Some years ago, the Guides told me this:
There is a darkness in front of you that has to do with your father and with your relationship to men. You have given up too much. You have looked to them for guidance, support, self-worth. You have deferred too often to them. You have allowed your identity, to some degree, to be defined by them. Now it is time for that to end.
It is time for you to step into your own power.
I have been thinking about these words a lot over the past week. With all the revelations about sexual assault and harassment in the news, and with gender politics at the forefront of our national conversation in so many ways, the question of women and our relationship to power seems more relevant than ever.
In my own life, too, the issue has been coming up more and more. And it’s a little confusing. You see, I already think of myself as empowered. I am a feminist and I have been since college. I speak up. As a girl I was often called “bossy.” Now I surround myself with people who like strong women, including my awesome husband.
But on a deeper level, I know there is truth to the guidance. In subtle ways, I hold myself back, especially in domains that seem traditionally male, like money and public recognition. I sometimes stop myself just before reaching sought-after goals, or avoid speaking my truth for fear of others’ reactions. At times, I’ve convinced myself I didn’t want something because secretly I was afraid of what would happen if I got it.
In my professional life most of all, I’ve often found myself driving with the brakes on without really understanding why. Moving into a position of authority brings up an unnamed dread in me, way down deep.
What am I so afraid of?
According to the Guides, it’s my own power. And apparently I’m not alone. There are legions of us, the Guides say, who, because of lifetimes of karma, because of patriarchal history, because of childhood experiences, have learned to equate power of any kind with danger, abuse, and loss of love. And so we tend to turn away from our own innate authority, denying ourselves what is rightfully ours, and avoiding giving our gifts fully to the world.
It’s time, the Guides tell us, for that to change.
We Must Stop Protecting Others
The Guides say:
It is time for you—and many women—to live in the truth of who you are, and to stop imagining that you must protect others from that truth. This is something you have known for a long time but have not been able to bring out into the light. It feels—has felt—too dangerous.
This guidance came long before the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the resultant #MeToo campaign, but I can’t help linking the two. (For the record, I was one of the lucky ones, but yes, I too was groped, flashed, masturbated at and followed in a threatening way by teen boys and grown men, not to mention bent over and spanked in a middle school hallway by my male 7th grade teacher in an apparent “joke” that for years filled me with secret shame.) Living in a female body can feel dangerous, and speaking out about what happens to us is dangerous, too. We’ve been maligned, silenced, and vilified by those who sought protection from their own ugly behavior toward us. Hopefully that pattern is now beginning to change.
But what about all the other, less overt ways we hide our own power, or defer to men?
Who are we protecting from the truth of who we are? And why? Why does showing who we really are—in all our power and glory—feel so damn dangerous?
My family growing up was pretty traditional. My father had most of the apparent authority. He wasn’t abusive, but you didn’t dare argue with him. He actually used to say, “My way or the highway.” He also had a fragile ego, which he covered up with a polished, competent, genial exterior. Like a benevolent dictator, he was charismatic and generous until you crossed him. (He was a thousand times the man than Trump is, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t see any similarity between the two—and although I cringe to admit it, I was sort of the Ivanka to his Donald, the pleasing, favored daughter whom he secretly thought was hot.)
I didn’t see any of this then, not consciously. I just adored my dad and didn’t want to lose his love, which always seemed tenuous, so I tried to shore him up by being the daughter I thought he wanted. Even as an adult, I tended to play small around him, agreeing with him more than I really did, helping him feel good about himself. Whenever I challenged his notion of who I was or what was true, if I seemed too honest, too weird, too ornery, or too opinionated, I could feel the emotional danger between us rising. Once, when I decried the GOP’s increasingly hostile treatment of women, he almost hung up on me. Our relationship was never quite the same after that.
This is the story of my own family, but it’s also the story of the patriarchy. Of men not wanting to be questioned, and women going along to get along, or being forced underground, or getting cast out.
The World Is Splitting Open
Poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”
The world appears to be splitting open, and it’s messy and thrilling and volatile. Just look at the huge Women’s March, at feminists getting rape threats on Twitter, at Malala getting shot and rising again, at Hilary Clinton and “Lock her up!”
We’re tapping into something very old and deep here, people: buried power and threat and deep-seated fear. And some of us—many of us—have been struggling to break through it all on the inside for years, whether we have been fully aware of it or not.
For me, the struggle has mostly shown up in my work. As a writer of personal stories, the burning need to speak emotional truth has long bumped up against subterranean forces I couldn’t quite name. I’ve managed to push through, publishing poems and essays and helping my students do the same. But there’s always been that invisible headwind I couldn’t quite identify, that sense of lurking risk. The danger I’ve sensed isn’t just about telling the truth, though that’s part of it. It also seems to be about claiming the right to speak. The sheer audacity of it.
Crazy, right? It’s easy to feel like a throwback to a retrogressive era or a traitor to my feminist politics just for admitting this.
But thanks to the Guides, I understand there is something bigger here, something ancient. The transformation we are going through as women and as a culture is a profound reordering and leveling of the hierarchies we have lived with for generations. For millennia, even.
I have come to think of it this way: that my soul chose my childhood, with its Father Knows Best quality, and simultaneously endowed me with a deep innate drive for truth and authority. Given that tension, I was compelled to move through this archetypal transformation on an internal level—fighting my way from “good little girl” to powerful, outspoken woman—as part of the same seismic shift unfolding in the larger world.
Fear of the Divine Feminine
So yes, one by one and as a group, women are rising, claiming what we know, what we see, and what we have to offer. As our power increases, the internal and external obstacles continue to present themselves, and we must continue to name them and fight through them, for the good of all.
The latest struggle, for me, has been coming out of the closet spiritually. This may seem to have nothing to do with gender, but for me, it does. Beginning work as a professional intuitive, publicly claiming the authority to know or see things for others, felt “presumptuous” and transgressive at first, according to the old internalized narrative of staying small and not making waves.
Ironically, my new work is less ego-driven than anything I’d done in the past. It springs from a very deep place of wanting to serve, to share what I knew and to lift others up.
Still, there’s an element of danger. For days after I launched my website, I woke up in the morning filled with panic. What have I done?
The Guides responded this way:
See [your resistance] for what it is—an ancient fear of the Divine Feminine. That is, the fear of others of that power, and therefore your fear of them and their reaction. It is the specter of being harmed or being silenced. The heartbreak of past losses, primal losses. The silence and demeaning of women of power. The “burning of witches,” so to speak.
There are those who represent the fearful, repressive male power of the past. Those in the thrall of the ego, who feel threatened and diminished by the threat of real female power. That is the battle you are facing now, internally.
How do you respond to those who would belittle or demean you, even in energy? How do you hold your power? How do you define who you are and what you do? How do you hold the good of what you do?
For those who want to claim our own power, that question is critical. How do we hold the good of what we do?
How do we know ourselves as good, and understand that the power we seek—to be heard, to be respected, to lead, to create positive change—is not the same as the power that has been abused by others in the past?
How do we, as women, and others who have been marginalized and silenced, redefine what power means, and claim it fully for ourselves and for the benefit of all?
Claim Your Inheritance
I’ll admit I’m still working on this. I study women leaders in the public eye and try to soak in how comfortably they hold their authority, how confidently they embrace their power for the good. I remind myself over and over again that my intentions are positive, that whatever power I have is not actually dangerous, that I’m only butting up against old, ingrained stories that will take time to overcome.
I do my best to envision the new world we are creating, one where power means power with and power for, and not power over.
And I read these words of the Guides, over and over again:
You are forging ahead, blazing a new path. It is not easy. You are breaking up years and lifetimes of pattern and karma. It is time to stop protecting weakness in others. It is time to step forward in strength.
Claim your power, claim your inheritance. You have earned it. You have worked for it.
Your power is for good. Use your heart for good. Use it to protect those who truly require protection, not those who must now stand up on their two feet.
The time has come for a reckoning. Step out of the way. Do your own work. Let your voice be heard. Shine.
May you all shine bright, and let your voices be heard.