PREFACE…. (UPON THE WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH UPDATING OF THIS ARTICLE: The first version of this slightly edited articel was written in 2017 on the night of Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington, and, the same night I knew my wonderul dad was dying, and in fact did die in Florida in the wee hours of the next morning. In some ways, the dynamics in our house were the opposite of what I speak about here, but the system was set up so neither gender could really win or feel completely good about themselves.
I am humbled, 6 years later, to know that even though I understand far more about these issues than ever (after working with so many women and seeing the “inside” of so many marriages), I felt less qualified than ever to edit this document in a way that would get across the level of empathy and undertanding that I have for the innocence and wounding of both men and women, and the ways the dynamics are what they are. Still, despite the hugeness of this topic and the oversimplication of what is written here, I publish is again in celebration of Women’s History Month–knowing that not ALL men fit the mold I am talking about. And yet in subtle ways, even the best of the good guys are minimizing the influences they need to so consciously counteract from centuries of patriarchy and the culture of men not being expected to carry their weight in the emotional world.
I see what happens when women finally have the support to stand in their own truth and how well most marriages go when they do–as if that was what all the conflict and acting out was meant to bring out. And I also see times where this level of standing up and my clients’ questioning the thinking that has kept them disempowered often is the beginning of the end of the marriage–because neither can do their healing work within the context of their codependent entanglement. Or the men simply were not willing or able to take advantage of these amazing tools and the women simply outgrew them–i.e. were not willing to please, placate, make excuses for really bad behavior, or live in fear and coercion any more.
SO, even though it may seem polarized, it is because I SEE EVERY DAY the women that are working SO DILIGENTLY on themselves, in the name of their marriages, their children, and their familes, this planet, and their own health and sanity… So this blog IS an invitation aimed at MEN. When I first published it, one woman who had been (and continues to be) one of my bigggest fans and longest term followers posted back that, as a mother of a son, she felt I was attacking men. And yet in her marriage, and even in the life of her son, she was intimately familiar with the programming in male culture that caused great pain for her as well as for the men in her life. Please don’t see this at attacking; please see it as a loving call to long-overdue action to re-empower women at every level. YES, I am asking men to humble themselves to the ways we truly are wired to lead and guide, with brains that shuttle easily between logic and emotion, seeing all the pieces and able to create solutions that are so sorely needed. We just need you to step down in many cases, hand over the reigns, defer to that wisdom and those solutions, and work as a team to implement them. Here is the edited version of that fateful night’s blog post:
OK, I’M GONNA SPEAK UP. I see the dynamic with the women I coach every day more clearly than ever. Even the most enlightened of husbands and fathers often do not truly know how to support–and leave free–the women in their lives in a way that does not have the man’s fears of inadequacy in the forefront. Even their best efforts to save support and protect, have often been controlling, limiting, or even intimidating. And while it is not done with malice, the effort to mask rather than deal with those fears is holding back and oppressing the women in their lives and in society.
Conversely, even the most enlightened women tend to be innately and societally programmed to to accept, to care for, bring along, wait for, bow to, to rescue from shame or fear, and to give up their highest visions and often their health in the name of nurturing men that are not working through their own issues, fears, and shame. But we simply can’t keep doing that. Men’s fears are their own and have this sense of competition, separation, and inadequacy has created centuries of patriarchy in the name of the secret they have tried so hard to cover up with laws and rules and untruths and abuse of women: That men simply are NOT the more powerful or superior gender. (Neither are women).
It is time for all to step up to the plate in a big way and knock old stuff out of the park.
When women feed into the cycle by keeping the conversation on a level of placating men’s fear of inadequacy–when we fear or cannot find ways to break cycles of pleasing or bowing to or covering up or excusing or convincing or dialoguing with that twisted reality–things do not go well for either sex.
And yet the status quo has been hard to break. Whether it is inside marriage or business or the government, women are wired to continue covering up, placating, not standing up, not planting their feet. OUT OF LOVE, BUT ALSO OUT OF FEAR, BECAUSE MUCH OPPRESSION AND VIOLENCE HAS BEEN WIELDED WHEN THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM IS EXPOSED. .
The 2016 election (and the polarities that have deepened and widened every since) was like a huge tantrum–the kind of ‘change back’ reaction cited in Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Anger. That is, when the compassionate feminine (in both men and women) started to rise up and change the old dance steps by bringing with it traditionally oppressed populations and different but equal attitudes, white male supremacists and the women who still support them–THE LEAST CHALLENGED, MOST CODDLED, AND LEAST EXPERIENTIALLY ENLIGHTENED AND OPEN-MINDED OF ALL–naturally mounted an all-out ‘change-back’ reaction. Rather than acknowledging the atrocities, losses, and crimes committed in the name of patriarchy, racisim, and sexism, they escalated their position. (t is the same dynamic that happens in abusive marriages, when the wife simply starts to approach parity, the husband has to escalate and do whatever it takes to keep the “power-over” position that is the only way he feels safe.)
This effort to control is both a conscious and unconscious, fear-driven knee-jerk reaction meant to put the dance steps back to the old familiar. In other words, our psyches are wired such that the other will do whatever it takes to maintain the status quo–the old dance–even if everyone knows it wasn’t working.
What it takes to ‘live through’ the change-back reaction is what happened today (and will need to keep happening via real grass-roots action): Women saying NO MORE. Women–and the men who are big and humble enough to support us–who can drop centuries of protective patriarchy and recognize that women have strengths they simply don’t (just as they have strengths we simply don’t).
This isn’t sexist talk–this is brain research and testosterone/ estrogen levels and a whole lot more. Of course I am leaving room for individual variation outside these stereotypes. (I can do that because I’m a woman and have worked hard to open my mind and tear down societal programming in my own mind!)
When WOMEN stand in our strengths–and stop losing a sense of our reality when our oppressors talk–when WE set the tone, and stay with it, THINGS GO WELL and life explands. Whether it’s in marriage or parenting or the business world or politics. And when we don’t–or aren’t allowed to–things go badly.
That’s because life contracts down to the level of the most limited fear-driven thought we feel we have to accommodate, help, nurture, coddle, and accept. Instead it is up to EVERYONE to empower women and men to lead with the highest, most love-driven, expansive, inclusive, logical, creative, and fearless mindset that can be accessed–and to whatever it takes to see that this NO-MATTER-WHAT Way of being in the world is not oppressed.
I have known for years that I had very little fear of my own–even kids in my school growing up saw that–but I always showed up in relationships as fearful, crying a lot, indecisive (since I couldn’t separate my wants from caretaking what others wanted), turning myself into a pretzel to please or placate the most fear- or shame-driven stake-holder in the room or in my life, until i got energy illnesses. The result? Draining my energy and distracting myself from my best gifts, lots of physical and emotional pain, food addiction, and eventually auto-immune disorders from turning on myself and stuffing down my intuition and vision since it was threatening to those closest to me. I was not the only one. This profile is EPIDEMIC in women in our society, YES. STILL.
These same codependence-spawned conditions are RAMPANT at every income level and in every race and community. Even among some of the MOST enlightened and well-educated, service-oriented men and women I have counseled, the women are often AFRAID to say what is true for them. They truly lose a sense of their own reality and trust in what they know really works for them and their family–at the hands of the man’s unwillingness to acknowledge his own limitations and do his own inner work. Instead, we work NOT to trigger that shame core, and when it is triggered (not by women but because it is there lurking always) there is a quick willingness by these men to escalate, blame others for their shortcomings, and shame back when exposed–using financial and other kinds of coercion, even threatening to leave and scaring their at-last empowered wives back into submission. I know this sounds archaic, but women in many many many marriages and workplaces know exactly what I am talking about, and are regularly censoring themselves and their powerful visions for their families, this country, and this planet..
Not wanting to expose men’s deep shame core, and afraid of retaliation, so many women just take it. I did too! We don’t even SEE it, it’s so familiar, but we know we wanted more. We dumb down our expectations based on the limits of the men in our lives and their unwillingness to do the work on their own wounds. Clueless to know how to change this dynamic, we just keep working on ourselves.
Both sexes are victims of society programming–brainwashing after centuries of patriarchy that was simply a cover-up for those inadequacies and an effort to assert control that is STILL happening. It has resulted in IMMEASURABLE minimization, marginalization, coercion, and abuse of women–that simply is out of alignment with the reality of who both sexes really are and how we could synergize. Therefore, life doesn’t work on so many levels–levels that are devastating for the health of the planet, for generations of children who grow up to be adults that are not thriving and pass along poor mental health and these same dynamics between the sexes to yet another generation. And the biggest loss of all is the love and synergy that is possible in those few true partnerships that accommodate and acknowledge the strengths and humanity of both women and men, and that should be running at the highest levels of government, instead of the gross imbalances we still have.
SO thanks, middle America, for helping us see that we CANNOT wait for you to change.
We cannot continue to subvert what we know and can do and can give.
We CAN and MUST set an entirely new tone (which asks men to step up to the plate).
We must lead in the ways our amazing expansive, visionary, inclusive brains are wired to lead.
We must stop coddling and cajoling and let power-hungry men lead in the only way their limited brains can.
When I start to help women see that they were just buying into someone else’s fear, they get better, they get awesome, they get strong and even more amazing, and marriages start to work. Businesses start to turn around. Children start to thrive. Some get big change-back reactions from their husbands, while others’ husbands are their best cheerleaders. In some ways mens’ acting out or not working through their own wounding has been a call to action for women to STOP letting that be OK–sometimes there is a sense of relief, as if men have just been waiting for us to own our own greatness. To stop rescuing, stop meeting the husbands where they live, go where we need to go and do what we need to do, expect the husbands to step up to the plate and do whatever it takes if they want to come along.
Sure, it’s easy to say “Stop pleasing and placating,” but much of my work is helping women overcome deeply engrained and well-justified fear of standing up for what we want and being as powerful as we are, even when it feels threatening to the men in our lives. We know we are not walking away from them but we are expecting them to meet US where we live, see how they have used coercion and let us carry too much of the emotional load, and humbly accommodate our terms. When they can and do, things go well. When they can’t or don’t, that is also because of the fear–which can be worked through but not if they let the women do all the work. Those women often get sick or have no choice but to leave the marriage, even though that isn’t what they wanted.
When we stand in our truth and exercise our incredible powers and gifts without needing to justify our world view to men, it is exactly what THEY needed and wanted too! Everyone is better for it. Absolutely. We must ALL hold the space for WOMEN TO ARISE, not be held down by the limited view but raise up the highest view–matter-of-factly living the fearless, condition-free, faith in the goodness that both women and men espouse.
If it is not already too late, the kind of cooperation and organization and love and skill and intelligence and synthesis women’s brains and hearts can bring, is–I believe–the only thing that will be able to sustain human life on this planet. And The Work and other forms of questioning our misguided thoughts and re-integrating the parts we left behind will be the thing that finally makes relationships safe for all and bring out the kind of love and cooperation and organization and skill and strength and intelligence and synthesis that men bring too.
The fact that these MILLIONS of women could meet in peace–supported by the men who are not afraid to subvert their egos to women’s gifts–is SO incredible. A testament to what I am talking about.
The movie GroundHog’s Day is a huge spiritual metaphor–stuff will keep happening over and over and over and get worse until we FINALLY GET the lessons life so patiently holds for us. Only then we are free to move into a new day full of hope and possibility.
MEN: Please don’t fight back any more. Please don’t say “I’m holding the space for my wife to grow,” (as a seemingly very enlightened man said to me last year), while clearly trying to legislate HOW she grows, and as she became more and more powerful and stood up to his coercion, he finally left her for another woman who would worship him and feed his narcissism. Don’t be a leader in your spiritual community and then go home and make your wife account for every iota of the money and time she spends (as another ‘enlightened’ husband of a client was demanding less than a year ago), keeping her physically ill and in a place of low self-esteem that she has finally climbed out of with the my support and the support of other women in my groups.
NO matter how well-meaning you are, chances are there are aspect of what you are doing that are COMPLETELY COERCIVE and CONTROLLING–at great cost to your wives–who also may be coercive and controlling back in any areas they can get their hands on, since that is the way the system is set up. Both these men could not see how they were oppressing, because all their fears about their own lacks and inadequacies were being projected onto their wives, making them look like the weak ones.
I say to these and all men in today’s society, no matter how well-meaning you are: Do EVERYTHING you can to simply work on your resistance to letting her lead. Do whatever it takes to REALLY LISTEN. Let her be her INCREDIBLE self. Learn from her. Don’t try to dictate what that should look like or think she needs your support and permission to as amazing as she can be. She already is–she just needs to GET HERSELF BACK.
Please. Humbly realize that because of differences in our brains and internal wiring, there are some ways you can’t even keep up. Know that you are more dependent on her and more in awe of her than you can even admit to yourself. Let that be OK, rather than protecting your territory or trying to prove something. And where she seems “less than” or not confident or empowered, look to yourself. Let it be Ok to see how you’ve set up the system that way. Work hard to acknowledge your own fears and weaknesses. Work through your own childhood wounds by doing this work on whatever in life triggers you, so she can STOP working on herself to make the marriage work, and start being a leader in the world and the family in ways you were not able to allow
Simply support and simply listen to women in every way, and let us support you–not by distracting ourselves with your fears and unwillingness to take blame or responsibility for them, but by standing back and inviting us to call the shots in our amazing way, and supporting us to implement those visions. Iceland put woman in charge and completely turned the financial crisis around before all the world did. All the children have food and good schools and health care, and great order has been restored–and they locked up the banker-offenders in a far-away prison (while we in the US slapped hands, denied what was happening (see the Big Short), and only locked up ONE major player, and he was Muslim).
It really is time to humble yourselves. Be willing to watch and serve while we show you how to put the planet in order. Trust for a change. Watch for ANY evidence of patriarchy. Work on your own fearful projections–they are just thoughts–I can help you with it so life is fun again. Take time to question your beliefs about what you need to do to keep us in line, have it done your way, face your fears. Work to turn centuries of damaging programming around–whatever you feel is being done to you is what you are doing to yourself and to others–I call it the Reliable Symmetry of Happiness.
LET US ALL–WOMEN AND MEN–USE that Symmetry Principle to wake us up to the fact that the reality we perceive is always an inside job, so that puts the ball back in our court. If it’s working well, be grateful to God and others. If it’s working poorly, look to yourself.
WOMEN:We are the ones oppressing ourselves when we buy into this shit–and we are all are just doing the best they can given what we are believing so its critical to be aware of the low expectations and fears and patriarchal mindsets we have bought into. We are the real offenders when we blindly follow and don’t question the old programming that has us in the trance that believes men are the more powerful sex.
Know you’ll be ok (women if we stand in our truth and men if you let us–or even encourage it).We really DO have differing strengths and roles to play. This is not about militant feminism at all–this is about it being ABOUT TIME.
NO ONE IS TO BLAME. WE ARE ALL DOING THE BEST WE CAN GIVEN CENTURIES OF PROGRAMMING AND HORMONES. BUT IT’S TIME. IT TAKES ALL OF US. And IT WON’T HAPPEN UNTIL WE MATTER-OF-FACTLY EXPECT IT AND ACCEPT NOTHING LESS.
We must all stop making excuses for the ways women have been treated, start seeing how women have evolved as a sex who have had to support each other and our children under often harsh conditions, which in many ways means we are psychologically prepared to go well beyond many amazing men. We have the innate capability to evolve this planet even further–once we stop waiting for permission. Women are the ones–we must set the tone for a new order.
This is about the ways we have ALL minimized the loving, powerful, hopeful realities women are designed and able to carry. We have minimized our own strengths and competence. We were told we were “all over the map,” so we have slowed down and dumbed down our abilities to shuttle between both sides our brains in ways that men simply can’t. We have made ourselves physically and emotionally ill from carrying the weight of the world–shouldering the ways men were not carrying their own emotional weight. Let us carry it lightly, and expect the men in our lives–like all the amazing men at today’s March–to carry it with us. TOGETHER. Do it for the children. Don’t let this happen to the child in all of us any more. xoxox
Spoken in LOVE,
(You go girl!),
(please share widely–IT’s TIME).