The Heroine's Journey: Woman's Quest for Wholeness
by Maureen Murdock

Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1990. ISBN 0877734852.
Reviewed by Linda Wisniewski
Posted on 03/04/2004

Nonfiction: Life Lessons

Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth, told psychotherapist Maureen Murdock that women don't have a hero's journey, since "the woman is there." But Murdock knew that her women friends and clients were not content to be "there," waiting for the men in their lives to come home. Women do indeed have a journey, she discovered, one that is cyclical throughout our lives.

Murdock says that a woman's quest is to become a "fully integrated, balanced and whole human being´┐Ż., and to heal the deep wound of the feminine." First, we embrace the masculine principles ruling society, often rejecting our female natures, which we are taught to see as powerless. We join the 'heroic' journey with male allies and role models. Later in life, we are unsatisfied with the world's definition of success. We experience a period of dryness and despair, confronting the "dark feminine" - our own feelings of loss and anger. When a woman decides not to play by the patriarchal rules, she has no guidelines to follow. Not knowing the answers, we look to our intuition and become what Murdock calls "spiritual warriors." We seek to heal the mother-daughter split and integrate our female values with our learned masculine skills. The journey is a continuous cycle, repeated throughout our lives.

Murdock uses her own life, those of other high-achieving women, mythology and Jungian psychology to demonstrate this cycle. For example, the goddess Athena sprang from the head of Zeus, and never acknowledged her mother, Metis. She symbolizes rejection of the feminine and identification with patriarchal values. Women often try to function as men in the business world, rejecting anything remotely female.

Personally helpful to me was a little exercise Murdock recommends to overcome the "Myth of Never Being Enough." "Finding out about being instead of doing is the sacred task of the feminine," says Murdock. "Our mindless doing has created incredible destruction on this earth." Murdock suggests writing down something you have done today, for example, "I weeded the garden," followed by "I am satisfied, and that's enough!" One of the treasures to be found on the heroine's journey is the courage to be "limited" and to realize that we are enough just the way we are in the present moment.

I took a whole year to read The Heroine's Journey, and it changed my life. In fact, I studied it, taking notes and absorbing each chapter. There is so much material here from Navaho and Hopi myths, as well as real life tales, that I would urge you to read this once and then refer to it again, as I have, as you go through different stages in your life.

Maureen Murdock is a psychotherapist, creative writing teacher and the author of Father's Daughters: Transforming the Father-Daughter Relationship; Spinning Inward: Using Guided Imagery with Children for Learning, Creativity and Relaxation; and Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory. She is also the editor of Monday Morning Memoirs: Women in the Second Half of Life. She lives in Oakland, CA.

Check out our interview with the author of The Heroine's Journey.

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