‘Conscious Femininity’ is a term I use often, but frequently feel it is not well understood. It is borrowed from Marion Woodman’s work and a book she has by the same name. This article provides an opportunity to understand what it means and how you can begin to work on it in your life.
When I refer to ‘Conscious Femininity’, I think of the inner journey. It’s important to realize that the term has nothing to do with the female gender but applies to the feminine in both men and women. Jung spoke of men having a feminine side and women having a masculine side. For men it is called the anima and for women the animus. Mid life is usually the time when we start to become more aware of our contra-gender nature and the challenge is to learn more about it and work toward the coniunctio or inner marriage. The movie ‘Shall we Dance?’ is a wonderful example of an aging man discovering his anima side. Richard Gere projected his inner feminine on to Jennifer Lopez and fell in love with her. The movie illustrated how he came to terms with this new aspect of himself, knowing that it was really his wife whom he loved. In doing this, he was able to add a richer dimension to himself and his relationships and everyone around him benefited.
The inner journey is therefore the road we take inwards in an introspective way to learn more about ourselves and our soul’s path. It is the process of withdrawing all the projections we have placed on others. As we move further on this inner road we discover things about ourselves we never knew existed. This journey is frequently very painful but at the same time hugely rewarding. It is a process of becoming more aware or more conscious – not only of ourselves but the world around us.
In her book, ‘The Pregnant Virgin’, Marion puts it this way:
‘The word “feminine” as I understand it, has very little to do with gender, nor is the woman the custodian of femininity. Both men and women are searching for their pregnant virgin. She is the part of us who is outcast, the part who comes to consciousness through going into darkness, mining our leaden darkness, until we bring her silver out.’
Both men and women have been raised to adapt to rigid roles of what is male and what is female. These roles have been handed down for decades through families. Until this generation they were rarely questioned. The 60’s saw women who were attempting to break out of this unforgiving stereotype. They did this by trying to become equal to men and calling for women’s liberation. While this was essential for women to gain a foothold in the mostly masculine business world, it frequently resulted in women masquerading as men and sacrificing their feminine qualities. Now we see more and more women who are becoming burned out from believing they have to be wonder women – doing everything at home as well as standing toe to toe with their counterparts in Corporate America.
For men, the path has been just as difficult. Their roles have demanded that they provide for their wives and children, without ever showing emotions. They have rarely known the luxury of finding work they love to do, because responsibility has been foisted on them from an early age. They are groomed to succeed in the business world which means their concept of success is bound up in the ego, setting goals, making money and achieving. They do not have the time or the energy to embark on an inner journey to discover who they are and God forbid they should talk about ‘soul’ or ‘feelings’ to friends or family. For them, it has been and continues to be a very lonely life.
‘Conscious Femininity’ means having the courage to take this path into the unknown to discover who is really there, underneath the roles that are being played out. This is a journey that both men and women must take if we want to see changes in the world around us. The traditional patriarchal values are no longer working for us as we see corporations biting the dust and political turmoil everywhere. Our environment is suffering as we run rough shod over the land and carve out ownership, uprooting trees and killing animals and vegetation in an attempt to make more money and bigger profits. Our physical health is breaking down as we see increases in cancer and auto immune diseases. We need to establish different values and find different ways to relate to ourselves, other people and the environment. We can do this by going into the darkness within ourselves – each person step by step.
You may ask how you can begin this journey. You can begin by doing psychotherapy with a therapist who is well versed in this work. Working with your dreams is crucial because they will provide the signposts and knowledge of the unconscious. Reading self improvement books can help with this descent. Body work is important because freeing the body will also begin to free the mind and emotions. Yoga is specifically designed to facilitate this. There are also workshops available that allow you to explore the mind/body/spirit connection.
Take the first step today towards ‘Conscious Femininity’ by making a commitment to yourself to learn who you are and where you are going. I can help you with this by providing many of these services and/or making suggestions or referrals.