Like all young children, we wanted to please. Pleasing didn’t just mean praise, it meant survival. So we all adopted the practices of our parents, healthy or not, so we could live to adulthood.
No matter how the original home culture was shaped, it’s quite likely the patriarchy was alive and well inside it. The ways our fathers treated our mothers. The way our mother treated herself. The way they both spoke of family, neighbors, church, friends, politics, public figures. The way they storied God and punishment. We watched and learned more than words.
We adopted beliefs and cloned behaviors.
No one could see the patriarchal fumes inside the house encouraging little girls to be quiet, pretty, pleasing, slim, helpful and agreeable. And most especially: ladylike. The toxic fumes were invisible. Still, like the canary in the coal mine, we breathed them in, weakening our self-worth into sickness.
When we had big emotions, we felt wrong or bad. When we didn’t look like “other girls” we wanted to shrink and disappear. When we couldn’t perform or please or produce what was wanted, we knew there was something wrong with us. We needed fixing.
But then we grew up. We were free, theoretically, to create our own lives, which would include our own thoughts, ideas and beliefs. No one was standing over us any longer expecting us to conform. And yet they were.
Because we unconsciously absorbed the voices and expectations of our parents, internalizing them. Even if they were marvelous, kind, loving people, they, too, grew up within a system that profited from their conformity. Particularly the women.
Nobody told us we could shift internal authority figures, creating our own internal family with messages and influences far more conducive to developing our creative potential. There was no knock on the door declaring we were autonomous now, free to create our own unconditionally loving mother and father of the psyche who could guide us further into adulthood to become thriving, confident, self-trusting women.
But there should have been.
It’s not too late. Knock. Knock.
That gnawing self-doubt you have? That wish to look like someone else? That fear of being too big, too much, too loud? That overwhelming need to shrink when you fear you’ve said the wrong thing? That worry that you’re not enough, that it’s too late, that you’re too old, you’ll never get it right or done? That sneaking suspicion that you’re missing something important, something that would allow you to live a confident, free and juicy life with no regrets?
That call is coming from inside the house.
That’s a monster’s voice, and it’s living in your head. Any voice that wants you to comply or conform in order to fit in, or shames you for being selfish or tells you it’s honorable and responsible to deny your longing, demanding you fold your dreams away into a people-serving shaped box is a predator you adopted as family. The voice condemning you that following your desires will hurt other people? It’s inside you, and it doesn’t have to be.
That predator, spewing the same invisible toxins as was in our original home, church or school is the inner patriarchy, the force that wants to control you in order to keep you small and unthreatening. It’s moved into the psyche, as it does generation after generation, if left unquestioned.
I coached many women during the Trump years who were indignant, angry, sad, depressed, bitter and outraged. Each time I asked them to consider his tactics (belittling, bullying, blaming, name-calling) were taking place inside of them – towards themselves – the room got quiet. The ways we attack ourselves and our primary self-worth are just as monstrous, yet we live with them every day. Invisible. Toxin.
Of course it’s purposeful to speak truth to power, to stand up and march for justice, fairness and decency. But who will march for the one inside of us living with a monster? How do we take to the inner streets to clean up the injustice of bullying thoughts, blaming self-talk, name calling? Who speaks up for fairness when the internal voice demands we please everyone else before our self? Where is the decency when our dreams or hungers or passions are being shamed and belittled from within?
It’s time we enroll in The Defense Against the Dark Arts of our psyche. The patriarchal predator is killing our magic. It’s put us under a spell of deep self-mistrust. As Glennon Doyle says:
“The way power justifies controlling a group is by conditioning the masses to believe that the group cannot be trusted. So the campaign to convince us to mistrust women begins early and comes from everywhere. Childhood stories promise us that girls who dare to leave the path or explore get attacked by big bad wolves and pricked by deadly spindles, so we learn to not trust our curiosity. The beauty industry convinces us that our thighs, frizz, skin, fingernails, lips, eyelashes, leg hair, and wrinkles are repulsive and must be covered and manipulated, so we learn to not trust the bodies we live in. Diet culture promises us that controlling our appetite is the key to our worthiness, so we learn to not trust our own hunger. Politicians insist that our judgment about our bodies and futures cannot be trusted, so our own reproductive systems must be controlled by lawmakers we don’t know in places we’ve never been. And religion…the lesson of Adam and Eve—the first formative story I was told about God and a woman—was this: When a woman wants more, she defies God, betrays her partner, curses her family, and destroys the world.”
And here we are. Women. Girls. Magic makers. Birthers. Lovers. Idea formers. Life givers. Dream builders. Mavens. Marvels. Wisdom bearers. Way makers. Spirit crafters. Priestesses. Sorceresses. Shrines of She. Living Temples of the Goddess.
Breathing. Invisible. Toxin.
You ready to answer yet? I’ve come to invite you to awaken the dormant power available to you when you decide to stop betraying yourself. Your practical magic is your authentic self-worth, and it’s your first defense against the internal dark arts. It stands at the door ready to be invited in. I warn you. It’s got a wand and it’s not afraid to use it.