I am struck over and over by how polarized We The People are right now in these United States of America. Spiritual teacher and author Michael Roads writes brilliantly about how our two-party system is inherently adversarial, causing a no-win dichotomy that trickles down into our culture, communities, and families. And this seems to be true now more than ever (at least in my life time).
For better or for worse, our 45th President is the lightening rod—love him or hate him—at the center of this tumultuous storm. Change is happening so fast, it’s hard to keep up. And it looks like this storm is going to get worse before it gets better. Adversarial posturing that asserts whom is right/wrong, good/bad, in/out, based on broad things like, race, gender and religion, can only come from fear—a fear that is often misguided, unacknowledged or disrespectful.
There are people I love on the other side of the partisan aisle—and I have very sincerely and mindfully committed to keeping the lines of communication open and friendly. I did not want to make any assumptions about what motivated them to vote the way they did. As difficult as it is to understand (we are clearly not tuned into the same news sources) there is one thing that does—and must—transcend this difficult division—and that is love. Jungian analyst, teacher and author Marian Woodman says, “Love is the true antitheses of fear. It expands where fear constricts. It embraces where fear repels.”
I understand the issues are serious and the stakes are high. People feel sincerely in the ways they do. But fighting amongst ourselves is not the answer. Neither side is ever going to be convinced by the other, especially if no one is listening. Listening is what builds bridges to understanding, compassion and peace. We consider the bigger picture and recognize that life is not so black and white, but filled with shades of gray, a mixture of good and bad, not all or nothing, not us vs. them.
What is considered feminine has been marginalized for a long time, and therefore suppressed in both men and women.
One of the most worrisome issues right now for me (and many of us) involves the welfare of women. Disproportionate representation and this new conservative agenda—based on fear—make progress very difficult. Why feminism (gender equality) is still such a dirty word and threatening idea is truly hard to understand. Gender equality asserts equal rights for both men and women, not women over men, not women instead of men.
Unfortunately, we’ve all been subjected to some level of gender socialization, where we learn from an early age what is expected of us as boys and girls. But gender roles and norms are socially constructed, loosely based on biological evolution, and inherently limiting if we only get to be half a human being. And I say unfortunately, because we all have both masculine and feminine characteristics within us, and both are necessary to create a healthy person, relationship and world.
Like everything in nature, masculine and feminine characteristics fall along a continuum, a bell-curve—with the most moderate and equal in the middle. The extremes are found at each end, and represent the smallest percentage of the population overall. The extreme gender assumptions about how men and women are socialized to behave are not the norm, not healthy, and not sustainable. What is considered feminine has been marginalized for a long time, and therefore suppressed in both men and women.
The feminine principles of collaboration, relatedness, receptivity, and inclusion—a preference for the whole over its parts—are critical to our evolution into a more peaceful and sustainable world. Masculine principles of competition, exclusion, hierarchy, and individuality—a preference for the individual over the group—not inherently wrong—have become out of balance, over bearing, and problematic. This focus on fear fuels both a dangerous, toxic masculinity and tremendous unnecessary collateral damage.
The welfare of the world depends on cooperation, checks-and-balances, and a willingness to work together. Now more than ever we need to bring the masculine and feminine into balance. How does making the rich richer (a focus on the individual) help sustain the masses (a focus on the group/whole)? Why is it so difficult to prioritize care for everyone? Shouldn’t a government “of the people by the people for the people” be more inclusive? We seem to be at a critical crossroads, and the choice is ours. Peace is not possible without the masculine and feminine in us all finding a place of acceptance, balance and respect.
As a psychotherapist I’ve found that when you ply your way through all the armor, fear and dogma, people just want to know they matter. They want to be loved, cared for, and safe. When people are scared, they get angry, even if they don’t know why they are scared, or even that they are scared at all. When we are afraid, we are defended against love. But nothing good comes out of fear and hatred. We must learn to have compassion for each other and ourselves. To echo Woodman’s words, “Love is the real power.”
Julie Freeman, MFT