Have you ever thought about how much time you spend every day disliking yourself? Beating yourself up? Worrying about your misshapen eyes/nose/breasts/butt? Trying to control everything around you by keeping busy? Feeling disappointed in yourself and those around you? Dissatisfied? I read in this great book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder by Dr Valerie Rein, that women spend 90% of their time on repeated thoughts which basically tell them that they are not good enough. 90%?! Huh? I wanted to disbelieve it, but then I started thinking about my thoughts and, god damn, maybe 90% is too low.
Apparently it’s part of the human condition to spend most of our lives on autopilot; it’s how our brains operate, they seek out what is familiar. We have our subconscious which remembers everything and is the story making machine without our awareness. We don’t know that the reason we think we are not smart enough is because that time when we were 4 and our friends laughed at us because we drew the letter “a” backwards. Or we learned not to voice our opinions or feelings from that time when we were 5 and our dad got angry at us for crying over “nothing”. We don’t know that the reason that we wear black clothes is because of that time when we were 13 and got dressed up for the first time, and those men called out at us to show them our tits. We learned beauty is dangerous. Our conscious minds don’t always remember what happened to us, and don’t know how those stories have become traumas that our unconscious minds are protecting us from.
I look back over the course of my life and I can see it all happening. I can see how events told me a story which centred around things like “the way you spoke your mind that day caused you to get into trouble, so if you want to stay safe, don’t do that again” or “the newspaper said that women who walk alone at night are asking to be raped, so don’t do that at all” or “that strange man on the street told you that you had a fat ass, so please cover up your horrible body with baggy clothes so no one’s eyes have to be damaged”. Our unconscious mind is working to keep us safe from any more of these experiences. Dr Valerie, the author of Patriarchy Stress Disorder relates the ways in which these traumas create mistrust and keep us safe, as a type of prison, where our unconscious mind acts as prison guards which lock us in detention.
The prison guards are there when we decided “fuck it, I just want to wear this dress”. They say, “Who do you think you are?”.
They are there when you want to leave your terrible partner as they tell you, “You will never find another partner”.
They are there when you decide that you want to quit your good-enough job, “Are you crazy, you are not smart enough to work anywhere else”.
We all live in a world where the message is scarcity; we run our whole economies on the theory that there is not enough for everyone, we need to compete and take what we can get, and we take in those messages about ourselves. We don’t have enough sleep, energy, intelligence, beauty. We definitely don’t have enough money. We are not enough. This already impacts our unconscious and fills us with fear.
What makes this worse for women is the fact that we live in a patriarchy. This patriarchy tells us that we are not good enough; we can’t run countries, own businesses, be leaders of any kind really, take control of our own bodies. It has been found that we carry the trauma of our ancestors in our genes and if we consider how women have been treated since the dawn of, well, patriarchy, we can imagine how much trauma that is. Women were burned at the stake for having an opinion. Women have never been free; they have been controlled by men and told that they are worth-less. If you add colour to your skin as a woman, then your worth is much, much less.
On top of this, or course, is the scarcity system, capitalism, which seeks profits, and what better way to seek profits than by shrinking people, particularly women, even further. There is a multi billion dollar industry that gains its power from telling us that we are not good enough. Eat this, buy that, find a cure for all of that fear that has been perpetuated by the system by watching this, applying that. As if a cure for trauma is a weight loss tea.
So let’s think then. If we spend 95% of our lives on autopilot and that autopilot is created from past experiences that happened in our own lives, plus the lives of those who came before us, and the system we live in tells all of us that we are not good enough, that we must seek our value from outside of ourselves, then what the fuck is going on in our brains?
Our brains are feeding on the fear. They don’t want us to feel fear, so they protect us. How do they protect us? They make us small. Tiny. Disconnected. Full of doubt.
Safe is small.
It’s so small we could disappear.
And disappear we do.
We disappear into jobs we don’t like, relationships that are just ok. If we don’t have a relationship, we think there is something wrong with us. If we are dissatisfied by our relationships we wonder what is wrong with us. We spend our time thinking about the rewards we will get if we “put up with” life.
We worry about our weight, we feel ashamed about our bodies, we worry that we are not smart enough to do our jobs, we worry that we are doing a bad job raising our kids, we plan to lose weight for that holiday we are giving ourselves over Christmas to have a break from our lives, we spend time remembering how awful we were that day to our friend, resenting our partners for not understanding us. That’s a lot of thinking.
Lost in all of this thinking is the space of creativity. Of thinking, “Who am I? What do I desire? What do I value?”. The answers to these questions are the ones that fill us up to the brim with meaning.
What would happen if we could free up just a small portion of 90% of our thoughts which are working to shrink us? Who could we become?
If we could somehow find a magic button to blast away so many of these thought processes, that we might find at the centre of ourselves all of the answers. Everything is inside us. If we find stillness, peace, we can find out who we are without the messages of patriarchy destroying our lives.
The first step is awareness. Get to know yourself. Get to know your prison guards. Sit quietly for a moment. Come into the space. Breathe. Feel the gravity holding you. Use all of your 5 senses to be present. Look around. Smell. Touch your face. Touch your arms. What noises can you hear around you?What can you taste?
Now just wonder, “What are my heart’s desires?” and see what comes up. Don’t worry if you don’t find an answer, you may just find some of your prison guards. They might come up and tell you that you are hungry, itchy, being stupid. They might have popped up when you touched your face and felt a wrinkle of a pimple or dry skin. Sit and listen. Listen to the voices and messages with curiosity without trying to stop them. Curiosity is what will make them relax a little and take some time off so we can grow.
When you start to feel yourself growing, even a little, send a message:
“Hello Patriarchy. Hello my prison guards. I have a message for you. I am enough. I am cukup. I am coming for you, one breath at a time”.