This is part 2 of my personal notes (see part one link here) which capture some of the ideas in Wise Woman’s Way by Berta Parrish for self-discovery, understanding your belief systems, and creating your own life symbolism.
Parrish explores both myths and folk tales to allow you to challenge your belief systems as well as re-define your own personal symbolism moving forward. For the psychological and spiritual passage that comes in this retirement life stage, we need to deeply understand our often-limiting perspectives and re-interpret the past to discover the unifying theme to your life and discover the symbols of your personal mythology/life story.
One of the ways Parrish explores to uncover your perspectives is to identify (and release!) some of the cultural archetypes we have been immersed in since childhood. Parrish shares a number of these cultural archetypes and challenges you to contemplate what they might signify in your personal belief systems.
- Redefine what is beautiful. Think about your attitude towards an aging body versus the youth-focused Beauty Myth! How often do we embrace (versus despair) our gray hair, wrinkles, sagging skin, aching knees, and/or slower to recover body?
- Release yourself from dependency of awaiting rescue (Cinderella Complex & Harlequin Romance ideals) to independence and confidence in own ability. Do you have a deep wish to be taken care of? Are you awaiting something external to transform your life? Do you refrain from risky behavior (being the good girl, the perfect one) or mistrust your own ability (Imposter Syndrome)?
- Release from the Disease to Please and making others happy (being nice enough, good enough, helpful enough for approval of others; accommodating others) to self-validation of your own worth.
- Release from the constant comparison (Mirror, Mirror on the Wall) creating competition and discontent with questioning, who is the fairest one of all? Everyone is unique, including you.
- Release the Superwoman Syndrome of having it all or achieving perfection and allow for “good enough”, being true to self, and gratitude for what is.
- Release the Hero Myth of conquest and control, suffering for success (trials and ordeals) and understand where you might be on The Heroine’s Journey (Maureen Murdock). Personally, I avoided being a housewife and mother, identified more with the masculine traits and aspirations. Have I relegated the feminine to my shadow side? Is my new need for being (versus doing) and search for spirituality that is emerging a return of the feminine? Am I allowing the left-brain logical (masculine) mind to release its grip on my thoughts?
A Life Review can aid in resolving past conflicts and issues, forgiving yourself for past acts or inactions, identifying limiting beliefs, increasing self-esteem, and bringing greater satisfaction and meaning to life. Contrary to others (Thomas Moore’s rites of passage life approach to understand the foundation of your identity or Julia Cameron’s memoir work to uncover possible put-aside passions) Parrish talks about a Life Review to make sense of the life lived (past) so can create the life yet to live (future). She talks about where you are in the weaving of your life tapestry! Isn’t that a glorious metaphor.
Her approach to how to do Life Review (and possibly even create an artistic life inventory collage):
- Look at your life by decade; Relook at past journals & photographs.
- List pivotal decisions, emotional states, misjudgments, adventures, losses, major accomplishments, moves, conflicts, hobbies
- Think about: How did each decade and/or significant event contribute to who I am today? What resentment am I still holding? Are there unexplored dreams? Lifelong interests? If only’s?
- Look for threads, themes. Synthesize to find patterns. What symbols emerge? What colors?
Parrish explores finding your Wise Woman Within thru guided imagery. An Inner Wise Woman can be a guide, companion and inspiration. Parrish shares insight into a number of Wise Woman Goddesses who might become your own Wise Woman Within. I was personally most intrigued with the goddess Hecate. Hecate is the Crone, the waning moon goddess, the goddess of the crossroads (forks in the road of life), the carrier of female wisdom, and the protector of travelers. Her symbolic animal is a black dog and she is associated with transitions. She looks to the past, the present, and future. She helps with new endeavors, new paths. An intriguing fit with my mantra this year: Create the Vision, Plan the Path, Live the Journey.
Through listening to your inner voices (through journaling, guided imagery, or dream analysis), define your own polarities. Some common ones are:
- Empowering versus enabling
- Fear versus trust
- Pleasing others versus self-hood
- Inner critic versus being true to self
- Caretaking versus sacrifice/martyrdom
- Feminine versus masculine traits
Some of my inner voices I’ve identified: The innocent, frightened Little Girl who desires security versus the adventurous, free (bad girl) Gypsy who wants to take some risks – a definite polarity! I also have within me the knowledgeable analytical Thinker who thrives on security and routine (masculine and judgmental) and a nurturing Accommodator that wants to please others (feminine and fearful of displeasing).
Per Parrish, a deep self-knowledge enables you to make wise decisions based on conscious reflection instead of reflexive unconscious beliefs and conditioned habits. You are enabled to discern what is important and to trust your own intuition. Side benefits of this self-discovery are discovering your spiritual values, being better at expressing gratitude, and hopefully laughing more.
I am still working through a number of the exercises Parrish presented in this book, including working on my Life Review and creating my tapestry, exploring the mythology around the goddess Hecate, looking at the symbolism I’ve put into my vision boards the past 5 years, and reading some of the inspirational books recommended.
I believe I am a wise-woman-in-training!
Did any of these new tools (exploring cultural archetypes, a tapestry-like life review, guided imagery to find your Inner Wise Woman, identifying your inner voices) sound intriguing to add to your self-discovery process?