Midwinter and Christmassy themes (part one)

‘Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated’ (Terry Tempest Williams)

‘The Christ birth story is our story. The marginalised, the dispossessed, the homeless and the refugees, are at the heart of this tale’ (From Last Christmas, curated & introduced by Greg Wise & Emma Thompson)

As the festive season is approaching I have started reading Christmas related things and have engaged with an exercise to do with past midwinter traumas and losses and distracting mishaps so as to free the present from the burden of past events and to increase awareness of cyclical patterns and repetitive stories that have lived underground for too long.  In her book When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams writes ‘we are quiet because there is a history of abuse and harm committed toward those who tell the truth. Marriages are shattered. Families are broken. Judgments are rendered. The woman stands alone. Our stories live underground.’ Oftentimes articulating and naming experiences and the stories and lies that bring us to the truths moves us towards deeper acceptance and increased presence. In the previous post I referred to our agentic capacity at any given moment. One factor that can contribute positively to agency is presence, and even if desirable options may not be visible immediately, deeper presence connects us to a more resilient aspect of ourself. Each new realization and ability to stay with increases our capacity for clarity and presence.   Read more……….. Notes

The dazzling colours of the cloth

Today’s post includes an excerpt of something I am writing. It is relevant to recent posts and yesterday’s excerpt on patriarchy. It slightly touches upon agency and circumstances, the underlying religious or political ideologies, and the socio-economic systems these support or reflect. Patriarchy is a structure that was never meant to support connectedness, egalitarian relationships or equal opportunities. It permeates many religious, political, health, educational, employment, relational and familial contexts.

(Excerpt from a longer thread)

‘…….. People are made redundant because of the way economies are set up and they receive poor health care because of the nature of the existing care system policies. Women are paid less or fired first because of inequity at the work place. Since, it is not possible to live in a vacuum, the laws of nature and societal realities impact all aspects of our life to a varying degree. Thus, the agency we exert is dependent on external and internal factors…….  Exteriority and interiority are always locked in a dance……..  In my early twenties I worked at the conveyor belt of a pharmaceutical factory putting pills in containers. After a while I was asked to move to a different department, which was separated from the big ground floor area by glass because it was toxic. A group of women worked around a long table, some of them wearing medical masks. When I initially got hired I had been asked if I wanted to work in that department because the pay was higher. I had turned down the offer bearing in mind my early asthma history. One Friday afternoon before leaving I was summoned by the supervisor, who told me I would be working in the glassed section starting on Monday. Seeing my disappointment he gave me a pat on the shoulder and said I should be glad I would be earning more money. I looked at the women through the glass panels. They seemed to be doing fine. On my first day I observed that despite the focus that counting pills into containers required, working around a table supported a constant flow of story telling…. Working at a conveyor belt was different. One was immersed in fast counting and packing. Hand movements became automated, but the counting didn’t leave room for reverie and mind wandering. There wasn’t much interaction with others. I had thought it might be okay after all. But it did not take long for breathing and allergy type symptoms to appear. I found that my scope of agency within that context was limited to two choices. I could quit or keep working and get sick.……..

This last dozen of years I have constantly faced the dilemma of questioning and breaking the silence or remaining silent. In her book, Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams writes: ‘I must question everything, even if it means losing my faith, even if it means becoming a member of a border tribe among my own people. Tolerating blind obedience in the name of patriotism or religion ultimately takes our lives.’ For me breaking the silence has brought on a lot of additional suffering, but also, the knowing that silence doesn’t always protect. Neither does it change beliefs or stop dynamics at play. One way to deepen the understanding and accelerate the waking up to the working of things is to pick up the thread of each event, injustice, loss or decision, and follow it all the way back to its origins. One is bound to observe repetition of patterns and underlying dynamics below the surface of the frozen lake. Each new realisation increases our capacity for presence. As we discern more of the threads we catch a glimpse of the breadth and the dazzling colours of the cloth.’


‘So take a new approach as to how you feel emotions. It’s not about the right emotion or the wrong emotion; it’s about honoring the way that you’re feeling. We tend to think that being sensitive is a weakness, but it really gives us an ability to be compassionate and to appreciate so many things in the world’ Jessica Ortner

An excerpt from the article: The Long Shadow of Patriarchy by Terry Real, LICSW and author

‘Let me be clear. I haven’t been for 40 years, nor will I ever be, neutral on the issue of patriarchy in my work. Traditional gender roles are a bad deal for both sexes. And they’re particularly toxic for men. The evidence couldn’t be clearer. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a statement implicating traditional masculine values as inimical to good health. Let’s take a stark, bottom-line issue: death. Men live 7 to 10 years less than women do, not because of some genetic differences, as most people imagine, but because men act like, well, men. For one, we don’t seek help as often as women do; it’s unmanly. Indeed, as I once wrote about male depression, “A man is as likely to ask for help with depression as he is to ask for directions.” And men are more noncompliant with treatment when we do get it. Also, we take many more risks. That driver without a seatbelt—odds are that’s a man. Men drink more, take drugs more, are more than three times as likely to be imprisoned, and five times as likely to commit suicide.

Traditional masculine habits not only hurt men’s physical and psychological health, but also produce the least happy marriages. Study after study has shown that egalitarian marriages—which often involve dual careers and always encompass shared housework and decision-making—unequivocally lead to higher rates of marital satisfaction for both sexes than do “traditional” marriages, based on hierarchy and a strict division of roles. Yet most therapists, even today, act as if these choices in marriage were simply a matter of personal preference, of legitimate, sometimes clashing values. Where do we stand on issues like toxic masculinity and paternalistic marriage? For the most part, we don’t stand anywhere.

Cut from the Old Cloth

Like most feminist therapists I know, I don’t want to “feminize” men any more than I want to “masculinize” women. I want choice. When the moment calls for combat, I want men to be ferocious. But when the moment calls for tenderness, I want men to be sweet, compassionate, soft. Mostly, I want men to be able to discern which moment is which and behave accordingly. I want men to hold fast to those elements that are good and right about the traditional male role—courage, loyalty, competence—but ………. have access to emotion, particularly the vulnerable emotions that connect us to one another…’

An excerpt from Dr Kim D’Eramo’s book: The Mind Body Toolkit

‘A large proportion of these neural networks are located in the area around the heart. These nerve networks around the heart respond to neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in the same way the brain does. Interestingly, the nerves in the area of the heart send large amounts information and signals to the brain that control brain activity. In fact, there is more information from the heart going to the brain to control and modulate brain function than from the brain to control the heart. The research has shown that the heart and emotional state play a far more significant role in controlling brain function and organ activity than previously thought. In fact, studies by The Center of Heart Math have found that the nerve activity around the level of the heart can be measured to have impact throughout the body and even beyond the body. This electromagnetic energy of the heart can be detected at distances of up to eight to ten feet away from the body. The cellular activity in the nerve cells around the heart creates a field of electromagnetic energy that changes depending on the emotional state of the person. This activity is considered either “concordant” or “discordant.” The “concordant” activity harmonizes organ function: evening out the heart rate, normalizing blood pressure, and instilling smooth respiratory function. The “discordant” activity causes erratic variability in the heart rate, irregularity in the breathing, and abnormal shifts in the blood pressure. The “concordant” activity is detected in the area around the heart when a person is experiencing harmonic emotions, such as love, joy, peace and appreciation. “Discordant” activity is detected from the area around the heart when a person is experiencing disharmonic emotional states like anger, fear, frustration or impatience…… Therefore, your emotional state is directly linked to the quality of physiologic activity in your body.’