When you looked at the title of this piece, you may have thought that I forgot to put the T in PTSD. At least that’s what I would have thought!
My very active inner copywriter seems to automatically go to the misspelled word or incorrect grammatical use of a word on the page! LOL! Aspects of my Human Design Gate 62 coming through…associated with individuals who possess a natural knack for careful attention to details!
But in this particular case I would have been mistaken.
My use of PSD is intentional, specifically referring to Patriarchy Stress Disorder, a term was coined by Valerie Rein, PHD, in her book by the same name.
This fascinating book clearly lays the groundwork of a topic that I have been speaking to for years (but hadn’t gotten around to writing the book about), concerning the systemic trauma that lives in the bodies, minds and lives of all women.
After nearly three decades of working in the area of healing trauma with women I’ve heard so many of the same things being expressed: feeling of being stuck, imprisoned, not knowing themselves, yearning for more intimacy in their relationships, more impact of their work in the world, more fulfillment in life, feeling more comfortable in their skin, more peace and happiness, more abundance and less stress.
Many women feel depressed, struggle with anxiety, find themselves in codependent relationships with emotionally unavailable partners or jobs that are sucking the life out of them.
They’re frustrated. They’ve worked hard doing everything our families, religion and culture told us to do to earn our happiness and fulfillment.
Be a good girl. Do well in school. Work hard on your career. Get married. Buy a house. Raise children. Own nice things. Take vacations. Volunteer your time, talent and treasure.
They’ve read self-help books, attended personal growth workshops, seminars, and retreats, tried yoga and meditation, as well as therapy and medication. All that, and they still feel like something is missing or that they just can’t find a place of true peace and happiness.
Good girl. Good daughter. Good wife. Good employee. Good mother. Good grief!
The really heartbreaking thing is that the overwhelming majority (OK, maybe ALL) of these women feel like it’s their personal problem, like they’re failing, they’re the only one who can’t seem to get it right or maybe they just don’t deserve the life they really want. Maybe there’s just something intrinsically wrong with them.
Or, perhaps sadder yet, they can’t even imagine a life different or better than the one they have, because their early life trauma has kept them trapped in a prison of limiting beliefs, unregulated nervous system and self-doubt, which hasn’t allowed them to dream big or to follow their dreams.
Enter Patriarchy Stress Disorder, a system of oppression inflicted in women for nearly 6000 years, that has impacted us on every level and forced women to fit into a very narrow definition of gender, roles and expectations that serves the needs of this system.
Women’s full authentic, expression and empowerment has been hijacked by the patriarchal culture that burned us at the stake for being healers, wisdom keepers, midwives, medicine women, oracles and lovers of the Earth.
Have no doubt that the systemic appropriation of the Earth based rituals, holy days and the peaceful rule of the matriarchal way of life, was about power, control and greed of male-dominated churches and growing political groups.
Over centuries, women who practiced medicine, connected with the higher realms and passed on oral history, were vilified, raped, tortured and burned at the stake. The holy days of the matriarchal societies were twisted into church run religious holidays where men were the leaders or heroes and women were left out or put in the position of the seductress, whore or witch.
Women were manipulated to turn against each other as a way to save their own (or their children’s lives), setting the stage for the mother wound, the sister wound and the witch wound. And over the years, women became more entrenched in the same system that oppressed, suppressed and murdered them, raising daughters to live within the rules set up by the patriarchy, out of fear and wanting to keep their daughter’s safe.
And here we are, in 2023, still impacted by this patriarchal rule.
All of the issues, symptoms and despair that women feel, no matter how much work they’ve done, can be traced back to the horrific trauma women suffered at the hands of the patriarchal system.
These ARE NOT merely individual problems of individual women. These are systemic repercussions of centuries old trauma and of the ongoing systems that keep that trauma active in every one of us.
Now that I’ve painted that not so pretty picture, I want to switch gears and touch on the topic of epigenetics, our DNA and how it relates to systemic trauma, and the hope it provides for real change.
As described by Dr. Bruce Lipton Bruce, EPI means “outside of”. In his book The Biology of Belief, epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.
Epigenetics, then, refers to changes in how a gene is expressing based on its environment, rather than what is held within the gene itself.
For those of us who need this in plain English, it shows us that are lives and our health are less determined by our inherited genetic makeup (genetic determinism) and more influenced by our “environment”. It also tells us that our genes can switch off and on, that not all of our genes are “turned on” all the time.
Take a breathe and take a moment to let that settle in. Read it again, a few times, if you need to. Because basically, it upends everything we’ve been taught and is still being practiced by traditional medicine about disease.
We are NOT the sum total of our genes, and doomed to a health outcome based on our family history.
Our environment can include our mother’s womb during pregnancy, the family system we were born into, dominant beliefs of our family, religion or culture, the things we eat, drink, breathe and hear. It even includes our own thoughts.
Studies of identical twins provide us fascinating examples of how epigenetics works. Although they share exactly the same DNA, the unique life experience of each twin will cause some genes (and not others) to express themselves. This is why, over time, identical twins come to look and behave differently.
This is highlighted in situations where twins were separated at birth and raised in very different family systems. Studies show that one twin will develop a “family” disease of diabetes or heart problems, even though they have entirely different genes than their adoptive family. The other twin, raised in a family without that health history, will not develop these “inherited” diseases.
The idea and likely spoken messages that “everyone in our family gets heart disease…or diabetes runs in the family” will impact the adopted family member, whose genes are completely different than those of the adoptive family. This is the power of belief systems that are widely believed and handed down through generations.
Fascinating, right? With this understanding epigenetics provides us not only with hope but with a pathway to take responsibility for our own health outcomes. How is that, you might be asking?
In his work, Dr. Lipton has shown that if we change our thoughts (and resulting feelings) from worry, fear or despair (or other low frequency thoughts/emotions) to thoughts of gratitude, joy, or love (or other high frequency thoughts/emotions) for as little as 17 seconds, we begin to experience change in the markers of our
genes. Wild, right? 17 seconds, people!
This has incredible implications for our ability to bring about change in our mental, physical and emotional bodies! Remember, we have about 60-70,000 thoughts per day. Imagine what could change if you became more aware of your thoughts and committed to changing the ones that aren’t serving you!
Let’s switch gears one more time to see how epigenetics relates to the theory of intergenerational trauma, and how this all may relate to PSD.
Intergenerational trauma is the theory that a trauma that is experienced by one person in a family—for example, a parent or grandparent—can be passed down to future generations because of the way that trauma epigenetically alters genes.
Studies on offspring of those who have experienced extreme physical and psychological stress, such as Holocaust survivors, Confederate prisoners of war and those who lived through the Dutch Hunger Winter, all point to changes in DNA expression that can only be explained through their ancestors’ trauma.
It follows then that epigenetic changes in the DNA of our ancestors who experienced the rape, torture, burning and terror of centuries long “witch hunts”, and the ongoing cultural and societal suppression of women’s innate beingness, are impacting entire generations of women and girls.
I do want to say that the patriarchy also denies men the right to their full expression, as well, and this isn’t a battle of men against women, ot women against men. It is, however, about the dismantling of a system of oppression that has consistently forced women into a prison of “less than” or “not enough” that they are constantly trying to overcome.
Fortunately, through the huge leaps we’ve made in neuroscience, epigenetics and trauma healing over the last 20 years, you have the information, tools and support available to heal your experience, change your thoughts and create a more authentic, spirit led life.
There’s so much more that can be said about this. But I’ve already given you a lot to ponder.
If you know or suspect that you have trauma in your personal or family history, and could use some support in healing that, please reach out through the contact page on this website.
And I’d love to hear your thoughts about what I’ve shared!