13 March 2017
Like the buds of spring, girls embody vitality, curiosity, strength and resilience. At the same time, our girls are facing serious challenges and traumas in these times. In recent months, women have been calling attention to the concerns for safety and education for women and girls around the world.
Like many mothers, I am deeply concerned about the environment for girls growing up today, starting with the their relationship with food and their own bodies. Media images and messaging suggest there is something wrong with girls’ bodies, or that they have to be a certain way to be accepted. The pressure to fit in or please others teaches girls that it is not safe to be too much, too loud, or too smart.
Patterns learned during girlhood, often continue into our lives as adult women. In my own journey towards physical health and healing, I am becoming more and more aware of the impact of systemic sexism and emotional trauma on women’s bodies.
The women’s herbal community recognizes that adrenal fatigue is an important issue for women and an underlying source of many common women’s health problems.
I have also come to understand that when trauma happens over a long period of time in an environment where we see no way out, as is often the case for daughters subject to abuse and neglect, it can have lasting impacts on our identity, personality, brain and neurological development, creating false belief systems that undermine our emotional and physical health.
False belief systems can impact our choices throughout our lives, especially choices in relationships. We may end up staying in environments where we are not getting our needs met, thereby adding to chronic stress. Not having our needs met and being in chronic states of stress is known to impact the adrenals and contribute to many other health issues.
We can recognize an environment is unhealthy by checking in with our feelings. When we have an ongoing experience of difficult feelings such as feeling hurt, scared, tense, or on edge that indicates there are underlying needs that are not met. In healthy intimate relationships, we feel energized and empowered. Healthy relationships meet the needs of both people for safety, respect, valuing, love, and clarity.
Misogyny normalizes the objectification and oversexualization of girls through both overt and subtle messaging. Objectification contributes to both abuse and trauma. Statistically, 1 in 3 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. Others face forms of abuse and neglect as well. For women of color, racism can add additional layers to the trauma. Four in 7 women worldwide has been victim to sexual and/or physical violence.
So most of us are recovering from trauma. And long after the trauma occurs, it can be confusing for girls and women when there is a male in position of power that reflects the old patterns of abuse. Our threat response is alert.
It is in these times that we are invited to look at the roots our our trauma and lean into the emotional work of recognizing patterns that have been set up into our adult years. It is also a time to begin unhooking from those old patterns through meeting needs for shared sense of reality, by connecting with other women with shared experiences. Take heart, sisters! As we start to resource ourselves, we find that we can draw nourishment for our healing from many sources, including the Earth and nature, whole foods and medicinal herbs, caring self-reflection, loving connection with our own bodies, and sisterhood.
And even as adult women, we can draw on the resilience of the girl within. I am reminded of a young woman I know, who was victim to incest and rape as a child. Fortunately, she had a strong and loving mother and a community of women who not only believed her when she spoke up, but also validated and supported her in all kinds of ways.
Entering into her adulthood, she is now a powerhouse. She wrote her college essay about the impacts of the abuse and recently went to the Women’s March on Washington with friends. Upon her return, she shared how she felt deeply empowered, moved and supported by the hundreds of thousands of women there. Her story is a reminder for me of the importance of connecting with other women and our shared experiences in our healing journeys.