The Quest to Become True to Yourself - A Feminine Journey
(This is a two-part blog. Part 1 explains the concept of the Virgin’s Promise. Two weeks later, Part 2 invites you to put your own life in the framework of the Virgin’s Promise.)
“The Virgin’s Promise provides a pathway into the feminine archetypal journey lying dormant in our collective unconscious. The quest to become true to yourself.” - Kim Hudson
There’s another path?
“Who do I know myself to be and what do I want to do in the world, separate from what everyone else wants of me?”
Have you found yourself asking this question? I have asked it of myself, more than once. And the women I coach, especially those who find themselves in a place of transition in their lives - ask this question.
So, maybe you’re a virgin.
Reading Kim Hudson’s book, The Virgin’s Promise, Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual, and Sexual Awakening, I’m learning that my desire to be true to myself (to be authentic, to be living in response to my own desires, instead of accommodating to the wishes of others) qualifies me as a virgin - on a journey she calls the Virgin’s Promise!
As someone who uses archetypal patterns (the journey, the circle, heroines) as a way to help women navigate life, my discovery of Kim’s Virgin’s Promise, a model based on the archetype of the virgin, has opened up a whole new world of understanding for me! (And I’m still learning and integrating this new knowledge.)
So, Susanna, you’re telling us you’re a virgin?
Yup. Or, perhaps more accurately, as the mother of two, I should say, I identify with the Virgin Archetype and its unique, feminine path.
What is the Virgin’s Promise? And what the heck is an archetype?
Let me explain.
Kim writes that it was a class she took on “Writing for Film and Television” that led to her development of the Virgin’s Promise archetypal path. A Jungian psychologist talked to them on the first day of the class and explained archetypes or the inborn behavior patterns that we inherit through what psychologist Carl Jung called our collective unconscious.
I love this stuff. Please bear with me if you don’t! I’ll get to the point but first, there is a bit of necessary context.
"The archetype concept - Jung writes - derives from the often-repeated observation that myths and universal literature stories contain well-defined themes which appear every time and everywhere. We often meet these themes in the fantasies, dreams, delirious ideas and illusions of persons living nowadays”.
I think of an archetype as a common pattern or theme which we find in myth and literature - and fairytales. We can relate to them, and identify with them because they live in our collective unconscious. They are familiar.
The Collective Unconscious
What’s the collective unconscious? Jung believed that this was a part of our psyche that served as a form of psychological inheritance. It contained all of the knowledge and experiences that humans share as a species. We are born with archetypes and their accompanying patterns of behavior live within us, said Jung. They are universal, common to all people, now and throughout history.
You can see why if you’re a writer or screenwriter you would introduce these archetypes into your script or novel to get reader and viewer engagement. We identify with them because they touch something deep within us. A predominant archetypal, well-known pattern and theme in literature for thousands of years, is the hero’s journey - which I’ve written so much about and have based my work upon.
But, I didn’t know there was another more feminine archetypal pattern that women, myself included, might relate to even more! One that would be more relevant to the women I was coaching. And initially, Kim didn’t either.
As an exercise, Kim and her classmates were asked to explore the beginning, middle, and end growth stages of the feminine and masculine archetypes and their light and shadow aspects. Every archetype has a light side and a dark side, Jung taught.
They brainstormed: what are the names we give our collective image of a young woman; a young man? A man in his prime? A woman in her prime? What about the elderly image of each of these? And came up with the positive and the negative or shadow names, too. The teacher asked them to brainstorm the names for each one. They called them up from their own collective unconscious. Here’s a sample of some of the descriptive names they came up with:
Then, Kim tells us, the instructor proceeded to map out the storyline for the masculine archetypes, a path, as a repeated progression of actions. It is the hero’s journey we’re familiar with, the milestones from Campbell’s work:
The hero starts in Ordinary Life until he gets a Call to go on a Journey into the unknown. If he accepts his call, he crosses the First Threshold into a new world where he’s tested; faces crises, and finally returns through the Return Threshold with gifts, the Elixir!
I use the same steps in my work with women but explain it to them from a Heroine’s perspective. Campbell always asserted that “hero” applied to men and women but that never worked for me. I had to talk about women as heroines. And I wanted to use their personal stories of accepting calls and making a transformative change (their stories are so inspiring!) instead of mythological stories which almost always featured a male hero.
I knew this archetypal storyline well.
But wait - there was much I didn’t know! I got a surprise, an unexpected gift, thanks to Kim!
What about the feminine?
After brainstorming and hearing the hero’s storyline, the instructor started to move on. Kim had to stop him to ask an important question:
“What about the whole other side of the chart?”
In other words, what’s the progression of actions for the feminine archetypal side?
Right! What about the feminine?
The answer, she writes, didn’t sit well with her - (and it didn’t sit well with me, either.) Her instructor responded:
“The feminine archetypes are considered more passive and internal. Good in novels, but movies are all about action.”
Passive and internal? Not the real-life Heroines I know!
This was a class on scriptwriting, and so it makes sense for the instructor to focus on action, but as Kim thought about it, there was, indeed, a path for the female side, a pattern of behavior that she had noticed in many non-hero movies. So she studied and read and eventually wrote her book about what she discovered.
She stayed away from the hero/heroine label and gave it the name The Virgin’s Promise. It’s a unique archetypal path and structure. (And in her words, “While an archetype may embody feminine energy, it is not necessarily female. Archetypes are applicable to both genders equally.” So male characters can also experience their own version of the Virgin’s Promise. If you’ve seen “Strictly Ballroom” you’ll recognize Scott as a male Virgin archetype, asserting his own style on the dance floor.)
Another thing I appreciate about Kim and her Virgin’s Promise is that she doesn’t reject the hero’s journey but acknowledges it as part of a larger system that also includes the Virgin’s Promise. There are two paths, two approaches that she sees as complementary.
Kim Hudson's Book
Kim Hudson wrote her book for people who write stories, but for me as a coach, it unfolds an important pattern, the journey of a woman who is searching to be true to herself. This is so relevant to a woman’s life today. I hear this theme from women all the time. It is why I felt compelled to adapt the hero’s journey into a heroine’s journey.
Kim writes in her introduction:
“The story of the Virgin or Princess has been with us as long as stories have been told. However, until now a cohesive theory as to the archetypal structure of the Virgin has not been formulated as it has for the Hero (see Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler). As a result, the Virgin is often reduced to the role she plays within the Hero story. The need for an understanding of the Virgin becomes profound when it is recognized that archetypal stories are roadmaps for life (Stevens, 1999, 38). We need to be more than brave, self-sacrificing Heroes. We also need to be Virgins who bring our inner talents and self-fulfilling joys to life. And we need stories that show us how to do that.”
This is what my empowerment workshops have been about (or what I’ve been learning as I go, since 2000!) - unlocking the Heroine/Virgin in each woman I work with for them to be more fully themselves. I am beyond excited about learning about The Virgin’s Promise path as I believe this is where women are headed - where they’re walking alone and together because they are waking up and not accepting the dormancy of their archetype any longer!
The Sleeping Beauty inside of us all - is awakening!