All day long, everywhere I go, I catch myself making judgements about people and situations based on what I see and sense. I understand that all this categorising, labelling and judging is a normal function of the brain. I get that the tool of judgement is a necessary component of our defence mechanism. Who knows how many times my life was saved, or at the very least, saved from serious harm because I intuitively judged someone to be very unsafe and took evasive action. However, as a young woman, I received the message loud and clear that my role was to be friendly and tolerant of aberrant behaviour, particularly men’s, lest I offend them. How many times did I laugh or smile when being treated quite inappropriately?! All my instincts told me to discharge a well-placed knee, but instead I just pretended it didn’t bother me. Why make a fuss? It wasn’t such a big deal, was it?
We begin life with such amazing instincts that, literally, sustain life. Slowly and steadily we lose this gift because we’re taught that it’s more important to maintain social harmony at the expense of our intuition. As women, we’re constantly told we’re “overreacting”, “over-sensitive”, “too emotional”, “hysterical”, and my all-time favourite….. “hormonal”. When we override our instincts out of fear of incurring these labels, is it any wonder we go a bit crazy on occasion? It’s not that we’re simply responding to the current event. We’re really responding to myriad events that went unresolved. All the times we bottled up our feelings, didn’t speak out, or pretended not to care come to the surface like an erupting volcano. It’s understandable that, to the naked eye, it appears we’re blowing a single event way out of proportion. However, if you were to scratch the surface a bit, you’d see a Pandora’s Box of legitimate frustration. Our fuse simply came to the end.
Unfortunately, I was rarely able to effectively communicate my feelings as they arose. As a woman, I’m expected to be able to correctly identify and communicate every feeling I have every moment I have them. Well, I must have ditched that class. I actually need time and space to go through all my feelings and figure out what is stuff from the past and what is present day; what is mine and what is yours; what is real and what is imagined or a wrong assumption. This process can takes days, weeks or months, depending on whatever else is going on in my life. Add to that, the suppression of my intuition, which ultimately led to the inability to trust it anymore. Without faith in my intuitive process, I was left with the opinions of others, which come loud and often. When you’re told who you are and how you “should” feel long enough, you start to believe it. But somewhere, deep down, a little voice is telling you that everything you’re being taught about yourself is simply not true. This internal conflict incites confusion and anger, I find. Men are not exempt from this societal influence. They’re taught to be logical and rational, as opposed to emotional. These unexpressed feelings often turn to anger, which is far more socially acceptable for men to express than sadness. I don’t know which is worse, turning the anger inward (what women typically do), which leads to depression, or repressing the sadness (what men typically do), which leads to anger expressed outward. Neither system seems very effective.
Then, around middle age, the hormones shift and the real fun begins! Women become more clear and rational and men become more emotional. This is rarely handled with finesse. If women are brave enough to question the status quo, we find our voice. Should we actually use this voice, we’re invariably labeled “bitches”. If we no longer subscribe to all the lies we were taught about who we are and how we should feel, we become a major threat to societal harmony. Men have it a bit easier, I think. They tend to overcompensate for their lowered testosterone by behaving like teenage boys (need I elaborate?). But I digress…..
This isn’t meant to be a commentary on societal injustice. I just feel very strongly that both men and women need to shave off all the dogma we’ve collected along the way and get in touch with, and honour, our true selves and trust our intuition. We’re not impressionable children anymore, so why act like it? Why are we so afraid to be open and sincere? That’s what I believe menopause and andropause is partially about. Like the ebb of the tide, it give us an opportunity to see clearly what lies beneath the surface. Rather than run and hide from what we see, we need to embrace it, transform it and allow it to empower us as human beings. Why this need to be robots, indistinguishable from each other? Why do we continue to play the parts assigned to us by society when everything in us tells us it’s not who we are, how we feel or who we want to be? Why are we punishing each other for our uniqueness instead of celebrating it? We should shake things up by challenging all the labels we’ve been given and identify what is actually the truth. If we can find the courage to express ourselves from this place of authenticity, I truly believe this would lead us all to a place of lasting peace and happiness. Imagine what that would look like…..