For millennia, women have been oppressed. Oppression is traumatic. Trauma is genetically transmitted. I termed my discovery of this collective inherited trauma, “Patriarchy Stress Disorder” or PSD.
And that is how this body of work came to be. I’m going to illustrate how PSD is created and passed down so that you can understand along with me, how this works in your system. Because it works in very similar ways in all our systems.
In a groundbreaking study, researchers introduced the smell of cherry blossoms to mice while simultaneously zapping their feet with mild electric shocks. The mice were then bred, and their children and grandchildren, when exposed to the smell of cherry blossoms, showed a strong fear and anxiety reaction. Let that sink in. The researchers saw that these traumatic experiences had been genetically transmitted.
So what is PSD? PSD is women fearing the smell of cherry blossoms. What are the “cherry blossoms” in this context? For us, they are everything that we desire and everything that has historically been forbidden and dangerous and punishable for women: shining brightly, expressing ourselves unapologetically, being in touch with our desires and going after them, loving who we love, being wealthy, being visible, being powerful.
These are all cherry blossoms, that women have been taught to fear, through oppression, that have spanned countless generations. Women who reached for cherry blossoms were burned at the stake, drowned, and locked up in asylums. Our inheritance of this trauma came with survival instructions:
“Be seen, but not heard”
“Don’t be too smart”
“No one would want to marry you” (as my mother used to warn me)
“Don’t be too sexy or you’ll be raped”
“Don’t be too powerful or you’ll suffer and die.”
Now, of course, we don’t consciously believe these things. We don’t go around thinking “I’m gonna die!!” And thankfully, the world is a very different place than, say, in the time of the Salem Witch Trials.
However, these survival instructions are alive and well in our subconscious. Scientists discovered that our decisions are actually made in our subconscious. The conscious mind simply catches up later to rationalize them.
What that means for us, high achieving, mission driven, purpose living beings in this day and age, who identify as women, is that we still live in the patriarchy. The collective and intergenerational trauma still gets triggered, our subconscious still signals, “It’s unsafe, it’s unsafe, it’s unsafe”, reacting to protect us in two ways. By going into freeze or fight or flight. Freeze means anything and everything will stop us from moving forward. This can show up as procrastination, self-sabotage, a loud inner critic, the imposter syndrome, … fear has many faces.
But, the truth is these are protective mechanisms that originate in trauma. It’s not you holding yourself back. Or, you may be playing big in the world. What happens then, is your nervous system is in constant hyper-vigilance signaling that you are not safe. You may be having trouble sleeping and relaxing, without a glass of wine or a pill.
You may be experiencing anxiety.
You may be experiencing trouble with intimacy and fully being in your body and feeling pleasure, and feeling peace, and feeling joy, feeling happiness. You may be feeling tired instead, or maybe numb as I felt in my pre-E.R., happy, “have at all”, “successful” days.
So my sister, on this journey, I’m so glad that our paths have crossed, because I’m going to be sharing with you exactly how to recognize and heal from PSD.
There’s nothing more dangerous to the patriarchal status quo than the woman who is in touch with her desires.
This is the work. Healing the collective and intergenerational trauma that is PSD.
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