For much of my professional career I’ve worked in transition. Firstly organisational contexts where there was large scale change that impacted on culture, then in the development of leaders within organisations and now as a coach. Ultimately this is all about learning and with that comes change.
Women experience many archetypal transitions as we go through our life. One of the most well known in popular culture is maiden to mother. Becoming a mother is a hugely transformational experience for most women. They birth their own inner mother, their inner creatrix is born. It is an incredibly expansive time for women as they discover a part of themselves that they never knew existed. It reaches to the core of their identity. Having a small baby to look after brings you out of a more self-serving, even self-centred behaviour that you may have exhibited previously because all of a sudden you have someone other than yourself to think about and look after.
But it is not only women who have children who can experience this. I have witnessed many women birth this aspect of themselves in the creation of passion projects. Whether it be launching a new business, a not for profit or creative work. The inner mother is often birthed in this scenario, when the way through to completion is through un-chartered territory.
I often coach women in leadership roles when they come back to a role either from parental leave or major sabbatical and they have experienced the birth of their inner mother. The expansiveness they embody, the implicit understanding that they are fundamentally different beings than before they left, is front of mind and acted out in how they navigate the world now. However, often what they experience is ‘oh you are back thank goodness, we need you back to how you were before’. Sometimes it is explicitly stated and sometimes it is implied. Either way it causes massive internal tension for almost everyone subject to it. For most people, when you have had a transformational experience, you don’t want to go back to being the old version of yourself again. Sometimes the individual puts the pressure on themselves to be the old version of themselves, to be dynamic, on top of everything and in control. Other times it comes externally, I have heard remarks over the years of ‘she’s lost it’. My response is often actually I think she might have ‘found it’.
When nurtured appropriately, the inner mother has an expanded capacity for listening, for inquiry, for connecting and caring for others, for guiding and developing others, for working collaboratively with others and co-creating solutions. I’m always puzzled as to why you would not want someone to show this aspect of themselves; these new skills and talents they have. These capacities are the backbone for healthy relating. It is often what I end up working on with individuals on as a coach.
As they continue to grow, learn and transition toward midlife, many women start to awaken to the true essence of who they are. This shows up in many different ways. Often it is an increase in confidence and a decreased concern for what others think; maybe she is more confrontational. Or she may be rebelling against patriarchal constraints, the ‘glass ceiling’, pushing back when her boundaries are infringed upon now. Challenging issues at work, like lack of wage parity or inadequate childcare. Most of this is healthy behaviour of course depending on delivery of the message. It is showing a concern for often bigger societal issues at play, bigger systemic problems to be solved. The purpose is often about nurturing of society. Many women at this stage become very purpose driven in their interests and where they channel their energy. Again this new emergent purpose driven self is often criticised or disregarded.
Ladies there are many rites of passage we go through; these are only two. There is nothing wrong with you, as humans we have the capacity to keep learning, growing and changing forever. Embrace learning, embrace your body changing, embrace the wisdom in your body, embrace your expanded view of the world. Revel in it.
If you would like to read more about female archetypes and the different passages we grow through I can recommend ‘The Women’s Wheel of Life’ by Elizabeth Davis.