Simone de Beauvoir once said, in French of course, something like the following: One is born female, but becoming a woman is a personal accomplishment.
It was the first time I had ever been made aware that one doesn't become a woman just because one ages, though I had, of course, noticed that most of the women in the retirement home which my own mother had settled into were still immature, girlish even, at 75 and more.
It was shortly after that that I became interested in Jungian psychology and began to read about psychological development and its stages. The classic book on this topic is Erich Neumann's THE ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS in which he outlines the development of male consciousness -- which is sometimes taken to mean human consciousness. That a woman's psychological development might be different from a man's is something many people don't ever take into consideration.
Women's psychological development is, however, different from men's psychological development, and in this essay, I will review the stages as described by Erich Neumann in his essay, "The Stages of Women's Psychological Development."
Stage One: The Great Mother
All children, whether male or female, being born of a woman, float in the amnionic fluid for the nine months preceeding birth, and most are nurtured and fed in the first months of life by a woman/mother. In this first stage of development, both males and females are unconscious of the fact that they are, in fact, separate from the mother. Babies, until a certain age, we are told, feel themselves to be one with the mother.
We all, then, come into life and, for some months thereafter, are nurtured and sustained by the Great Mother. Irrespective of who our own personal mother's are, the archetype of the all encompassing, all nurturing Great Mother is the first archetype that we meet. Without this archetypal care, we would all perish in those early months of life. However, sometime in the first year or so of life, it becomes obvious to boy babies, because of their bodies, that they are somehow different from their mothers. Because of this early realization, the development of the male takes a different path than the development of the female.
Girls, realizing that they are similar to and not different from their mothers, can stay in this early stage of unconsciousness far longer than boys can without becoming neurotic. The female's sense of "self" stays in tact; whereas, the male must break away from the mother in order to develop a masculine sense of "self." This fact, as I have discussed in an earlier hub on the difference in the Great Mother and a Mother Complex plays a significant role in the development of the male psyche.
Because in his first relationship, that with his mother, the male discovers not his likeness, but his difference, his future preference in relationships will be to stand apart. He prefers relating at a distance, logically, through the "logos" (the word). He is more comfortable in "face to face" relationships, rather than in the "unity" of the "participation mystique" which is typical of the mother and, because of her sameness to the mother, most women.
The advantage of such face to face relationship is that it pushes the male to become conscious. It is confrontational and challenging; it makes him separate himself from "the other." Isolation is the price that males pay for development of this consciousness.
A female, on the otherhand, can remain in this comfortable sense of "oneness" for many years without becoming estranged from herself, although the price she must pay is that she becomes childish, immature as far as her conscious development is concerned. She feels herself still to be a part of the "whole."
Stage Two: Self-Conservation or Motherhood
Once a female becomes the mother of her own children and enters into the second stage of her psychological development, the archetype shifts to that of Demeter and Kore -- the mother and the daughter. The woman, as mother, is still apt to remain in "women's groups," segregated and to some exten alienated from men and the masculine who cannot be allowed to enter into this circle.
The woman may even relate to men only as the father of her children, because maleness and masculinity pose a threat at this stage of development. At this stage, the masculine can be experienced "only in its diminished form." It is Demeter, the Great Mother, who still rules and the little girl, who was once the daughter, is now learning to integrate the role that she is destined to play, as mother, so that the continuation of the species can be assured.
While for society, this is a positive, even a crucial, role, for the female who is participating now as the mother, this means another delay in her conscious development. The atmosphere of security, of warm, nourishing certainty must be maintained in order for the new life to flourish. In the early months, this means that the masculine must be kept at bay.
The masculine, not the father of the child, must be restricted. The father can participate as many young men are learning to their own benefit, but only in his role as "the nurturing one." Not yet, as "the father."
Stage Three: Self-Surrender
Now enters the archetype of the Great Father -- the Patriarchy. The masculine role now becomes paramount in the development of a female into a woman. It is interesting that it is in this stage and not in stage two, in her role as a mother, that women must confront the overwhelming power of the masculine. Here the archetypes range from Dionysus to Hades, because this energy is perceived as an invasion by the female's ego.
Whenever a new archetype enters into our psyche, our ego's first reaction is one of being overwhelmed, thus afraid, and this is most often a woman's first response to this archetype. It "sweeps her away, seizes, and pierces her, and transports her beyond herself," in the words of Neumann. And it is because of this feeling of being overpowered, of being "too small" to deal with this powerful archetype, that the female learns to surrender, to accept.
For the woman who wants to become conscious, and not remain forever childish, the entrance into her psyche of this Masculine Archetype is of vital importance, but it is not without its negative aspects. Our society, in fact, encourages females to develop the masculine parts of their psyche, because without this male energy "cultural achievement is not possible" for a female. To take her place as a contributing member of society and play her role not just as a mother, the energy of the masculine must be integrated into a woman's psyche.
The danger to the individual woman is that, feeling unable to encounter this powerful force, she will settle for playing a subservient role. She may play "muse" to a more talented man. She may forfeit her own individual life and choose to "serve" a human man or the patriarchal society's view of who she should be. Instead of developing her own ideas, she may " parrot" those of the patriarchal society in order to be allowed to play some role, even a lesser one than she is capable of. Because in our society patriarchal values are the dominant values, both men and women must adhere to them to a certain extent in order to be allowed to "play" at all.
If a woman gets stuck in this male archetype, she may even develop an Oedipus Complex and become her "father's daughter," held as a captive, as it were, and not go on to the next stage of her development.
Stage Four: Individuation and Discovery of the Feminine Self
These last stages in woman's psychological development cannot be entered into without having successfully integrated the Great Father archetype in Stage Three. A woman must both surrender to and thus transcent the patriarchy successfully before she can become "an individual" and thus a true carrier of the Feminine. The archetypes of this stage are elaborately described in the myth of "Amor and Psyche," dealt with in another of Neumann's books by the same name.
At this stage, the woman must give up not only her image of "the ideal masculine," but she must also form her own value system which in many cases will be in direct conflict with the values of the patriarchal society. She must find her own unique and individual essence and in so doing, she can engage in true relationship, as a whole person, with a man who has done enough work to integrate his feminine energy. Thus according to Jung there are really four psyches involved in every relationship: the woman, her animus (her masculine side), the man, and his anima (his feminine side). And more often than not, it gets really confusing as to "who" is dealing with "whom."
It is only then that the real work of individuation can begin in earnest, for in Neumann's words: "One experiences what is one's own in and through the other."
If all goes well, the "woman's center of gravity in the second half of life shifts from the external world to the world within," because encountering her own inner masculine transports her to a higher plane, and the birth of her own creative ability.
Reference and Disclaimer
The information in this article comes from an essay by Erich Neumann called "The Psychological Stages of Woman's Development," in a book entitled THE FEAR OF THE FEMININE AND OTHER ESSAYS ON FEMININE PSYCHOLOGY, published by Princeton University Press in the UK and sponsored by the Bollingen Foundation, in 1994.
I have tried to use language that is accessible to people who have no knowledge of or even interest in the psychology of Carl Jung because I believe that the understanding of some of these concepts will go a long way toward relieving us of some of the neurotic ideas about marriage and relationship that are still very much a part of our culture.
Statue of one of the Greek heroes, sits in the Piazza de la Signoria in Florence
Source: Photo by sandrabusby
(Note: The photos are intended only to create a mood that reflects soul work.)
AWAKENING THE HEROES WITHIN by Carol S. Pearson is the sequel to her best-selling THE HERO WITHIN. Her first book contained a description of only six archetypes, while this one enlarges that count to twelve. Published in 1991, this book has become the standard for identifying and working with one's archetypes.
The book is divided into five parts:
Part I is called "The Dance of Ego, Self, and Soul"
Part II "Preparation for the Journey" deals with: The Innocent, The Orphan, The Warrior, and The Caregiver
Part III "The Journey--Becoming Real" deals with: The Seeker, The Destroyer, The Lover, and The Creator
Part IV "The Return--Becoming Free" deals with: The Ruler, The Magician, The Sage, and The Fool
Part V "Honoring Diversity--Transforming Your World" discusses how we can apply all this to our culture
According to this view, each person's life is a specific example of the symbolic journey -- Life. For this journey we need a road map that lays out the plan for our existence. The journey is, thus, divided into three portions: The Preparation, The Journey Itself, and The Return (when we bring what we have learned back and share it with our own individual cultures).
Part I: "The Dance of Ego, Self, and Soul"
Dr. Pearson uses Part I to set the stage for those whose background is not Jungian. She calls herself a Transpersonal Psychologist and explains how this particular brand of psychology is the only one that gives the Ego its rightful place in the trinity of Ego-Self-Soul.
Truly, the Ego has taken quite a beating in today's world as Eastern philosophies, most of which denigrate the Ego, have been brought into the West. It is the view of the East that the Ego is the cause of most of our modern woes and that it must be gotten rid of and replaced by the Self. However, Carol Pearson's view and that of the Transpersonal Psychologist is that the Ego needs first to be strengthened and then to be taught to take its place in the trio that rules our lives.
After all, the author reminds us, "it is the union of Ego and Soul that makes possible the birth of the Self." The rest of the book is devoted to showing how, through the twelve archetypes, "we first develop the Ego, then encounter the Soul, and finally give birth to a unique sense of Self."
A dream image is like a message from our soul
Source: Photo by sandrabusby
Part II: Preparation for the Journey
Before we embark on the journey to find the Self, we must first be certain that the first four archetypes -- The Innocent, The Orphan, The Warrior, and the Caregiver -- are firmly in place and fully functioning. Otherwise, we cannot hope to be successful and complete the journey to the Self.
You will notice that the archetypes are presented in pairs of polar opposites. We encounter difficulties in our lives when we react from one of these poles, rather than from the balance.
The Innocent is "the part of us that trusts life, ourselves, and other people." Without this basic trust in ourselves and in life we will not be able to learn from our experiences or from other people. The Innocent's goal is to remain safe; and the Innocent's fear is of abandonment. The shadow aspect of the Innocent comes in the form of denial and blaming.
We experience disillusionment, abandonment, and betrayal by others and ourselves many times during our lives. If we are fortunate, each experience leads us back to innocence not only at a new level, but in a way that allows us to bless more of our world with a kind of innocence that is a product not of denial, but of wisdom.
The Orphan has the same experiences as the Innocent, but reacts in the opposite way. When abandoned, the orphan becomes the exploiter -- do it to them before they can do it to you. Where the Innocent is often too trusting, the Orphan is cynical. Unfortunately, the task of the Orphan is to eperience pain and disillisionment so fully that he will be open to receiving help. Just as the seed must be cracked open before it can sprout, the Orphan must be "cracked open" before he can heal.
The point for all of us to remember about the Orphan is that everytime we abandon the "child" within us, we are abandoning ourselves, just as we were abandoned by "the big people" in our lives. As children, we expected our parents to be our caregivers -- some of them did a good job of this and some, not so good a job. But as adults, whenever we expect someone else to "take care of us," we are abandoning our own inner child.
The Warrior is that part of us that has the courage and the strength to develop goals for ourselves, and, if necessary, to fight for them. In some sense the Warrior can be equated to the masculine energy we each have, although a woman has her own way of expressing this. Nevertheless, as women take their places in the workforce and in society in general, they must be well acquainted with their Warrior.
The Caregiver is our internal mother, that part of us that nurtures and gives sustenance to the "inner child" and ultimately to the newborn Self. Some people feel more like warriors and some more like caregivers, but ultimately, we must balance these two archtypes -- or rely on someone else either to fight for us or to take care of us.
Another soul image of orchids
Source: Photo by sandrabusby
Part III: The Journey--Becoming Real.
Once these four archetypes are in place and we know how to use them, we are ready to embark on the journey to "become real." If that doesn't happen, we must remain within the confines of the collective and depend on it to carry us along. If we aim for individuation, Jung's word for "becoming real," then we must have these at our disposal.
The Seeker is that part of us that longs for a better life, a better way. What the Seeker most fears is becoming trapped in conformity, but to avoid this he must take the risk of becoming true to himself, to a deeper truth that only he can see for himself. He can no longer depend on others to confirm him in either his words or his actions. There are several levels of seeking starting with trying new things, climbing the ladder of success, and ultimately spiritual seeking. The shadow aspect of the Seeker is pride and excessive ambition.
The Destroyer -- probably the least sought after and the most feared of the archetypes, the Destroyer, comes into our lives whenever we need to learn the lessons of humility and acceptance. If the shadow side of the Seeker becomes too prominent, Life will find a way to give us balance, and this usually comes in the form of the Destroyer. It will take our jobs, our families, our homes, our health. You name it, for until we learn the lessons, this archetype is a continual companion. And acceptance is the only way to rid ourselves of the destruction.
The Lover, the archetype for which we are all preparing ourselves, can come into our lives only after humility and acceptance have paved the way. Eros, the Greek god of love and relatedness, "is the passion that results when Soul and body are in accord." The power of love is much too strong for the Ego to handle; only after we have come this far in the journey, does Eros deign to visit us with his gifts of bliss, oneness, and unity. Again there are levels of the Lover: following what you love, bonding with another human being, and, finally, "radical self-acceptance" which gives birth to the Self.
The Creator comes into our lives only after Love allows us to give birth to our real Self. This is not a physical birth, but a Soul birth, for the Creator enables us to participate in the creation of our own lives and in the life of the universe. "However, it is our Souls, not our Egos, that create our lives." The Soul and the Ego are often at odds about the kind of lives we choose. Sometimes, the Soul chooses a difficult path for the sake of its own development, a path which is anathema to the Ego.
The soul looks out on a different world than the ego
Source: Photo by sandrabusby
Part IV: The Return -- Becoming Free
After giving birth to our real Self, it is our responsibility to return to the world and share what we have learned. The four archetypes that enable us to do that are The Ruler, The Magician, The Sage, and The Fool.
The Ruler is the archetype that encompasses both masculine and feminine energy, and symbolizes the "completion of the alchemical transformational process." We are now prepared to be the soverign of our own lives. A ruler needs both power and wisdom; he must know his limitations; and he must accept responsibility for his decisions. The shadow aspect of the Ruler shows itself in the need to exert abolute control over our lives or the lives of others, rather than trusting the process of the Soul.
The Magician is always aligned with the Self and the Cosmos, because "the power of the Magician is to transform reality by changing consciouosness." A truly awesome responsibility, and the archetype that allows the Ruler to heal himself and transform his kingdom. It is the Magician that allows us to move between worlds, to name things. It is, in fact, the ability to name things -- to reframe our experiences -- that gives us the power to transform our lives.
The Sage does not want to control or to change; he only wants to understand. And when the Sage becomes active in our own lives, we begin to get both distance and perspective. We view things from a different standpoint, and we begin to achieve what the Eastern religions refer to as nonattachment, something Westerners often don't understand and therefore do not prize. The goal of the Sage is to know the Truth.
The Fool is the archetype that allows us to experience enjoyment, pleasure, and aliveness. The fool brings us full circle and we are, in many ways, like the Innocent with which we started, because only a child or a fool could derive pleasure from Life as we know it on this planet. The Fool enables us to laugh at ourselves in our pompousness and to play the game of life with skill. The Trickster, as he is sometimes called, was symbolized in Greek mythology by Hermes, messenger to the gods and he who could cross boundaries.
Part V: Honoring Diversity--Transforming Your World
The message of Part V is that we meet these archetypes not once, but many times in our lives and that everytime we successfully negotiate the energy they represent we are bringing that energy into the world in a softer, more human way. We are, in fact, helping to create not only our own lives, but life as humans experience it. We are participating in the raising of the levels of consciousness, by interacting with these archetypes and their energies.