The Shero's Journey

An observation about this exercise: Jung’s Hero’s Journey is linear but I don’t know that a Shero’s journey is. Perhaps we might consider her journey like a spiral, a helix, a curved plane that winds around a fixed center point at continuously increasing or decreases distances from that one point.

The reason this metaphor works better is because it feels more true to experience when we grapple with the psychological journeys we take. Very rarely do we accept the call, take the journey, meet the mentor, solve the outer problem and advance to the next stage in the walk. More often than not, we accept the call, take the journey, meet multiple mentors, struggle with the problem, recast the problem in a different light, solve a part of the problem and descend to the next rung where we meet the same problem only in a different form, with different mentors, and tougher aspects. If we fail, we ascend to the previous level. Back and forth we go. The Going. The Return.


Our “shero” wishes to leave the ordinary world : a dusty, rural southern town replete with its stock characters—the Sinister Baptist Minister, the Tyranical Step-father, the Martyred Mother, the Plucky Youth.

Our “shero” searches for an answer to redress her outer problem : she wishes to explore, to escape the ordinariness of stiff-collared dresses and unimaginative tea parties. But this kind of exploration requires a different sex, something she cannot change.

Our "shero" also wishes to answer her inner problem : she is so small, such a pretty little doll, and she has no power, no way to fight back again the tyranny of the Father.

Our “shero” receives a call a message that changes everything: her father has been killed. His death triggers a series of events that culminates in a prize and she finds herself now able to leave said rural southern town to go to university. She leaves the ordinary world forever.

Our “shero” meets a a threashold gaurdian who explains the proscribed rules of the journey: a kindly old man who wears a jacket with arm patches, carries a leather satchel, smokes a pipe, just as her grandfather had.

But our “shero” also meets a series of shadow mentors , a group of well-meaning shape-shifters who lure her away from the mind, from scholarship, and tempt her by their magic incantations. They tell her she should get a job, pay into Social Security, be productive. Do not go, they say. Stay. Always stay. Meet a nice man, settle down, have a baby. It's nice here. She drinks the potion. Years pass in a kind of sleep. Is this all there is, she asks? She reads Kafka and recognizes herself in the castle. She must get out. She piddles with her "work" but the words not longer come.

She is lured deeper into the darkness of the special world. Another shapeshifter, a beautiful Lucifer, who sweetly asks her to put back on the dress. Slowly, her vision goes dim, then dark. Only occasionally does she take out her lucky charm a dusty journal wherein she wrote of her desire to live a life of the mind, to shed the dress, to lean into adventure, to use words like weapons for good.

Years turn into a decade in the special world, which is fraught with ordeals. Just as all hope seems lost, she is given another gift: an opportunity, an impetus, a force greater than inertia. Lucifer lets go of her. She is offered a job, and, sensing Lucifer's grip has relaxed, she takes it and runs. Run. Run faster. If you stop running, he will catch you.

She is catapulted to a strange land across the sea. Here, she never has to wear a dress. Indeed, in the jungle one should not wear a dress; they are impractical. Here, she finds adventure and post-colonial literature, and social action, and coconut water and the salve of a wise-woman's company. Here too there are ordeals: a terrible accident on an important entrance exam day; a violent soldier-troll; the quicksand of isolation and remoteness. But she walks into the fire anyway, lets it peel and burn off her old skin.

When it is done and she returns to the motherland, her body still smoking, she looks back and see she has wings.