9 - Woman as Temptress - One Compromise at a Time

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

One of the most misunderstood sections of Campbell’s analysis is “Woman as Temptress”, this is due mostly to its title, but it is essential to remember that nature itself is expressed as feminine, so it is most commonly symbolized in story as female. Unlike in the preceding stage, this time the hero is confronted by the malevolent aspects of Nature, and when these forces are set against the hero to the greatest effect, they don’t assault him directly in the form of something obvious like a dragon, but insidiously work at his internal vulnerabilities, which serve to test him at much deeper and more profound level. Often times in story this is depicted as a tangible temptation like that displayed in a sexual encounter or some other form of physical gratification. Even when something crudely physical is set upon the hero, it’s in such a way as to damage the hero at a core level, by destroying a part of who he is, or what he represents in the act. Sometimes though, and much more difficult to withstand, is the temptation to quit on the journey, and to safely rationalize one’s failure in the process. Two clear examples of this stage in cinema are seen in Avatarand The Goonies.


It was in Avatar, just as Jake Sully was about to become a full-fledged member of the Omaticaya tribe that Colonel Quaritch, the base security commander that he had been reluctantly feeding tactical information to, offered to not only pull him out of the mission, but to send him home to have his spine fixed. At that point, Jake had a solid rationale to accept the colonel’s offer, since earning the chance to walk again was his entire reason for coming to Pandora in the first place. Jake, of course, chose to remain and “see it through”, which did not sit well with the colonel. In The Goonies, the group of young adventurers encountered the temptation to quit when the boyfriend of one member of the party found the troop at the bottom of the local wishing well, and offered to pull them all out. It was at that moment that Mikey convinced everyone to stay the course, and to see their adventure through to the end.

As I spoke about in blog #7, there are many trying tests that come up in our lives, but the worst thing about temptations (at least to me) is that you can’t punch your way out of the problem. Like functioning alcoholism, a truly challenging temptation is insidious; it always comes equipped with a rationale, masking itself with supposed “logic and reason”. If you can keep that in mind at all times, then you will be a lot more alert to when and where such temptations can arise in your own life, and you can deal with them effectively. However, the “Woman as Temptress” phase, as such, is much like it’s counterpart “Meeting with the Goddess”, in that WHEN it appears on our path is just as significant as WHAT it is, or HOW it could potentially distract us from our Personal Legend. For many this does, in fact, manifest as a romantic entanglement that can knock us off course, but sometimes it can appear as something even more beguiling, and more destructive than any dragon could ever hope to be.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had to suffer too many temptations from women, and what few I have were so trivial that they wouldn’t qualify as the focus of this stage in my life. No, for me the biggest temptations have come from potential business ventures and work situations. As I said in podcast episode #4, as I was climbing out of Naraka, I had a great opportunity to make money with a network marketing company called Market America. I had bought in to the organization, not in an attempt to make a quick or easy buck, but because I was certain that I could eventually work my way to a successful business. However, after a little less than a year, I bowed out of the company altogether.

To be clear: I did not leave because of a lack of support or guidance. As I said in that same podcast, I looked at the two people who brought me in as mentors, and I still do. They were there when I needed them, and because of their faithful and unimpeachable leadership, I never doubted my ability to succeed for a second. Nor was it because I didn’t have the skills I needed. It’s true that the business model involved a lot of phone time, which has always been a weakness for me, but it’s not something that I couldn’t have overcome, or compensated for with an array of other talents. And it was certainly NOT because the company itself was a “scam” as some have claimed. Year after year, Market America enjoys the highest rating among companies of its class from the Better Business Bureau. The pay structure is fair and dynamic, and the products are not only of the highest quality, the lines are diverse enough that anyone could find a niche for themselves. No, the reason I left was because it would siphon from me the time and attention that I needed to spend building my OWN brand.

Social media mogul and marketing guru, Gary Vaynerchuk said, “You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them, or Steve Jobs, or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.” For me the idea of working to build someone else’s dream instead of my own is like going back into Naraka. In fact, that’s a large part of what made that dark time of my life such a nightmare. When I look back on my days in the law firm, and I think about looking at online schools to become a paralegal, my chest actually tightens up. Now that’s not to bash such a noble profession; our entire legal system would grind to a halt if there was a paralegal strike, and at the right firm, they can make a lot of money. The issue for me is that an office environment is not the right fit for ME. Truth be told, working for someone else for the rest of my life, even doing something I enjoy, isn’t remotely satisfying, and actually terrifies me. I would rather struggle every day working for myself, than make a huge paycheck for someone ELSE.

Now, this is why I say that true temptations of this stage are beguiling, and more dangerous than any dragon: Because I had every RATIONAL reason to choose to stay in Market America and not focus on my own brand. With the company, I would own a franchise where I could choose a product specialty, set my own hours, build my own team, and have residual income flowing into my bank account for years to come. I could have a business built on the foundation of one of the most powerful network marketing brands on the planet…but it wouldn’t be ME. It would be Market America’s brand, not MINE. It would be JR Ridinger’s face, not MINE. Even if I could someday make it to the stage at one of their big events, it would be because Market America invited me, it wouldn’t be MY stage. And it’s not about fame, or notoriety, or recognition, it’s about making the decision that’s right for ME. Of course, I could have chosen to remain, and easily rationalized that choice any way that I wanted, but that’s just the point of this stage; the hero gets to justify their failure, until they look back and it’s too late to live authentically. However, there’s a temptation that’s still even more insidious.

A person that is obese (having a body-mass index of 30 or above) does not get to that grossly unhealthy point because they made one decision to blow up to dangerous levels, it was because of the many small, seemingly innocuous decisions that they made every day. It starts with the rationalization that “one small treat won’t hurt”, which continues with another, and then another, and before the fatal heart attack or stroke, there are years of missed opportunities to live a healthy, active, and fulfilling life…or at least one where walking up the stairs doesn’t require a panting sit-down. Alcoholism, particularly functional alcoholism, happens much the same way, as do all addictions. However, just as a series of small, bad decisions to give into insidious temptations can lead us away from our personal legend, a series of small, positive decisions to resist such temptations, and to pursue activities that run counter to them can lead us straight toward our chosen destiny.

To quote the illustrious Dr. Peterson, “Life is complex and we teach our students that they can just fix it. Go fix a military helicopter and see how far you get with that; you’re like a chimp with a wrench! … So how do you overcome the suffering of life? Be a better person, that’s how you do it! But that’s hard…You want to have a meaningful life? Everything you do matters – because that’s the definition of a meaningful life – but everything you do MATTERS. You’re going to have to carry that with you.” Essentially, I think that’s what this stage is designed to teach us. It’s easy to allow circumstances to keep us from our personal legend, and to rationalize our failure, but if you really want to live a fulfilling life – if you’re as obsessed with it as young Mikey was in the Goonies, or as connected to it as Jake Sully was in Avatar– then the simple truth is that you will NOT allow any excuse, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, to stray you from the path to YOUR destiny. You will begin to understand that the forces to take you off of that path are numerous, and can seemingly come from the fabric of reality itself. And yet still worse, is the fact that some of them come from within. However, if you’re truly engaged with the daily act of living, of grinding, of doing more than surviving, then you WILL see it through, and no challenge, no matter how overt or covert, will stop you.

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