“Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”
– Friederich Nietzsche
I was speaking with a client earlier this week about the set up our culture has imposed upon us. Together, we decided that it’s an act of sanity and deep bravery to turn your back to what’s expected of you in this world
Let me explain:
When we are little, we are taught to obey and do as we are told. We are taught from day one to give our authority away to something outside of us, which is the set-up in the making.
If we are born into male bodies, we are taught to be strong and stoic and to embody the masculine energy inherent in all of us (competition, linear and goal oriented behavior, hierarchal thinking). Conversely, boys are taught to then squelch the feminine principles (emotions, nurturing, intuition, receptivity, etc) that are the other half of what makes us whole.
If we are born in a female body, we are taught to embrace the feminine principles, and conversely to reject the masculine principles. Girls are taught to be nurturing and “nice”, and to emphasize pleasing others over pushing their own agenda forward in life. Girls are robbed of the right to access the energies that are inherent to them that protect them and that give way to helping them obtain autonomy.
The catch here is that while girls are asked to reject their masculine energy in favor of the feminine, the culture itself systematically praises masculine qualities over the feminine, and in many cases demeans and admonishes the feminine principles in both males and females alike. Those in male bodies are pushed into the hyper-competitive world of the masculine without access to their intuition or emotional life as a means of balancing this; while those in female bodies are asked to play the game identifying with the principles that the culture whispers are “weak” and shameful.
It’s a set up. And it’s up to us to turn our backs to the entire paradigm. The current culture in many ways is an almost cartoonish manifestation of what happens when we live out of balance, embracing one half of the whole, in this case the masculine principles and denying the feminine.
“Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” – R. D. Lang
Our country itself is literally founded on the concept of manifest destiny – the idea that we are destined to go out and conquer and dominate. The “American Dream” is the living and breathing embodiment of the masculine principles of external, linear, and goal oriented behavior.
Our culture makes heroes of those who drive, push, and “will” their way into more; it lives for competition in all things, from sports to game shows and beyond. From the cradle to the grave, the entire system is designed around hierarchal structures, such as our education system, our corporate and workplace structures, and even the majority of our religious and community organizations. As a whole, we are obsessed with gaining “more” and we consume at a rate so intense that storage structures are cropping up on corners everywhere so we have places that we can store the overflow of our “stuff”.
And let me be clear; I know this not because I sit atop a lofty perch of self righteousness watching everyone else engage in the rat race that is our culture. I know this because I live in it and of it, and am just as affected by the set up as each and every one of you.
Because of this, I know how scary it is to be a woman who has the “nice” act down perfect, but feels she is not allowed to access her anger and aggression for fear of being less than feminine. Without these inherent masculine traits, you are like a lamb to the slaughter when it comes time to set boundaries or advocate for yourself in the face of injustice.
I ache for men in my life who I have watched dive into excessive rage and harmful behaviors because they were systemically cut off from their emotional life, and they are unable to express their sorrow and fear for fear of “losing their man card”.
I sit in my office and watch the fall out of a world that asks us to work 12, 16, sometimes 18 hour days and then leave our cell phones and emails on just in case someone needs to contact us. All the while we are trying to raise families, be good citizens, pursue our interests, and find time to rest. The fall out shows up in my office as stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, anger, and disconnection.
We can not change our culture overnight, but we can acknowledge the set-up. We can begin to identify how we have internalized the imbalance in our own identify and allow ourselves to question the validity of the beliefs.
Is it really unbecoming of a woman when she is aggressive and assertive (the cultural set up of a woman being labeled a “bitch” when she is less than pleasant), or is it simply a demonstration of her ability to protect herself and demand that her needs be met?
Is it weakness when men (and women in many cases) show emotions, or is it a normal demonstration of the inherent ability we all have to access our inner-knowledge through being connected to our emotional life? Is it possible that each and every one of us was born in a body that was designed to feel fear, and to weep, and that might just be the way human bodies are designed to operate?
I believe that in order to heal our world at large, we must each start at home, with ourselves. If we are to help bring balance to our planet, we must start examining our internalized cultural narratives – and chewing up and spitting out those that are designed to keep us from our power – to keep us from being whole. Regardless of which gender you identify with, or which body you are born into, each of us comes to this planet with equal parts masculine and feminine energy (yin/yang if you prefer a different term).
Question the status quo; reclaim that which is inherently yours.