Let me preface this article by asking all my male readers to bear with me here. I absolutely believe this read will be well worth your time and encourage you to continue despite the title! I will, however, give you the upfront warning that I disclose a small bit of personal information in this article so please stop here if you feel this is too much for you to hear. Ok, let us commence this exciting topic...
I have been reading a new book, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. For those of you who know me, you are probably shocked that I have never read this book before, but it is true, I have not. I'll be honest, at times it feels a little hokey to me, and sometimes I have to go back and re-read something and re-analyze, process. The stories from the book are grounded in Eastern philosophies, archetypal tales, and Native American religion. Being a recovering Baptist, I am very wary of this and I think that is part of what is slowing me down. I have tons of rigid dogmatic remnants from my Baptist years-- no offense to any of you wonderful Baptist people out there (including much of my own family). I am fully grounded, however, in Jesus Christ. He has just done too much for me and proven Himself a Higher Power in my life. For me, Jesus is not relegated to just another wise prophet or a man with some helpful stories to guide me through the day. No, for me, He is the one and only true Son of God, no less. All other spiritual teaching that comes through my mind has to first go through this and what remains after the filtration can be kept. So, the reading of this book has been a bit arduous as there is so much to filter.
Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. The connection between our personal psychology and our personal spirituality is so delicately intertwined in this complicated webbing, that I want to closely examine my psychology because of how it affects my spirituality. One of the wonderful things I have taken away from this book is her discussion about menstrual cycles. She points out that the veil between the unconscious and the conscious mind thins while a woman is menstruating. During this part of her cycle, all those unconscious feelings and beliefs bob closely to the surface of the conscious mind. This can be overwhelming and a very emotional time for us ladies. I really find this to be true and have sensed this happening with me for awhile now.
I was particularly aware of this process this month as I am just coming off my period. Experiencing those emotional 7-10 days was much different for me this month, much more bearable. I found myself with a new reverence for my own sadness and anger this month. Those feelings are not just random by-products of hormone explosions in my body. They are true parts of my very own subconscious mind. They are real and valuable, most importantly, these feelings are not random-- they are meaningful. So, this month I let them come rather than try to fight or suppress as I would normally do. I connected them to their true sources as best as possible. I listened to my anger which quickly dissolved into an intense sadness and fragility. I cried a lot this past week and it felt good. I grieved a lot and it really hurt and it really felt good.
My "PMS" was actually productive for a change. Now that I have experienced this, it makes me angry that I have been denied this wonderful experience of my own monthly cycle for years. I have been told by my culture to shut up, get over it, take a pill, you just have PMS. When in reality I am having my very own valid and honest emotions that MUST be felt and heard, not shushed. It is no wonder to me now that women in the Western culture report more intense premenstrual symptoms than most any other culture in the world. We are shamed for a part of our cycle that we cannot stop and that in reality is a monthly gift rather than "the curse."
I have to believe that as I experience this once a month emotional cleansing that a lot of junk is going to be tossed out from my piled up unconscious mind. The hope is that, in time, these feelings may become less intense, as I allow myself this cyclical gift. I believe it is possible we Western women can begin to experience our menstrual cycles more similarly to women of Eastern cultures. This is exciting to me. As painful as some of the emotions were that I have had to feel this past week, it is no less painful than the harmful repercussions I face from my own behavior when I act out these invalid and repressed feelings. Hooray for me and hooray for my period! :-)