Men and Women – Healing and Reconciliation Starts with Self Awareness
I promised Part 2 to my last post Men Are NOT the Enemy. In my last post I talked about coming out with my new passion at the Alverno Community Conference – healing the collective wounds that prevent deep connection between men and women.
I’ve found that what really helps people connect with the topic is weaving in my personal story. So, here goes. I tend to tell my story as if it’s a Netflix series – it’s drama and romantic comedy all in one.
The Biggest Synchronicity of My Life
This particular journey starts with a casual walk into Fitzgerald’s Pharmacy in Whitefish Bay and the purchase of a magazine. As I paged through the ads at the back of the magazine in the bathroom (yep, women read on the toilet too), my breath was taken away at the sight of the logo for Pacifica Graduate Institute for a M.A./PhD program in the field of depth psychology.
After saying to myself “I don’t know what that means, but I have to have it,” my life revolved around attending this expensive school in CA. That moment ended up being the turning point in my life, and the beginning of the end of my 24-year marriage.
Depth psychology is the study of the unconscious, and its main founder is C.G. Jung, the architect of what underlies Meyers-Briggs for one. My new educational journey became a healing vessel for my new mid-life crisis and a spiritual practice for developing self-awareness.
Five years later, I have evolved in so many ways, including the capacity to bring a new perspective and framework to issues, including the relations between the genders. Like I said in my last post, I believe that women will never be truly liberated without doing it in partnership with men.
Men and Women – Coming of Age in the 80’s as a Woman
I’m in my 50’s, meaning I came of age as an adult in the 80’s, a time when women were assertively getting themselves into the workplace. There was this feminist saying that you had to get into the system before you could change the system from within. So women had to dismiss and reject a part of themselves – they had to act like men – and they were rewarded when they conformed to the male-dominated way of doing things. The more they acted like men, the more they would be accepted, which led to rejecting more and more parts of themselves.
Some refer to women like me as father’s daughters, because our fathers, and sometimes our mothers, were supportive of women going off into the world to prove they were as good as men. Unfortunately, fathers ended up reinforcing the need for their daughters to reject an important part of themselves. So I went off into the world – college, studied business, worked in the male dominated field of finance – and proved that I could use my intellect, be strategic, make sales, and be efficient. I ended up setting aside a part of myself that would have been labeled as weak.
When it came to relationships, I felt I had to prove that I didn’t need anyone. I am embarrassed to admit that I scolded guys for holding the door open for me. I have to admit that today, after all those years of proving my independence all I want is to be treated like a girl.
So, when it comes to healing, this is my first wound: rejection of the feminine within me.
As I talked about in my last post, feminine is not to be tied to gender. Both genders carry feminine and masculine energy and when it is in balance we feel whole and when society is more balanced with feminine and masculine energy then the pursuit of growth and profit is balanced with values like relatedness and concern for natural resources.
Healing Starts Within
My practice of depth psychology caused me to discover all sorts of hidden unconscious motivations that were beneath the surface of my conscious thinking.
For one, I found an unconscious motivation for marrying my now ex-husband – to save me from the shame related to my prior sexual experiences with men. Love is complicated, and finding this unconscious motivation helped me make sense of much of the dynamic of our relationship. This unconscious need projected itself onto him and became his burden.
This is important, because when it was clear that our marriage was going to end, I became flooded with complexes and experiences that brought all kinds of shame back to the surface. I had to learn how to set boundaries and practice relating to men all over again. Here’s where the comedy comes it. When I went through an obsessive online dating phase, I told myself I was simply practicing, being curious about how to relate to men – great stories, and now some of those young men are my friends.
It was scary, and my biggest fear was if a guy would like me that I didn’t like – how would I kindly reject him? But I learned how to do it, and I also learned that men appreciated my honesty.
My First Coming Out
Having had no clue why I was called to study depth psychology, I assumed I might write about my other passion for education. But another unconscious motivation would make itself known when I was overtaken by the urge to write about what I called the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. I consciously thought I was interested in all the controversy about the book I had never read, but later I would come to understand that the story had a pull on me related to my exhaustion at feeling I had to always be in control and the fact that I hadn’t fully embraced my sexuality.
This is my second wound: Sexuality.
Fast forward and warning. Whatever you have repressed or denied in your life will accumulate energy in your shadow and eventually erupt like a volcano. After a brief respite from online dating, I was swept up in a connection with a younger man who is my current romantic partner. Through this relationship, I have reconnected with my feminine, my body, and my sexuality.
Something unexpected happened. After journaling about every attraction I ever had – starting with Darren in fifth grade – I found a thread weaving through my experiences with men. This thread had to do with my attempt to relate to God, the Divine, or the universe. What I have found is that reconnecting to what has been ignored – whether masculine or feminine – allows deeper connection with the Self and with others, which leads to deeper connection with the Creator.
I came to understand my third wound: Patriarchal God.
What Does All This Mean?
I haven’t figured all this out yet; it’s part of my research – this connection between women’s experience of sexuality and their relationship with the Divine – but in the meantime I have researched and reflected on the topic of relationships between men and women and evolving notions of masculine and feminine, and what this means for healing wounds that women AND men carry individually and collectively.
My path back to the feminine – men need this too – has included cultivating a capacity to be vulnerable enough to fall in love with my body, my sexuality, surrender to and receive love from another, and then experience glimpses of total union with another and with the Divine.
I think the best way to change the world is to become more self-aware – to dig into your wounds, which are personal, ancestral, and cultural, and to discover how you show up in the world and what you project onto others.
Some say LOVE is the highest power – the greatest power – getting to the place of being pure love entails identifying and healing some wounds. It’s not easy but when you get to the truth of who you are – pure love – it is liberating.
How You Can Help
I’m looking for opportunities to bring this conversation to more people. Send me a note if you have an idea or connection to a venue or group of people who could benefit by this conversation about reconciliation.