Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Descent into Menopause

For any of you interested in a Jungian approach to menopause, I recommend reading Descent to the Goddess, A way of Initiation for Women, by Sylvia Brinton Perera. She analyzes the myth of Inanna, (before Ishtar, middle-eastern) in psychological terms, and describes it as a story of modern woman's quest for wholeness. Her theory is that we who are 'daughters of the father', well adapted to a masculine world, have repudiated or repressed our full feminine instincts and energies. And that in this 'stripping down' or descent to the underworld, we find healing.

The story of Inanna is a fascinating on its own, as it is the oldest written myth (on clay tablets) of a feminine divine power, known as Queen of Heaven and Earth in ancient Sumer (5,000 years ago.)

I read this book through the worst year of my peri-menopausal descent, which I described to myself as the 'bug soup' stage, when the feeling of melt-down, loss of power and energy, mild depression, weeping, and general upside-downness, took over.

Here is a short excerpt from the book:

"The basis of women's experience of childbearing and of all blood mysteries that create and maintain life is that Nothing changes or grows without the food or some other sacrifice. ....
the myth of Inanna's descent and return is centered on this archetype of exchanging energy though sacrifice. ...She needs to sacrifice her dependence on the patriarchal gods to find her true home in the feminine ground of being.

"What I have seen in myself and other women who are successful daughters of the collective, often unmothered daughters of the animus and the patriarchy, is that we suffer a basic fault. We do not have an adequate sense of our own ground nor connection to our own embodied strength and needs adequate to provide is with a resilient feminine, balanced yin-yang processual ego.

...there is a deep split, maintained by loyalty to super-ego ideals that no longer function to enhance life, a loyalty that keeps the ego alienated from reality....thus we need to undergo a descent to the underworld levels of the dark goddess (Erishkigal), back to ourselves before we had the form we know, back to the magic and archaic levels of consciousness ...back to the body-mind and the preverbal tomb-womb states, searching back to the deep feminine, the 'dual mother' Jung writes about.

On the way down we shed the identifications with and the defences against the animus, introverting to initially humiliating and devastating but ultimately safe, primal levels. (awaiting rebirth). ...We feel as if the old meanings are loosened, as if we are suspended out of life, without energy.

What helps: "Creative improvisions, touching, holding, sounding and singing, silence, breathing, nonverbal actions like drawing, sandplay, building with clay or blocks, dancing, ... maternally nurturant and companioning behavior....

the descent to the earth, the darkness is the yin way. Like Inanna, we must submit, going into the deep, to allow the transformative mystery to take place."

Wow, I know, this is heavy stuff, and written in Jungian jargon. However, read between the lines. Some of us have some deep healing to do, some of us can benefit from therapy, and some of us just need to loosen up and play more. Less book knowledge and more body knowledge. Less ego ideals and more feeling ideals. Less 'overarching boss of everything' mode, and more 'tend and befriend' mode.

This is just a hint of what the transformative process is like. It's not everybody's journey, but enough of the women I know have been through burn-out, depression, divorce and major health challenges in their mid-40's, for me to recognize the truth of this part of the journey. For me, it started just before my father died, and it's taken me from age 47 to 52 (about 5 years), to come up for air. But now, I feel the cocoon splitting open, and my damp wings are scintillating in the sun. My energy has returned, and I feel closer to the Queen of Heaven, than to the Queen of the Underworld.

have a compassionate self-care day,
and write me if this passage speaks to you,


Diane O'Connor said...

Yes, this speaks to me. For me it started after my divorce and the whole "I'm not enough" energy pattern still is occasionally recognizable when I'm not functioning with much energy and I'm feeling inadequate. This weekend I read a book called "Woman at the Edge of Two Worlds" and it really put me in a rather cathartic state. At one time I was tuning into my inner child (I was always sick as a child) and she was just terrified!! All these body changes and so forth were scaring her and she was fearful she might not make it. I could see that the fear I feel in the present is in a big way coming from the fear SHE was feeling when she was small and dealing with illness. It was like, she didn't recognize that there is an adult me now. So I comforted her and it was interesting to speak to her as the adult me and reassure her that she will be fine. Anyway, it felt important. I so appreciate your sharing what you know!

musemother said...

I'm pretty sure I read the same book, about a woman who has one foot in this world (in a mental hospital?) and the other in a utopian society where birth is out of a machine and children have 3 parents. Marge Piercy?
anyway, I relate to what you say, about the little girl who is fearful. the one inside of me needs a lot of compassion and care, not bullying, my usual mode with myself.

Diane O'Connor said...

Actually, it was much simpler. Written by Lynn Andrews, it's a book about her own menopause experience with the help of a Native American teacher who takes her through sacred ceremonies and then she in turn, being a shaman therapist, takes her clients through similar sacred ceremonies and writes the book. I actually got it on ebay for about 1.50 and the I got a workbook from paperback swap. "Woman's Mysteries" by M. Esther Harding just came in yesterday so I'll be reading that one, too.