and social advancement. Having succeeded in the traditionally male world of work and career, some women experience a health crisis or career meltdown, one that catapults them into something author Maureen Murdock calls, “The Descent to the Goddess.” This crisis draws a woman back into healing her past, particularly her relationship with her mother and her own disowned feminine wounds. This healing crisis provides an opportunity to balance the masculine and feminine sides of herself, often resulting in a career or lifestyle change, a sea change where she chooses something more balanced for herself. Midlife and menopause are classic times for this healing crisis and reset to occur.
Combination Path: Super Woman and the Multi-Tasker
This is an increasingly common path today where a woman tries to have it all and be it all. It’s a combination of the Traditional Female Path of wife and mother, plus the Power Path of career development and worldly achievement. Often there’s a tension between her outer working life and her personal and family life. She knows she needs more time and space for her own self but can rarely find it, often experiencing burn-out and exhaustion as a result. She may even have fantasies about running away to have her own life, but first she must fulfill the dual demands of career and family. This path often develops great strength and resilience in a woman as she moves between her worlds, holding a tenuous balance between her many roles. Learning to take time out for self-care, personal retreat and reflection is an important key is making this path sustainable and rewarding.
Inner Soul Path: The Artist and the Modern Mystic
This is a less conventional path, though many women are drawn to it. On this path a woman seeks inner growth, personal healing and creative self-expression, often living a life based on artistic pursuits or spiritual development. It’s a fluid path, one usually entailing travel, study and periodic change. Relationships, family and children may or may not be part of this journey, and worldly success may or may not be forthcoming. Women on this path are drawn to a life of spiritual practice, healing work or creative expression and may suffer from not having enough material support or outer recognition. When one is following such a deeply internal and individual path, the practical side of life can suffer and may need thoughtful attention. Balancing one’s inner soul life and outer material life is often a challenge on this path. Women on this path, however, can also be successful, as they find ways to bring their gifts to the world. Increasingly, many woman on this path are realising that they must also attend to the material side of life to make this path workable. They are gradually becoming more proficient in handling the practical side of life without compromising their calling.
Expanding Choices Path: Bold New Goddesses and Entrepreneurs
Many women now in their twenties, thirties and forties, (daughters and granddaughters of the baby-boomer generation) are like a new breed of woman, infused with the spirit of the empowered feminine. They enjoy yoga, meditation, dance, travel and creative self-expression and celebrate new female freedoms and power as if they were born to it—which they were. In their joyful embrace of the empowered feminine, they may not always appreciate the work necessary to secure and maintain these freedoms, hard won by their elders and female ancestors. They may also struggle in a world that still doesn’t reflect their empowered feminine values and experience conflict about which path to follow with so many options available. Many of them are finding ways, however, to create innovative businesses for themselves, using the new technologies and forging successful paths as online entrepreneurs and social media thought-leaders. It will be interesting to see how these talented and empowered young goddesses change the world as they hit their stride.
The Inner Soul Dimensions of the Female Hero’s Journey
Our life path might be a blend of all the above, but typically we find ourselves walking some paths more than others.
The Inner Soul Path is perhaps the least common, trained as we are to focus on the opportunities and demands of the outer world. However, if you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in the inner path and soul’s journey, which is attracting more and more women.
The Inner Soul Path is about consciously working on your growth, awareness and evolution, no matter what happens in life. Ultimately, all paths are Inner Soul Paths, depending on how we work with what happens to us; we can either be a victim on our path, or we can use our path to empower ourselves and become self-expressed and spiritually awakened.
Most women’s paths will be different to the classic Male Hero’s Journey though many women today are increasingly attracted to outer adventure and extreme challenge as a path of personal transformation and liberation. The Female Hero’s Journey will happen for most of us, however, through the ordinary, everyday challenges of being a woman and meeting the demands of the female life cycle with its many transitions and cycles.
Empowerment Tools For Your Female Hero’s Journey
We all need empowering tools and practices to deal effectively with our life journey, no matter what path we’re on. Making sure we have these tools—things like meditation, inner work, journalling, emotional processing, therapy, coaching and mentoring—is part of our self-care, allowing us to transform ourselves with each challenge and emerge with greater wisdom and spiritual power.
If you feel called to work with me, contact me via my Contact Page.
You may also want to register for my free webinar: Unleash Your Soul Magic: How to Unlock Your Higher Purpose and Share Your Gifts with the World.
Please also feel free to leave your comments below.