The human experience in a female body comes with a particular overlay as we move out of patriarchal times. Not only do we tend to repress & deny our essence qualities simply because of cultural conditioning, as women, we also tend to experience internal sexism towards our own gender. For example, “normal” cultural conditioning might say “never questions authority, “ while patriarchal conditioning will say “male authority has more validity”. Mary Pipher, Ph.D, in her book “Reviving Ophelia” talks about how this works in early adolescence, calling it “rigorous training for the female role or “false–self training.” She says “at this time girls are expected to sacrifice the parts of t themselves that our culture considers masculine on the altar of social acceptability and to shrink their souls down to a petite size. The rules are: be attractive, be a lady, be unselfish and of service, make relationships work and be competent without complaint. She calls America a “girl-destroying place” because there is so much encouragement from all aspects of the culture to sacrifice the true self.

The result of this indoctrination into niceness and lack of authenticity is that the real self gets pushed into the realms of the shadow and will eventually be acted out or projected onto others. As Alice Miller says “it is what we cannot see that makes us sick.” Former Rhodes scholar Rachel Simmons spent three years traveling around the country talking to America’s grade school & high school girls and found that one of the results is an epidemic of “bullying “, or girls using relationship as a weapon to victimize other girls. In her book “Odd Girl Out” Simmons emphasizes that girls & women do not have equal access to feeling and expressing their anger.

She says that “girls need to be taught more honest ways of expressing anger, so they don’t have to hide behind a phony screen of niceness”.

This set of rules, injunctions, dogmas, and standards for how women should behave in a patriarchal society is called “the inner patriarch” by Sidra Stone, author of “The Shadow King.” She believes we receive these instructions from our mothers, specifically our mother’s animus, or inner male. This is an aspect of her superego, or inner critic. It’s original intention was to assist her in surviving in a “man’s world.” Every woman, regardless of her level of spiritual development, has an inner patriarch who sets limits, & boundaries for her. How well our inner patriarch assists us in standing as co-creators with Spirit and expressing our essence qualities depends entirely on how we work with it in transformational ways.

Many of the women I have worked with in 9-month priestess circles encounter a degree of uncomfortable feelings toward some of their priestess sisters. Until I fully understood this energy between women, I was ineffective in holding a strong energetic container when this aspect emerged. I have heard facilitators in other domains describe groups of women as “vicious, back-biting & undermining”. My experience is that when the inner patriarch projects his judgments outside onto other women (while he is at the same time repressing & denying a woman’s inside essence qualities), there is a split between the inner feminine & the inner masculine. Heart or love energy gets blocked and we as women then perpetuate the patriarchy on each other!

Examples of external projections that women make onto one another are: “She’s so opinionated & bossy” or “Why is she so flirtatious, she already has a man”. Examples of internal messages from the inner patriarch are: “It’s not feminine to speak up and speak out”, “be quiet & nice”, “Your job is to find a man to marry – you’d better find someone before it’s too late”. Usually these messages are below the level of consciousness. Often they are the reason women do not trust themselves or other women. In introductory priest~ess weekends I commonly hear phases like “I never liked women”, “I never wanted to be female”, “I tried to be a boy”. These painful expressions of feminine wounding predict the need for deep shadow work between women.

The womb of the priest~ess circle is a ripe container for shadow work. If compassion, safety & relatedness are set as standards in every circle, the light & the shadow can be evoked as powerful archetypes in the co-creative process. The shadow as an archetype holds our essence. In the darkness of what has been repressed and denied by our false, disowned feminine selves, so much energy is tied up in “sitting on” what we really feel, think, know & see. The willingness to “speak the unspeakable” in the safety of the circle, to own our projections and to ask for what we want frees up tremendous creative essence. Vibrant sexuality, enthusiastic joy, exuberant life force energy, a powerful voice, a passionate heart, and brilliant creativity are the results of good shadow work!

In Weekend Two of my Awakening the New Millennium Priest~ess Process, after Initiation, we set aside the day to work with shadow. We interview each other’s “inner patriarch” so that we know what our own personal set of unconscious beliefs about women really are. This begins the process of transforming the inner patriarch into a helpmate for creating a conscious reality. We also look at our projections onto our sisters and call them back. Initially, this part of the process seems terrifying. But initiatory processes are meant to stretch us! We learn by stepping into & through our fears how powerfully and loving we really are. As we bump against and break through our cultural ceilings, a whole new world, a dawn of possibility, becomes available. Versions of “ I love this work!”, & “Now I know I can do this!” are often heard. Women find they can finally come out of the closet of their own fears and speak the unspeakable with compassion for themselves and their sisters.

And the shadow becomes a friend who was only holding the “Gold of our Divine Essence”!

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