28th October 2017
Like many women around the world, I've been experiencing strong feelings of empathy and rage over the last two weeks. I've been closely monitoring my inner world and witnessing the many layers of my own experience getting re-evoked in the light of what feels like a long overdue voicing of stories. Why has this taken so long I kept thinking which was closely followed by the question......why has it taken me so long? In a word I feel it all comes back to shame, that insidious fearful and isolating feeling that prevents us from speaking out and getting the support we need.
I then found myself on a very long flight, thinking about the moments in my life when my boundaries were violated and my soul was shaken. I'm choosing not to write extensively about those experiences online because that's not something I feel able to do. However I am willing to state that I have been a victim of a number of incidents of harassment and abuse and I've worked and continue to work with women who have been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. I understand that in order for abuse of any kind to take place first there must be pre-conditions within the self, as Oprah has been publicly saying this week, that give permission for this to happen. In other words if I have the habit of rejecting or abandoning myself inside or there is very little self-worth then I am already in a vulnerable position and easy prey for people who are abusing power.
In therapy we look at when and how a person abandons themselves. This is valuable information to a woman who has really suffered because most of these processes are unconscious and powerful. It's a case of slowing down and looking closely at what 'abandoning oneself' looks like and feels like. In my case I experience it like a collapse in the pit of my stomach followed closely by a kind of numb feeling. These moments of collapse are the moments when my personal boundaries are non-existent, I abandon myself and give more importance to others and people are then able to take advantage. But how does this happen in the first place? This is complex and rooted in early patterns of developmental trauma and attachment and a legacy of a weak sense of self passed down through many generations of women. In most of our cases our mothers did their best with the situation they inherited from their mothers who experienced the war which was highly traumatic.
If you look even further back in history you start to get a picture of a legacy of inequality and violence against women that goes further back than the burning of witches in the 15th century. At that time women were seen as a threat due to their natural connection to nature and the spiritual realms. Apparently a guy in the Catholic church decided that the solution was to kill us all off and more than 200,000 executions took place in Europe. That may seem like a long time ago but the legacy of the wounded feminine that we all carry in our genes through trans-generational trauma is the reason that recent events are so stirring and familiar.
I was born in the 70's, long after the women's rights campaigns and I grew up with the hope that I would have a lot more freedom and opportunity and I didn't have to conform, that I could choose a different life. And indeed I have. It's true things have moved a long way and now what I'm seeing is that the millennials are questioning the entire concept of gender as a patriarchal imposition and that actually we are all androgynous. I love this thinking and I share a similar belief that at our core we are all spiritual beings beyond culture, race and gender. My younger clients give me so much hope that the world of tomorrow will be a place where women will re-claim their natural spirituality and power. And there's a way to go.
We all carry patterns of feminine wounding and the good news is that we now have the awareness and tools to heal it. If we do the inner spiritual and emotional work now we can protect future generations from having to carry this legacy. It is all about raising your own awareness to your own patterns of self-rejection and abandonment and working instead with deepening self-love, compassion and acceptance. Kindness towards the self is one of the hardest things to nurture when your heart has been broken and shrouded with shame. However with patience and a stable therapeutic relationship it's possible to reach inside the self, sit with the shame, observe the patterns and choose a new way of being. In my case once I realised this pattern of self-abandonment I learned to reach out to others for help just as I was in the throws of abandoning myself, and I broke the pattern through being in relationship instead of disconnecting from relationship and isolating myself. We can heal in different ways. One way is the way I've just described and another approach would be to strengthen the experience of the 'witnessing self' through a meditative practice such as mindfulness.
I agree that men need to realise that what was normal is no longer acceptable and I'm also blessed to know a number of men who already get that. I also feel that all of us are in this mess because we have lost touch with our true selves and we are living out of balance with the natural world and the spiritual laws. I feel that we are totally body obsessed and we need to be spirit, soul and nature obsessed! Women have an opportunity now to find their voices, speak out and make change happen and real change is an inside job. I've not experienced abuse since I was in my 20's when I realised that I could stand up for myself. I had to learn to access and safely express my anger and then something changed and I've never looked back. I always say to women now, anger is good, if you allow it and breathe through it, it is a way to finding your power. Many women need someone to walk beside them in this process and therapy is one way to do that.
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