I turn your face around! It is my face. That frozen rage is what I must explore- Oh secret, self-enclosed and ravaged place! This is the gift I thank Medusa for. --- May Sarton
The highest compliment I can pay Dr. Leonard is that her brilliant book Meeting the Madwoman: Empowering the Feminine Spirit, catalyzed positive change in my life. I was spurred on, upon reading this book to create a dynamic workshop, which led to a therapeutic theater project designed to inspire and encourage healing in women and girls with histories of child abuse.
The basic message Leonard imparts is that in the journey of spiritual and Self-realization the stage of `madness' precedes surrender and acceptance. Spiritual madness/ Breakdown is a potential path to truth, as it is a descent into darkness where all illusions are stripped away and an old consciousness and old belief system can be released. Essentially this state of madness involves a prolonged descent into the unknown. Intense suffering, disillusionment, and loneliness generally characterize this experience. During this intense prolonged crisis, one may feel abandoned, terrified and out of control. Initially the challenge is to turn within, and away from seeking direction from others, yet concomitantly remaining attuned to synchronicity and the principle of faith. Ultimately we are challenged to find communion from a new place of integration and perspective, in which paradox is embraced.
The plight of the the woman struggling to actualize parts of the self that have been rejected, involves a descent into madness. Leonard emphasizes that it is essential to differentiate between the divine madness that involves an inner descent/journey that can lead to integration, from that which can be referred to as destructive craziness. The inner Madwoman erupts, in an effort to confront inner and outer oppression, and subjugation. When the oppressive forces of order and control are challenged, the Madwoman emerges as an impulse towards freedom. The repression of life-giving creative energy can result in a destructive madness, when the victimization is prolonged. The courage and determination to live in one's truth, requires the strength of a Madwoman. The creative aspect of madness, can potentially manifest as extreme creative outbursts, activism, visions, etc. However, when one's suffering is denied and avoided, the Madwoman can take over in a destructive way. It is then that her energy can be experienced as negative resigned stagnation, which stultifies creative life.
Leonard introduces us to the many `faces' of the Madwoman. She helps us to to identify the madwoman within, by asking us what we are trying to break free from. What is the form of our rebellion? What are the internal and external oppressors in our life subjugating? She encourages us to examine what confines our spirit. How is energy trapped? Is there a symbiotic cord with a mad mother that needs to be cut? Do you need to reclaim you voice and vocalize rage? Are you an outcast, a visionary, an addict, a shrew/hysteric, a bitch, a feral child, a warrior, a whore, and a destroyer of self or others, a victim, a recluse/loner? We see in mythology the `Madwoman' is often depicted as a creator and destroyer. In fairy tales she is often depicted as a witch, catalyzing in the maiden great power when she faces the darkness within. We all live out our own personal myths and can relate to these archetypes on personal and transpersonal levels. It is by elevating our own stories to archetypal and mythical levels that we infuse the profane with the sacred. In so doing, we open up to transformative possibilities.
What we ultimately discover through this dark journey is the gift is of paradox. The `destroyer' is the `creator'. The mythic and the mundane are interconnected. Polarities join. The Ego meets God and fantasy is removed. For those who endure and integrate the wisdom found within the descent into madness, it is also recognized that the Madwoman within is the Holy Spirit.