The challenging part of female individuation and growth is that it is typically nonlinear and cyclical. Although a woman may feel as though she is changing and growing, invariably, there will come a time when she will slip back into the familiar grooves of her own suffering. It may feel as though she is falling backward, regressing, or having to revisit a painful aspect of her past or present experience, but in fact this is the dance of the feminine herself. The key is to familiarize ourselves with this presence, so that when the time comes to face inner demons, we feel empowered to more effectively work with the energy instead of being completely sideswiped by it.
To live life in a way that truly honors the feminine principle, it is essential to hold space for contradiction. We must include the light and the dark, the relative and the absolute dimensions of experience. The relative truth for a woman may be that she is suffering immensely and needs tangible tools and strategies in order to become more functional or capable in her life, whereas the absolute level of her experience may reveal that she is simply engaging in the inevitable conflicts inherent to the feminine and there is absolutely nothing wrong. To hold the paradoxical tension of both elements is to respect the feminine as well as the masculine. When we become excessively fearful of our darkness or things that we perceive as “wrong”, it leads to an avoidance and a cutting off from that which holds our greatest power. Fear of the descent into the dark of the unconscious arrests the potential of the ascension and inclusion of light. As Jungian Analyst and author Marion Woodman writes, “The deeper the roots of the tree push into the earth, the higher the branches of the tree reach toward heaven.” There is a constant oscillation between the rooting down and the soaring high. Working with one’s own psycho-spiritual process requires a resilient and stable container that can hold and tolerate the energy of transformation.
The perspective that we as women do not need to be fixed or cured is quite difficult for most of us, including me, to fully accept because from a very early age as females growing up in patriarchy we are trained to scan for and improve upon our inadequacies. Although the self improvement train can be very seductive and also keep women very busy, what is ultimately much more transformative for any woman suffering in her inner or outer life, is to be supported and held in contexts that uphold the utmost respect and care for her experience as a whole, imperfectly perfect soul.
The number of ways that women are made to feel damaged, wrong, or inferior are innumerable. It requires a lot of awareness not to perpetuate the collective illusion that a woman’s experience is wrong and needs to be fixed, corrected, or eliminated. Those of us who are waking up and becoming cognizant of the insidious nature of these energies, are being called to task. We are asked to take a stand by holding a deep faith and trust that a woman can in fact find her way to a place of profound self honoring. When we hold this truth in our hearts and reflect the inherent value of a deeper feminine consciousness back to those around us, we give permission both to ourselves and to other women that we can allow an ancient awareness, uniquely feminine, to re-emerge, an awareness with substance and strength as well as softness.
Female individuation and empowerment is a lifelong process, not a finitely attainable goal. It is a labyrinth of infinite proportion, uniquely co-created in a dance between a woman’s soul—her inner personality that both suffers and gives meaning to experience—and the archetypal feminine. Feminist philosopher and theologian Mary Daly described that our task as women is to, “unweave the ghostly false images of ourselves which have been deeply embedded in our imaginations.” This is the journey that we must embark on as women if we are to unearth the raw, magnificent truth of who we are.