Shining a Light… On Women’s Shadows
We’re entering challenging territory here. Territory which might provoke strong feelings. So just a reminder on how we rock at Dreaming Aloud: this is my safe space for dreaming… aloud. I share my process and ideas as they emerge in all their vulnerability and imperfection. I am not here as an expert, nor being prescriptive – just a fellow traveller, sharing my observations.
I love people to join in and dream aloud with me. In public, in the comments below, or over on Facebook. I have zero interest in confrontation. I do not take personal attacks, trolling or people looking for a punch bag. Nor will I tolerate any shit slinging in private. Be responsible with your own energy in this space please. If you have shit… use it to light a fire under your own glorious ass so you can share your own light and passion with the world.
Today I want to talk about something that we aren’t allowed to talk about.
The shadow side of women.
Having felt it in action again yesterday. In another interaction. In private. And seen another couple of women struggling with their own experiences, I want to explore it deeper.
But first we have to admit it exists.
We who want sisterhood with all women. We who want peace in the world. We who want peace within ourselves. We have to see what is… now. Not ignore it or whitewash it. Or explain it away. Or focus on how we’ll make it all better.
No. We need to really feel it. Feel its effects on us. Really observe this phenomenon. As it stands now.
We have to own it. Otherwise we’re going to keep getting knocked off course by it.
(A quick side note here: yes men have shadows too, which they act out with other men in their own way. And men and women have their own unique power plays and shadow dances. And maybe they’re all the same. But whilst male-female conflict is dealt with openly everywhere, woman-woman conflict has its own unique flavour, and polarises people into “quelle surprise another bitch fight” or “stop being negative about women” or “it’s not our fault it’s all internalised patriarchy”… I’m not interested in finger pointing… just seeing what is, and how we can change the dynamics and ride them differently in our own lives so we are not so disabled by shadows – ours and other women’s.)
- Almost 85% of women surveyed (out of over 3000) admitted having suffered serious, life-altering knocks at the hands of other women.
- 90% frequently felt “currents of meanness and negativity emanating from other females”. They reported that many of their female friendships had an “intense, sinister underbelly”, characterised by “intrafemale incivility” and insidious, “gratuitous negativity”.
- More than 75% had been hurt by the jealousy and competition of a friend.
There is a lot of darkness, anger, attacking and hurt caused. By women, on women. On Facebook and blogs. In women’s groups and at the school gates.
And it’s having a massive, detrimental impact on us all… and on our world. It shuts us down. Stops us doing our thing. Speaking our truths. Showing up.
I know because since I’ve started talking about my experiences, women have been coming out of the woodwork to share their stories with me.
This darkness is blocking our power, sisters. Keeping us small. And the world needs our power right now.
In the past the only place a woman could hold power was in her shadow. And by pumping it into others. But times are changing. And in many cultures we as women can now stand in our own power. And use it creatively. We have options.
But however much work we do on ourselves. However much we can learn to transform our own process and not contribute unconsciously to the whole. However much we learn to protect ourselves from it. We will still be dealing with shadow dynamics for a long time to come.
So let’s try to understand the shadow dynamic a little better. I am aware that this will be old hat for a lot of you…
THE RULES FOR WOMEN in our culture go something like this…
- Be nice. Be pretty.
- Shut up
- If something’s wrong, it’s your fault. So shut up, put up with it
- Look after people weaker than you
- Respect those more powerful than you
- Use your energy to silently love and nurture. Do not claim it.
- Control your passion
So then the shadow side emerges… all our repressed, rejected bits, the flipside of what we are ALLOWED to be, which leaks out every so often in moments of pain, frustration and high passion..
- Be mean. Be ugly.
- Be vocal
- Do it in private
- With words
- Get your dagger for those weaker than you- pass on your hurt from being victimised
- And attack those who threaten you because they hold more power and so threaten yours.
- Use your energy to silently attack and undermine. Do not claim it.
- Unleash yourself fully.
It’s important to see it this dispassionately. Now, here, in the calm. Because when you’re on the receiving end it’s scary.
But what you need to know is this.
When a woman’s shadow side comes after you – it’s NOT personal.
This was the mistake I have made all along. And the mistake I made this summer. And it’s the mistake most of us make. We feel like it’s just happening to us. And it’s about us.
It’s not. Not really. We’ve been the catalyst – but the power – 95% of the time – is not to do with us.
SHE makes it personal, using names, and words that she knows will cut. Because that is what has provoked her fury. But the fury, the power is hers.
Her words do not define you. They cannot.
But when we feel that strong energetic force of shadow coming our way, it’s massive – a full energy missile which activates our pain body, our previous wounds and wham, we have action.
And we engage. Or run. And it gets nasty inside and out. We hurl energy back. Or we hurl energy out at someone else. Or we hurl it ourselves. Our over activated systems need to dissipate this energy somehow.
Some people thrive off conflict. Enjoy the adrenaline rush. And others of us prefer an oxytocin rich world of connection and calm.
If you’re the later, as I am, then we need to find ways of protecting ourselves … or harnessing and transforming this high voltage energy of the shadow so that it does not fry us.
The Key is Power
What I have recognised fully since yesterday is that a woman’s shadow is where she experiences most of her power. This is where her energy is accessed at full throttle when her passion is aroused. And the degree of this passion is the amount of her power and energy that isn’t being expressed elsewhere in her life.
So if her passions are stagnated in her sex life. If her passion is not nourished in her partnering and close friendships, if her passion is thwarted in her mothering and nurturing, if her passion is not making an impact in the outer world. If she is lacking a connection to meaningful spirit or source. And most importantly if she is lacking a creative outlet… then it is ALL going to come out in her shadow. All that unexpressed energy is just waiting for her Crazy Woman side, her inner Kali to throw it about.
Women are powerful. We are generators of immense creative power and libidinous passion. We hold the crucibles of creation in our bellies. We can do incredible things with this power – our choice is whether to use it to create… or destroy. And destruction isn’t “bad” … but it needs to be done consciously.
But we have been told it is dangerous. Told not to express it. Told to channel it into others. Told to only use the pretty, nice bits – not the dark powerful bits.
We have been taught to attach to those with power, to plug our resources in and pour our power into them. To literally sacrifice our own energy sources to the powers that be. Whether that be our governments, our churches, our parents, partners, friends or children.
And so when we see someone who isn’t playing by these rules. Someone who is choosing to do other stuff with their power, stuff that we would like to do with ours – only we’d do it SO much better of course – the shadow side is unleashed. A woman standing in her own, unique power is a threat when we are not in ours. Our power pours forth, in the way we have been taught. Directly plugged into another, feeding our energy into them… but our dark energy… to destroy rather than create.
So this is why I say take that energy, that power and send it OUT into the world – but for positive creative action. Harness that energy – through your sexuality, in your relationships, in work that serves, and most importantly in your creativity.
You are POWERFUL.
Go do wonders with it.
This post is part of the Reclaiming Your Power series:
Other posts in this series: