Reclaiming the Feminine: Celebrating Change – Part Two

Into the Heart of the Feminine: Facing the Death Mother Archetype to Reclaim Love, Strength and Vitality

Have you ever been afraid of what people are going to think about you…how they are going to respond to you? We were feeling that way…after we finished our manuscript, Into the Heart of the Feminine.

Over many years, we have been confident in our knowledge and in what we have learned through our professional and personal experiences. But in this book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, we stepped out from behind our professional images and shared our personal journeys and the professional knowledge and experiences that supported our own “becoming” process. We also carefully and discreetly shared some of the personal stories of people we have been privileged to work with over the years.

In the foreword of Into the Heart of the Feminine, we express that our purpose in this book is to travel deep into the human and psychological dimensions of “the wound to the feminine” in our lives and in our society. We share that we want to fully reveal to you the depth of this wound – how, as a function of the Death Mother archetype, it profoundly affects our lives and our culture – and that we also want to reveal the journey of personal healing that can change your life and help you find your own voice (Chapter 11) and change your fate (Chapter 12). We stated that knowledge can bring you healing and freedom.

Early on, we wondered how people were going to respond to a book with such strong content. When the initial cover of the book was designed, we wanted to be careful to reflect a sense of hope and the depth, strength, and beauty of the archetypal feminine. The feather on the cover was meant to show the beauty and delicacy of the feminine and the dewdrop we saw as a lovely image of Nature that acts like a magnifying lens to look into the depths of the archetypal feminine. Through this image of “the lens” we wanted to show you the complexity and strength of the feminine that could support your flight or journey throughout your life.

Then we began to hear from our readers and the reading groups and book clubs studying our book about the importance of emphasizing the Death Mother image as a key component of the book, and of not shying away from the strong content. So as it turns out, our fear of being personally exposed and our concern about the strong content of the book was unfounded. Our personal stories seemed to help many people breathe a big sigh of relief.

We have received this feedback from many, many women and from some men as well. We have also been surprised at the consistency of the themes in the responses we have received, and how many of them are coming from very accomplished women in business, academics, and the therapy professions, as well as from women in other jobs and circumstances.

The Death Mother within ourselves is truly a Medusa who paralyzes us and makes it very hard to look inside ourselves. If we stop and look deeply within, we are afraid we will be humiliated, and we believe somewhere down deep we are not worth all this trouble. One of the reading groups that contacted us was made up of eight women and two men. They came up with the following list of questions to add to the list of questions we ask at the end of Chapter Six, “The Reality of Medusaʼs Myth”:

1. Why is it so difficult to face yourself?

2. Why is it so difficult to be compassionate with yourself?

3. Why is it so difficult to forgive yourself?

4. Why is it so difficult to hold and comfort yourself?

The leader then wrote these responses to the questions on a white board as the members came up with them:

I am always judging myself…Iʼm not good enough…Iʼm not smart enough…Iʼm not lovable enough…Deep down, I still think I am worthless…

At the end of the next chapter, Chapter Seven, “Women Turned to Stone – Confronting Fear,” the leader asked the group to list their fears. They responded, “I am afraid of failure…of making a mistake…of doing something wrong…of being humiliated…of trying new things…of taking risks…of feeling sad and down, lonely, and scared.” Then they took their fears a step further and added, “I am afraid of being unloved, all alone – of being overwhelmed by my despair, or my rage.” Not only were we surprised at this list, we were also surprised at how many of you responded to our book by using the same words, and by thanking us for opening up this journey into knowledge in ways that brought you support, understanding, healing, and hope.

Your feedback actually moved us to want to give the book a new cover! We realized that we wanted the cover itself to speak more directly to you and our potential readers, to the heart of our wounding of the feminine, and to how you can find new knowledge, new healing, and new life.

The new cover of Into the Heart of the Feminine and its new subtitle Facing the Death Mother Archetype to Reclaim Love, Strength, and Vitality more strongly represent the mythic foundation of the book. Myths open the themes to us that are the groundwork of how we experience our lives. Myths portray the various journeys and symbols that can lead us to a fulfilling life. Originally, Medusa was a beautiful, innocent young woman. She was brutally raped by the sea god, Poseidon, a symbol of patriarchal power and repressed emotions, in the temple of Athene. Athene, the daughter of Zeus, sided with the patriarchal power structure and compounded the betrayal of Medusa by blaming her for the rape. In Atheneʼs rage, Medusaʼs beauty was turned into a beastly, threatening ugliness, and to gaze into her eyes would turn you to stone.

This part of Medusaʼs story shows us how the feminine within us has been wounded, brutalized, and betrayed. Because of this violence to and betrayal of the feminine in our lives and in our selves, it has become a dark, destructive force living in the shadow in our unconscious. We call this destructive force, The Death Mother, and it is her voice that freezes us up inside and paralyzes us emotionally. Yet, the Medusa myth shows this wound can be healed and lead to a new sense of life that recognizes our most precious and authentic interior resources.

The image of Medusa on the new cover of our book shows that though she has snakes growing from her head and a frozen, stony stare, there is still a glimpse of the beautiful woman – she is still there. She needs to open her eyes to be released from the stone, and filled again with life, color, warmth, and vitality.

This cover is a symbolic bridge between the myth and your potentials… that your own journey through the book can free. The stone wall on the cover represents the prison the Death Mother creates and which she herself is trapped within. The wall symbolizes the kind of haunting inner questions and the diminishing responses the reading group came up with. The ivy growing at the edges represents the potentials for life, growth, renewal, and vitality that lie within the following pages of the book itself.

We hope that you find this new cover as challenging and inspiring as we have. In our blog next week, we will share the response of someone who has read our book and wants to share her personal story.

Book cover art and design by Courtney Tiberio

Categories: Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris
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