Patriarchy is a collective trauma and a profound wound for women and men. With this Blog Post I would love to begin a conversation with you, the reader (women, men or non-binary) on how thousands of years of repression still have a reverberation in what we believe, in the way we think, speak and behave. Of course I am writing from a woman’s perspective, but I don’t want to either leave out men from this conversation, nor blame them from a victim perspective.
My first “encounter” with Patriarchy was of course inside my family. I grew up very close to my grandparents and I could experience it daily: when we were having dinner, my grandfather used to tap an empty glass on the table without saying a word – my grandmother knew then, that she had to fill the glass with water or wine. When my grandmother passed away, my grandfather was crying the hell out of him “I lost my massaia”: massaia is an Italian word that can be translated with housewife. He wasn’t referring to her as a partner, wife of love of this life; he lost his housewife.
I could go on sharing small episodes of Patriarchy inside and outside my family, small fragments that structure our society and let me feel several times unsafe, hypervigilant, disconnected, angry and sad. Even if that happened and still happens daily, I am in a privileged position: I am white woman living in Europe, I can raise my voice, talk and write about Patriarchism without fearing for my safety. There are still so many women that can’t even dream about what I am doing today.
What is collective trauma?
Thomas Huebl defines Collective Trauma as a series of “traumatic events that a bigger part of a population, a nation, or the world, goes through collectively”. (..)This results in individual dramatizations or difficulties: hyperactivity, which comes with a tremendous amount of stress and reactivity, and the other one is numbness and indifference. So trauma comes with the underlying sense that we are separate, at least at times”
If we don’t address the symptoms of Collective Trauma such as wars, pandemic, repression of minority and patriarchy, those scars will erupt again and again in different ways as the main emotions, feelings and memories of those traumas have not been processed and integrated.
Thomas Hübl defines himself as a modern mystic and his worldwide known for
- leading project to heal collective traumas
- his knowledge of epigenetics (“the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself”- Oxford Dictionary)
- and for the powerful The Pocket Project with the mission to restore a fragmented world – https://pocketproject.org. He began this project 15 years ago bringing together thousands of Germans and Israelis to acknowledge, face and heal the cultural shadows left by the Holocaust.
Regarding Patriarchy, how can we even think that thousands of years of repression have not left marks, wounds and echoes in the way we behave, speak and what we believe in? In terms of collective trauma, imagine that these sets of limiting beliefs are passing through generations after generations, until we don’t see them anymore, as they become embedded in our society.
In recent years great efforts have been made to remove external barriers of equality and respect for women, but it is still very fresh. In Switzerland there is a region Appenzeller, not so far away from where I live, where women gained the right to vote only in 1991. Only 30 years ago..Incredible just thinking about it now. That was not so long ago, in the civil and progressive Switzerland.
As women, we inherited (on a conscious or unconscious level) a set of limiting beliefs that shape the way we think, feel and behave. Read what Tara Mohr says regarding this:
“Inequality of men and women has also left internal effects in us. Over generations, it shaped how we think about ourselves and what we see as possible for our lives and work. It shaped our fears, fears of speaking up, of rocking the boat, of displeasing others. It caused women to develop a number of behaviours that enabled them to survive in environments where they had no legal, financial or political power – behaviours like conflict avoidance, self-censoring, people pleasing and tentative speech and action. While we have done a great amount of work collectively, especially over the past 40 years, to remove barriers to women’s empowerment, we have not taken the same close look at the internal legacy of inequality and how to change it. We have a lot of inner unlearning and relearning to do”.
Yes, society is at the end a reflection/projection of our inner world and universe. If we want to change and shape a new society, we need to roll our sleeves and do our inner work: unlearn an old program to re-built a new one. This is exactly what we do daily on the mat: undo to rebuild.
Read the Article I wrote about the Process of Undoing in Yoga: https://corpogiardino.ch/why-do-we-procrastinate-in-taking-care-of-ourselves/
Anytime that someone says Yoga should not be political or too much involved in society I laugh: Yoga is a path of self-inquiry and commitment to ourselves, to grow and to flourish. A flourished society can come only from flourished persons. When a practice as Yoga isolates us and disconnects from the rest of the world, we are only using that Practice to bypass our emotions, feelings and specific situations. We are in a state of denial and numbness.
Yoga as a form of Inner Work & Empowerment
As we saw before, if we want to see a change and transformation in our society, we need to start to work on ourselves; It all begins within us. Yoga, as a form of Self-discovery helps us to become aware of ourselves, our patterns, conditionings and memories – so that we can dismantle them to replant new flourishing seeds. Let’s see in detail why an embodied practice is essential to plant new healthy seeds and how this is connected to Patriarchy.
Trauma lives in the body and in our nervous system. Trauma can be defined as any unresolved autonomic nervous system response: when something traumatic occurs, our body immediately shifts in the SNS fight/flight or freeze response _ getting ready to fight, escape or freeze in order to protect ourselves. When the danger passes, if the trauma has been addressed, we are able to regulate our nervous system and bring Balance, activating the PSN. However, when the trauma has not been addressed, we can be stuck in the autonomic nervous system response for the rest of our lives, and pass it through generations.
If you look closely at the Ashtanga Yoga System, the purpose of practicing Asana (positions) and Pranayama (Breath Regulation) is to release old physical, emotional and mental blockages and use the energy that was blocked there in a healthy way. It also supports us in learning how to slowly regulate our nervous system and restore Balance in the body: shifting from survival mode to living and thriving mode.
Sacredness of our Body. When we begin to have a personal Yoga Practice, we learn how to respect our needs, accept our body, and put boundaries to protect the sacredness of our body. As you know, one of the main feature of a patriarchal society, is control of a woman’s body in terms of reproduction, genital mutilation, sexualization for commercial purpose, abuse, rape and so on. Our body is still unfortunately a topic in so many political and religious conversations; So when we start to work with our body, we empower ourselves: we claim back our sacredness and shift to radical self-love and acceptance.
Reconciliation with our Feminine Power. During thousands of years of repression we learned that in order to survive in our society, we had to disconnect from the wisdom of our body and its own power. We had to hide our own intuitions, insights, creativity and become basically invisible. Up to a point that we don’t trust ourselves anymore. In a male-dominated world, we structure society in a linear way (Monday to Friday, January to December) and we completely lose a connection to the cyclical way of living, the Feminine Way_ organic, cyclical and in harmony with the Masculine principle. If we deeply listen and connect to the sacredness of our body, we can experience the cyclical way of living every month with our menstruation cycle. Every month we go through the 4 phases of birth, life, dissolution and pause (follicular phase, ovulation, luteal phase and menstruation): it’s our cyclical wisdom, our orientation map. No matter if you are a woman or not, we are all cyclical beings – and all of us can learn tremendously from the wisdom and power of the creation of a woman’s body.
When we do our inner work, we then will think, behave and yes vote in a different way; creating a ripple effect in our society. Society is a reflection of our beliefs system. This are interesting and challenging times and great revolution for any group of minority: you can see from movement like #metoo, #BlackLivesMatter and the fight for the lgbtqia+’s rights. We are ready to dismantle the past to re-create a beautiful garden on earth.
The inner scars for men
Patriarchy is a profound wound for men as well. Patriarchy (as Racism for example) works in a systematic way: it can be so infiltrated in our society that we don’t see it anymore.
Imagine that you live in a house that you never left and that’s the only thing you know. Imagine the shock if you decide one day to leave, out of curiosity and will to grow, and find out that your lovely house was burning and falling apart.
This is how anything that is systematic works: you need to create distance to really see what you couldn’t when you were inside. My grandfather didn’t have any tools to leave the house and see the consequences of his behaviour. As a man who grew up in a male dominated-society, this is what he knew. But now we have tools and lots of information that can help us in growing and creating a different society.
Patriarchal Scars for men are:
- Toxic masculinity
- Fear of becoming vulnerable
- Repression of Emotions, Desires and Wishes
And so many other consequences.. (if a men is reading this Blog Post, please add a comment below sharing with us scars from a patriarchal society that I don’t see).
This is why I believe we need to begin conversations where we really need to listen to each other. The talk show conversation-like, when we have two parties that want to be right – doesn’t work and it will never work for a reconciliation on a deeper level in our society. Neither works attacking each other with anger, frustration and rage.
We need to create and facilitate healthy containers where women and men can share their feelings, unmet needs and finally empower themselves.
Only Empowered women and men can create an empowered society.
Are you with us? What will you do today to empower yourself?