‘This book is about surviving as a spiritual orphan.’ ‘In ‘Lost in the Land of Oz’, Madonna Kolbenschlag explores the way old societal myths, which are created from the metaphors in our life, are no longer useful in today’s society. The author believes we need to embrace the ego archetype of the orphan, the most influential metaphor for the self, in order to become a whole and complete person. Madonna Kolbenschlag discusses how our society is particularly hostile towards women, resulting in an acute feeling of self-loathing, doubt, loneliness, and guilt. Today, women as the orphan feel a complete sense of powerlessness and abandonment, not only by everyone around her but also by God.
Instead of suppressing our anxiety, Kolbenschlag advises that we should deal with it and remove the hidden layers of denial. We need to befriend the orphan within us and through all of this we will grasp a new insight and develop new spiritual consciousness. I feel the book is geared more towards women reclaiming their cultural and spiritual power. Chapter Four, ‘Women-Out of the Cave, Into the Desert,’ discusses this issue, including the modern problems facing women and some solutions. Today, women struggle to rediscover and reconcile their new societal roles with their feminine identity.
In the book, Kolbenschlag uses Dorothy of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ as the feminine model that must confront the psychological challenges along her path in order to reintegrate her true feminine self. (p. 20) Women are orphaned in so many ways by our society, but through realizing certain truths can we befriend the orphan within us. Previously, Kolbenschlag felt that there were only two levels of feminine consciousness: those asleep and those who were awaking. (p.
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78) However, in today’s society distinguishing these levels have become more complex. Through her ‘liberation index,’ she identifies the five levels of feminine awareness of modern times, which are innocence, denial, escape, defection, and deviance. Many young women are in the first stage of innocence because they have been sheltered from the realities of life, coming from a ‘picture perfect’ life. Poor women are also in this stage because they believe that their reality is the only way of being for them. In the level of denial, women recognize their options, but feel that it is more beneficial for them to stay in their present state. On the other hand, some women are so overwhelmed by their present situation and feel that their only solution is to escape through drugs, alcohol, suicide, or insanity.
(p. 80) After that, there are the defectors who acknowledge their feminine consciousness, but barter it to satisfy their needs, may it be personal or professional. After understanding that the purpose of cultural structures is to keep women in an inferior position through manipulation and ill-treatment and that they can not have a close relationship without the other person trying to control them, eventually all women are driven to deviance. The changes that a woman undergoes during this time leave her feeling orphaned. (p.
81) Women experience loneliness for different reasons and it is because of these reasons that the ‘feminization of loneliness,’ is at a height, even with all the advances made by women. (p. 83) Women are given certain roles but if they do not adhere to them they chance rejection and the lost of attachments that sustain them. As stated by Kolbenschlag, women’s greatest anxiety is being deprived of these bonds and to be by themselves. However, we live in a society that encourages disconnection and individuality. (p.
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82) There is also an isolation that involves men because women cannot find a man that can satisfy and handle their modern consciousness, therefore trapped in the ‘myth-warp.’ While there are external causes of loneliness, there are also internal causes. The internal causes are a direct result of ‘trying out a new myth’ and defying the traditional belief that dependence equates femininity. (pp. 83-84) At the very core of these reasons, many learn that they were ‘under mothered.’ Many mothers ‘have absorbed the traditional myths about femininity can smother, but not mother very well.’ As a result of this, countless women cultivate an unhealthy sense of worth and emotional deficiency as children that distort their adult female and male associations. Women must learn that loneliness ‘… is about recovering those resources, that inner content with our own presence and a caring social environment that mediates our existential aloneness.’ (pp.
84-85) While there is no harm in being dependent or independent, these two states of being often pose problems for women. Women often feel self-reproach for wanting some dependency and someone to fulfill their psychological and physical requirements. But at the same time they are not cherished and encouraged, which perpetuates their need and the feeling of insignificance. (p. 85) Professional women learn to believe that in order to be successful they must ‘… think like a man’ and play by his rules.
This accepted truth leads them to believe that they are not ‘… real women.’ (p. 86) Through pregnancy or social or economic constraints, there is a realization that women have little control of what happens to them. (p.
86) This helplessness is most clearly manifested through domestic abuse. Women in these situations are trapped by love for the abuser, concern for the safety of their children and themselves, and no self-esteem. Women experience this impotence because they learn form a young age that men are powerful, while women are weak and adopted this lesson to be able to thrive in our culture. To overcome our powerlessness, we must take a journey. ‘This journey is the key tour own wholeness and liberation, and ultimately that of the world.’ (p. 87) The journey begins with the return to the cave, where the true self and the myths and beliefs that fractured it are found.
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(p. 88) The cave experience is in reference to the story, ‘The Hunter Maiden,’ preceding the chapter. The story is about a girl who steps outside the boundaries conventionally set up for women. In doing so, she faces her demons and must retreat to the cave, where she confronts her fear and seizes her power. She emerges from the experience victorious, strong, and empowered. (pp.
75-77) Only through confronting the emptiness and breaking down the defense mechanisms can power be reclaimed. ‘The cave experience begins with an encounter with the life experience in reverse.’ The anger is addressed first so that the love issues can be dealt with and, in doing this, the parental ghosts must be faced. This is important because if our parents did not satisfy our emotional needs, we enter in similarly unproductive relationships with the intention of working out the same issues. (p. 90) Through this experience, women also recognize that the need for male approval originates from needing their fathers’ approval and affection. (p.
91) In using the ‘self-in-relation’ model to view oneself, the real feminine self can be reclaimed. This model of selfhood says relationships can and will change, but do not have to be lost nor do they define your person. In this model, the mother imparts the characteristics that she finds significant and unimportant in herself to her daughter, who uses them for self-identification. In this complex relationship, the daughter tries to disassociate herself from her mother. (pp. 90-91) An important part of repossessing the authentic self is identifying with an archetype.
Kolbenschlag believes that most women identify with Aphrodite, who represents love, the lover, and the partner and less are comfortable identifying with Artemis, ‘the virgin-Amazon, earth-protectress, and rival to man.’ However, the Aphrodite model requires repair because ‘women fear rejection because of their bodies.’ Women must learn to join her sexuality with her other experiences so the true feminine self can be whole. (p. 93) ‘Sexuality must be freed from these dynamics if the erotic-with its spiritual as well as sensual elements- is to be liberated and creatively expresses.’ When this is done, the return of the authentic feminine will occur. (p. 95) According to Kolbenschlag, once the floodgates of women’s consciousness have been open, it cannot be stopped. At some all women reach a point in their lives when they must examine and reevaluate those ideals that they hold true.
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So they are all moving in the same direction, all at different speeds, but nevertheless moving. Women are in a state of ‘permanent rebellion,’ the drive to work towards goals, that we might not reach but use as a guide. (p. 97) Throughout reading this book, I feel like I have learned a great deal, but this chapter especially appealed to me living in a house with all women. Some of the things Kolbenschlag mentioned, I have never considered before and others I have witnessed in my everyday life. Women are constantly struggling to create new or redefine their feminine identity, but I know it is very difficult and see this in the women around me.
My single aunts, who are all professionals, are always talking about how it is hard to find a man that will not be intimidated by them and who will feel needed by them. This is a scary thought for women. The fact that men are having such a hard time adjusting to the modern role of women makes me wonder if we ever will. Finding the correct balance between dependency and independence is another great dilemma that I think many women go through, especially those in professional arenas and takes many of them a long time to resolve the two. Growing up in a matriarchal family, my mother has always instilled through actions the need for a woman to be independent. She raised my sister and I alone and I have seen her struggle with this dilemma, when she remarried.
As Kolbenschlag said, often dependency is equated to domination, which is not what most women want. I think that sometimes everyone wishes that they had someone that they could lean on, especially through trying times, but that doesn’t mean they want that person to take over the situation. I also do not believe that for a woman to be considered ‘independent’s he must give up her femininity and individuality. In my opinion a male-dominated society has no authority to dictate the characteristics of femininity to a woman. As a conscious, young Black man, I know that are many obstacles in the path of women, some involving race and others gender. I am a combination of many characteristics, values, and beliefs.
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While I do not think I am ready to befriend my inner orphan yet, I know one day I will be.