We must admit that we have a funny relationship with Desire, you and I, ladies.
First of all….Adam & Eve.
“Adam & Eve”
by Lucas Cranach the Elder (Public Domain)
Whether or not we subscribe to a religion that honors Genesis in the Bible as our “true,” literal origin or not, we can hardly escape the Western world unscathed by this creation myth. To recap, in it, God creates Adam as the first man and places him in the Garden of Eden, with the instructions that he can eat anything from any tree except from the tree of knowledge, which is prohibited. Eve is fashioned by God from Adam’s rib (or “side,” according to the version) as a companion for Adam; a serpent then tricks Eve into eating fruit from the forbidden tree and she gives some of the fruit to Adam. Consequently, God curses the serpent, the ground, and tells Adam and Eve that there will be consequences for their sin (remind you of Mom & Dad?) for their disobeyance, and vanishes them from the Garden of Eden, forever.
This creation myth has historically been used to punish women as responsible for the “fall of humanity,” as the “original sinners,” and even to justify the persecution of witches and witchcraft.
Consideration #2 in this funny relationship we have with Desire, women: “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I don’t know about you, but I was required to read this novel in high school. This 1850s classic is set in the 1640s in Puritan Massachusetts, where Hester Prynne is punished for conceiving a daughter in an affair by having to wear a scarlet “A” (for Adulteress”) for the rest of her days. The man whom she commits adultery with, however, is kept secret and…[SPOILER ALERT]….
“The Scarlet Letter” by T.H. Matteson (Public Domain)
it is only toward the end of the book publicly revealed that it is the minister, whom in sickness and guilt, outs himself upon dying.
Without going too much in depth, these two considerations seem like enough to formulate a strong suggestion that, as women, WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL WITH OUR DESIRES. We cannot entirely trust them. Our desires can be dangerous (I mean, they only led to the expulsion of Adam and Eve, and consequently of all of humanity, from Paradise!!! Sheesh!! And, it led Hester Prynne to lead a life of shame, guilt, isolation, secrecy, and in sum, to be outcast by and from her society).
“The Outcast” by Richard Redgrave (Public Domain)
Now, I invite you to take a moment, close your eyes if it’s comfy, take a breath, and just stop. Reflect on how many times you may have heard one of these stories—the story of Adam & Eve or “The Scarlet Letter”—or a similar version. Or seen paintings like the above. Now, how many of those times that you heard it, did you think it was before your 20s (while your young brain was still forming)? Now, I invite you to now think about just how our subconscious is so, so powerful and we have been shown by Carl Jung, Swiss psychotherapist and founder of analytical psychology, and others, that its contents and its patterns, or complexes, can shape our reality when we remain unconscious or unaware of them. This unconscious, which is made up substantially by the collective ideas, is extremely powerful and can run our lives when we remain unaware of it and the patterns, beliefs, and ideas it holds. Now, it becomes easy to realize just how conditioned we are—especially as girls and women—to second guess or mistrust our desires, to be suspicious and careful with them.
Now, we are living in a time presently where we commonly receive an almost opposite message, that is: “Follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell, American mythologist and author, said. We live in a climate where women are told they can do anything. Yet, let’s really step back and take a good look at the whole of the picture here: we are told this, AND, yet we still have anti-abortion debates? That is to say, if a woman follows her desire (without getting into judgment here about whether or not this truly was her desire or just a reaction to something else) and gets into bed with a man, who just the same, follows his desire into bed, and she ends up knocked up, only she is questioned about her responsibility to the consequences. The man is not held responsible for the consequences of his actions, for his desires, in any of these anti-abortion debates, while the woman, who really is in the same boat, is denied by anti-abortionists the right to decide what now, what next…
“Contradiction-Space” by Victoria White2010,
So, let me state the obvious here and reframe that women are being given a VERY mixed message in our society about what she can and cannot be trusted with—including her own body—and then we feel upset because we either don’t have what we want or we don’t even know what we want. We could better say, we don’t trust ourselves to want what we want.
It is one of my biggest commitments and desires that women, all women, build a new, trustworthy, mutually beneficial, satisfying and nurturing relationship with their own desires. From my own experience with this process, when a woman allows herself to unfold, trust herself, and be led by her desires, she is going to have to build a strong center/inner core, an intimate circle that sees and believes in her and her desires, even when she cannot. She needs courageous, fierce, strong, and compassionate guides and inspirations, like Eve Ensler, Marion Woodman, and others near her, women who are willing to lay themselves on the line for TRUTH, the truth that their body told them, and not what somebody else told them.
Tanya Dantus is a transformational lifestyle coach with a depth psychology and anthropology education, guiding women from the ordinary to the extraordinary magic that is possible when we utilize our power within. To check out her current offerings, please visit here.