Breaking Free from Patriarchy, One Thought at a Time.
For most of my life, I believed that my thoughts were my own.
After all, it is I who thinks them, responds to them, has emotional states because of them, and makes major life decisions as a result of them. No one can read them and no one can change them, so they must be mine. I have assumed that not only do they belong to me, but they define the kind of person I am. An ENFP, or so they tell me.
Many years into practice, I developed an awareness that though I might be thinking and may even be tortured by my thoughts, I have no recollection of creating them (insert Psycho soundtrack here).
I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but we are born with fertile minds and thoughts have been planted in our mental gardens. Just like the movies and the morning glory on my neighbor’s side that threatens to take over my lawn, our domineering culture (aka, the patriarchy) has taken over the minds we believe are our own.
The patriarchy is so dominant, it has even turned our parents, friends, and schools into propagators of its ideas. By puberty, most of us are unconsciously planting a myriad thoughts that adhere to rules of a game we were born into but didn’t create.
I watered these thoughts with my attention and acceptance, or as Don Miguel Ruiz says, my agreement. My allowance of others to plant their thoughts into me was how we bonded. Some thoughts were full-on rejected as were the people trying to plant them, other thoughts took hold, and some that should have been rejected were so insistent that eventually, like weeds, they colonized my psyche.
Hurtful thoughts, like “I’m unattractive,” “I’m not good enough,” “I need to be special to be successful,” and “You can never have enough wealth,” took over. For decades, I believed that these so-called flaws were the areas of my greatest growth and potential. I was blind to the man-made capitalist machine behind my low self-esteem.
If I could lose 10 pounds, get a degree, and make lots of money, I could solve the problem or buy the solution and these thoughts would go away.
I don’t know when I started planting my thoughts in other people’s mind gardens, but I know I did, and still do. I’m probably doing it right now. We live in a culture that demands of us to prove our worth, and I’m rarely far from the impulse to comply. I know I’ve passed the rules and thoughts of the game on to my children — it’s how we raise them in these parts: we get ‘em while they’re young.
Sorry, kids. My bad.
Now in my third act, I am consciously attempting to pull myself away from the dominant culture. I’m a peri-menopausal woman living in a patriarchy, so we’re really not into each other anymore. To say I am disillusioned is an understatement. I’m deeply grieving the trauma our culture has unleashed onto the world.
In this new sovereignty, I pray that I may discover what it truly means to be human — in particular, my human, at this time — without the culture running constant interference.
Sometimes, breaking my consciousness free from the collective feels as painful as pulling fascia from bone, or yanking an alien parasite out of my left nostril. For years and years, I took for granted that the culture which raised me was an accurate reflection of reality. I believed I was living out the natural human condition.
I thought I knew who I was, but now I’m stepping out of the matrix and going down the rabbit hole.
There hasn’t been an exact moment when I stopped taking the culture personally, it is a gradual shift. I’m doing a deep cleanse. A thought purge. As I clean out my mental closet, I’m placing the painful, reoccurring, crazy-making thoughts in a box marked Return to sender.
“I’m ugly, fat, old. I’m not successful. I’m smart. I’m stupid. I’m special. I’m unworthy.” I’m sending these thoughts back to the patriarchy with no return address. I’m done with them all. Done.
I’m clearing out my whole thought closet, and might leave it empty. Maybe I’ll plant a tree there instead. We can’t experience ourselves in thought anyway, both because the culture has hijacked most of them, and because Life reveals itself most exquisitely through our presence.
Our real intelligence isn’t our own. It belongs to Life, and it is woven into us. Our minds and thoughts could be clever synthesizers if they weren’t so busy telling us what shitheads we are.
This is our evolutionary edge: shifting from telling ourselves we’re shitheads to being in full, glorious connection with existence. Our future depends on recognizing that we have internalized the patriarchy, and that this survivalist system is abusing us all. There are no winners in a game that causes this much suffering.
When I drop my awareness down, underneath the noise of the culture and the stories we tell, I can hear Life singing to itself and to me. We are the same. We are Life. I am, as Barbara Max Hubbard says, “becoming intimate with the evolutionary impulse.” I can feel her, this thing called Evolution, the great Intelligence that drives Life itself. She is calling to us.
She wants to teach us about the magnificence of who we really are.
She is patiently waiting for all of us to drop our commotion and settle down, and we are kindergarten children running frantically in the playground in the minutes before the bell rings.
Can you hear it? The bell is ringing. It’s time to take our seats.
Sandy Ibrahim is a Canadian of Egyptian and German descent. She does not know if her grandmothers are cheering her on or rolling over in their graves. After leaving her childhood home at 17, she has been pursuing sovereignty while maintaining a state of reverent bewilderment. She’s spent the last two decades raising two sons, and has worked as a systems analyst, a boxing coach, and a book-marketer. You can currently find her practicing Yoga, freaking out, writing, and volunteering for TreeSisters. You could contact her via her website.