She was waking up to the fact that she had some kind of intellectual Stockholm Syndrome; she idolized men and she hated herself for being a woman, plain and simple. Counterproductive, hating oneself. She was determined to get to the bottom of this self-loathing, to rewire it into something that wasn’t so crippling. There was certainly an element of osmosis to it-she had been stewed in a vat of male perception from the very beginning. The predominant belief in her early world was that men were stronger, faster, steadier. Men ran the show because they were just better leaders, calmer and cooler under pressure, more equipped to withstand the traumas of the world. The logical flipside of these assumptions insinuated that women were the opposite of all this, that they were weaker and meeker and prone to excitable feelings that made them imbalanced and unfit to lead. She had heard it said many times over that women shouldn’t even attempt to lead, because men wouldn’t follow a woman; women were meant to run their households and men were meant to rule the world.
But there was more to it than simply soaking up the accepted truths of her generation, something murkier and deeper that drove her hate of her own body. She knew, instinctively, that there was a buried version of her childhood self that could provide some answers, but this was not a comforting thought. She has real difficulty getting in touch with that frozen little girl. First of all, the space in time in which the girl exists is challenging for her to enter as it’s full of all those feelings she’s done such a good job of not feeling for all these years. But it’s necessary, so she opens that internal door. She is flooded by a white-hot rage that is followed quickly by an ocean of sadness and a heavy sense of betrayal. There are no stories attached to these feelings, they just wash over her, leaving her momentarily immobilized and shaken.
She had fought mean as a child, she remembers. She had been feral, fighting over her head and beyond her experience, ruthless with words and body, if it came down to it. Back that child into a corner, guarantee you she would charge, not cower. There were too many times that furious child had come out in her adult self, she realizes, usually after drinking her way past any social appropriateness, leaving this unhinged creature free to stomp around and break delicate things. That child was still angry about something. She was livid, in fact. She didn’t have an off switch or a biofeedback mechanism that signaled her thinking brain to get off break and jump back in to referee, she just kept ramping up until she inevitably hit implosion and shut down into blackout. Her adult self feels this child could reduce the entire planet to a molten rock floating through the cold deadness of space, left unchecked. The kid scares her, if she’s honest. And that’s another thing, this little girl is also stone cold terrified, to the bottom of her aching bones. The internal pressure of her little body is high. She unconsciously braces her muscles and viscera in an attempt to be impenetrable. Whenever she had run as a youth, she would be wracked with full body pain and cramps as the expansion of her lungs warred against her tightly clenched steady state.
Actually, it’s this little girl who hates being a woman. She hates how vulnerable it makes her feel. She hates the softness of her adult breasts because they expose her, they give her away. No matter how hard she may attempt to make herself, she cannot escape their curvature or their sway, cannot get over the feeling that they mark her as prey.
There was something this little girl had done in response to a deep wound that prevents her from feeling that goodness exists as a part of her nature, that she herself could ever be good. Her adult self remains convinced of her own unworthiness. When she was in grade school, she had worried about spontaneous combustion, as if the fires of hell might not wait for her to die to reach them, but take her right where she stood with absolutely no warning.
So now what to do? Now that she was aware of this being hidden away in her ribcage, how could she integrate her two selves? She would have to trace all the cords from her feral self to her nervous system, cut the connections to her fight or flight centers and become aware of reactions that had become unconscious over time. She would have to be mother to herself and cradle that wrecked little girl until she felt safe enough to soften and grow into a woman who had survived whatever was back there and who didn’t hate herself for what she had become.
This whole world is traumatized, little one, she thought. We all have to disarm if we are going to make it.