Re-imagining Ourselves is a process to understand life transitions. It provides a framework - like a map pr markers along the path.
It came to me the other day that a good way to communicate how different women come to the place where they are ready to make that inner journey was through storytelling.
So here is the first story :
Most young girls are full of life and curiosity. How the adults around us respond to us and our aliveness has a profound impact on our lives. There has been much written about the impact of the first 100 days on a child's future life prospects.
One of the models that I find useful to look at these early years, is through the lens of attachment theory (which is different from attachment parenting!).
Did our primary care givers respond with warmth, acceptance? Were we treated with gentleness and respect? Were we comforted and helped to deal with feelings and upsets? Were we encouraged in exploring or did we get the feeling that the world was unsafe? Were we enjoyed and encouraged to laugh, dance and play?
The adults in these early years provide the container in which we, as young children discover ourselves in relationship. As Winnicott said, 'there is no such thing as a baby, there is a baby and someone.'
We take our attachment profile with us as we grow.
Girls grow. During middle childhood, from age 7 upwards, our peers become more and more important as we seek to find our place in the world and belong. Our unconscious beliefs about ourselves and life influences us. We can be devastated by being excluded and left out.
Girls become young women. Growing up in the 21st century is a minefield for many young women, compared to my childhood in the 60's and 70's. Social media has a profound influence on young women and, in my opinion, most of it is not positive, or inclusive, or accepting of difference. We hear about pre-teen girls who are fixated on their body image, in relation to what they see on-line. The pressures can be enormous. Wanting to be accepted can lead to girls being influenced to be, dress, speak and act in certain ways which may not strengthen a positive sense of themselves.
Jump forward some years .....
The feminist movement opened many women eyes to the subtle and not so subtle ways in which we were limited in our choices. The catch cry of 'Girls can do anything' encouraged many young women to blaze trails into areas of like that has been denied them.
However being a superwoman has a shadow in that many women put enormous expectations on themselves to be successful out in the world. Being driven may bring status, power and wealth in the outside world ... and sometimes the outer trappings can be at the cost of our inner lives. As the sandwich generation, women can be working, and possibly caring for ageing parents and their own children.
For those women who have children, being a parent requires sacrifice. We need to be awake so we don't unwittingly pass on our wounds, beliefs and expectations to our children.
There can come a time in a woman's life, when she may feel dry, empty or lose her mojo to keep doing the things that used to bring her a sense of success. Sometimes, something happens in the outside world that wakes us up - infidelity, the ending of a relationship, empty nest when the children leave home, being made redundant.
Women sometimes start crying - and feel as though they will never stop. Or feel lacking in energy. Sometimes mid-life and Peri-menopause can contribute to these feelings -- and advice / supplements can really help here. Obviously, if we are depressed or not coping, we need professional help.
Many women, they hear a call from their deeper selves -- and ignore it because to listen may mean we need to take responsibility for some things and make some changes.
I ignored the call from myself for a long time out of fear - fear of judgement, fear of not being acceptable... and yet the call didn't go away, it kept coming back every now and again until....
Joseph Campbell wrote extensively about 'The Hero's Journey' and how it starts with a 'call to adventure', an event or realisation that disrupts the hero's (or heroine's) perspective and opens the possibility of a journey to begin.
I will always be grateful to the opportunity provided me by the Covid lockdown in March - April 2020, here in Aotearoa. Lockdown provided a window of opportunity .... the deepest wisdom within me rose into my consciousness, or perhaps it was those two archetypes ... it actually doesn't matter. What is important is that this time I listened: "Do the work that lights you up! Stop faffing around!"
And so everyday, I sat and pondered, wrote and created. I began my own 'Heroine's Journey'. I followed the steps Campbell had written about and that other writers like Maureen Murdock had looked at from a feminine perspective - I gathered resources: supporters, inner resilience to deal with fear and doubt, as well as re-reading the Inanna story many times. There were new skills I needed to develop and hone like making and editing videos.
The treasure that we find on the journey will be specific to the ways in which we have abandoned or lost parts of ourselves.
For me that process has been one of letting go of fear and self doubt - not just once, but over and over again ... until I can stand today in my inner soverneignty, that I can embody those two powerful archetypes and love a life of meaning, integrity and service, empowering others to expand their sense of who they are and to be be bold and courageous.
Are you ready for such a journey?
If not now, when?
If there is one thing I have re-learnt this past year is that life can change in a moment, that we don't know what is around the corner - that now is all we really have.