What does Freud, Jung, feminists, and neuroscience have in common?
A recognition that human embodied experience does not occur in a vacuum.
Put another way, that our behaviors, emotions, and experiences are informed by the full context of our lives - and that this context includes our ancestors.
While it might be more familiar to think of inheritance in terms of family heirlooms, property, money, or an orphaned pet, there are less tangible things we also receive from those who came before us.
For instance, traumatic experiences such as an injury, abuse, betrayal, heartbreak, war, rape, impoverishment, or abandonment. Unfinished business, un-lived potential, unresolved conflict, neglected emotional wounding, and unwitnessed suffering. Like tales of restless spirits, the energetic imprint of such experiences can haunt us in unexpected ways. Passed down through the bloodline, these memories live through us - in our bodies, hearts, and souls.
Just as inheriting an aunt’s sailboat would come with the responsibility of upkeep and the opportunity to sail, tending to our psychological inheritance (or hungry ghosts) presents us with a task: to take care of what has been passed down to us, and, through doing so, to better navigate our lives.
With this in mind, consider a bit of history we all share: For centuries, women have been, and continue to be, cast as second rate citizens worldwide. Subjected to abuse, violation, isolation, oppression, silence, fixed and fixated roles in servitude to a privileged narrative dictated by patriarchy.
For just as long, menstruation as been viewed as a culprit of all things undesirable for how a woman “should” be. Whether a person lives life through a female anatomy or in relationship female identity, menstruation is thus like a treasure chest in the attic: rich with obscurities from the past that can both adorn and weigh us down.
The perspective of menstrual inheritance acknowledges that PMS or PMDD, for example, is not just about hormones. That any purely biomedical/physiological “treatment” plan is neglecting the relationship between the ancestral souls running through the blood, and the spirit of the woman, in the wide context of her life.
As another example, including menstrual inheritance in the wider scope of who we are, allows bleeders and non-bleeders alike to explore culturally held (and passed down) ideas of what being a woman looks like. New discoveries are to be made in this process of reflection and recognition of mysterious bloody ideas we take for granted! In this embodied freedom.
As Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
So imagine that menstrually stained moods, behaviors, and ideas are like that inherited sailboat. They require attention, repair, supportive mooring if they’re going to carry us where we want to go. For how we related to what we inherit is directly linked to the legacy of our lives.
Ask yourself, what are the memories and stories being told through your menstrual experience? Who’s really visiting when we say Aunt Flo, the crimson wave, the Moon, the curse? Returning, slightly altered each month. Freud would have called this repetition compulsion. Jung considered it psychic motivation towards knowledge. Mark Wolyn, author of It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are, might ask us about the lives of our mothers and grandmothers. (Read a recent great post by Wolyn here.) Many of the researchers and psychologists of the Society of Menstrual Cycle Research advocate for a contextual view on PMS, menstrual experience, and identity at large, based on their various and intersectional research. Jane Ussher, for instance, might urge a menstruator to consider how her sense of self is being supported in close relationships, work environments, and societal norms.
My invitation is an experiential practice of discovering the inherited menstrual “objects” of your blood. In both my one-on-one work with clients and in my Red Wheel Workshop, these objects are explored, healed, put to rest, and transformed. No longer haunted by an unknown bloody past, you gain greater possession over the creation of your empowered and embodied legacy. Move from conversation and imagination stoppers like “it’s just my period,” and step into the flow of wisdom that is you, then, now, and to be.
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