From my experience, personal and professional, and the responses I have had from readers of our book Into the Heart of the Feminine, I have no doubt that our book can and will empower women. It will do so because empowerment must have an inner foundation that it can take root in and grow. Without such a foundation within us, our empowerment is like a house built upon sand and, in reality, will fail the person who thinks they have it.
The most successful women I know protect themselves with either a persona of having a positive attitude or one of toughness. But, more often than not, beneath these outer facades, lies a deep sadness whose influence is often felt and whose reality is just as often ignored. In many women, beneath this sadness is a deep anger like the writhing snakes on Medusa’s head.
As I wrote in my last blog, we fear these feelings that are so threatening to our identity or who we think we are or want to be. They are threatening because they put us in conflict with the ideals of our “positive thinking” identity and achievement-oriented society where to have deep anger and sadness makes us appear out of control, and this appearance is seen as a failure.
It would be nice if we could put on a new attitude like a new Armani dress or a new sweater from Chico’s…and change our lives. It would be nice if being cheerful and positive would open the door to love and joy. It would be nice if simply getting in touch with our inner warrior would empower us. It would be nice if it were this easy to change the structure of our personality and the patterns in our brains.
But, true empowerment, true liberation begins with facing the sources of sadness and anger within us that we have denied and repressed for so long. Several years ago, an old friend of mine, who is a successful woman, had an earthshaking experience. While she was reading Alice Walker’s book that told about the female castration of women in Africa, she was literally struck dumb. She was so outraged at the helplessness of the women, and the ignorance and brutality of the society, she lost her voice. It required a lot of inner work and surgery for her to regain her voice.
I understand exactly what happened to her. I too am furious at such events happening in various forms to women all over the world. I identify with them because deep down I know – I know something similar has happened to me, some precious tender part of my essence has been treated with ignorance and brutality. My husband and co-author Bud says the same thing has happened to men, the same pain and anger lies deep in their anima, the feminine soul in every man.
Real empowerment, real liberation, and a foundation that can foster love, creativity, and joy in our lives come from focusing on and healing…transforming those deep parts in ourselves. As important as social equality is – a fact I know because I live and practice as a professional woman, having the kind of empowerment recognized in a patriarchal world, which is an identity based on personal achievement, doesn’t ultimately satisfy the needs of my soul, which is the soul of a woman.
There are no easy answers. I am both sick of and sorrowful about the way our culture has learned to market to our needs with quick fixes and magical thinking in countless books, videos, seminars, and workshops that are like the proverbial Chinese meal that tastes really good and leaves us hungry again in a short time. The road to our authentic selves and to feeling at home in life is through our wounds, our deeply repressed desires, and our longings. In short, it is through what we Jungians call our shadows and our complexes.
There is no road around them, over them, or under them. And there is no road or path from another culture that saves us from this journey. The road is not by will power, or by putting on new attitudes, or by making better choices. The simple fact is that true strength, authentic attitudes towards life, and meaningful choices only evolve from the integrity of our souls, and the entrance into soul territory is through our shadows. The only better choice we can make is the choice to make the inner journey of individuation, the timeless choice of the mystics. It is the choice to face ourselves and find our authenticity and our divine nature in the center of who we are. In Jungian psychology, we call this center the Self. In Chapter 2,”Where Love Begins,” in our book Into the Heart of the Feminine, we say on page 31:
As we look further into how we can call on this part of ourselves for help, we will discover, as Jung did, that strong forces exist within us. Ultimately, the strongest one, the Self, is at the center of our soul. The seat of our inborn urge to heal and grow, the Self enables our personality, our life, and our story to become complete if we give our inner life the attentive, loving, supportive environment that it needs.
In other words, it is our deep feminine nature, whether we are women or men, that fosters and supports our connectedness to our Self. The book that Bud and I have written is important for women and for men. It speaks to the soul of our culture. It speaks to the unheard weeping souls of women.
The journey begins with facing ourselves, our reality, and accepting it with gentleness and understanding. Empowerment begins with healing at the center of our own truth and experience. Liberation begins with facing and freeing ourselves from the bonds of our history. This is the very big, first part of our journey. Then the next steps follow – as we explain in our book – finding our own voice and changing our fate.
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris