Today we’re exploring an aspect of the feminine energetic that for centuries has been castigated as the ‘femme fatale’, ‘seductress’, ‘temptress’, ‘vamp’. Powerful adjectives - as if the power of this energetic was so strong anyone who stood in the way of it would be powerless to resist…i mean come on, talk about judgmental finger pointing as a way to avoid all sense of ownership! But that’s what has happened. It’s an aspect of the feminine energetic, usually in a woman, that has been castigated as a major flaw in a woman’s development. In that it seemingly has the capacity to lure someone, usually a man, into a honey trap that he is apparently, incapable of resisting.
What a fabulous, I’d say genius way to shift blame and responsibility. But with that comes a cost. This aspect of the feminine has suffered for centuries, making her negate her own power, authority and the sexual essence that she is at her core. She has literally been forced to choke that natural part of herself down and not allow out for fear of reprisals.
As an analyst now myself, I have met in my practice so many women fearful of this shadow inside of themselves - like a Pandora’s box - afraid to open the lid for fear of the contents spilling out and literally destroying mankind by her ‘wontan’ ways. Female clients scared to show their partners they are sexual beings, that they can take control, that they love their bodies regardless of any size/shape, the sensuous power of how they move, how they can turn on, turn off, enjoy the rapture at any time they choose. For some women it’s so frightening they take years to get to this place of ownership, their dreams start to develop, their creativity opens, they beam light through their dead eyes as their passion reawakens to what it always was supposed to be.
That shadow scar runs through the generations of the feminine lineage - it’s in her DNA, don’t do that, don’t wear that, be a good girl, conform, suppress your innate desire for passion, wait for it to be switched on by the masculine (for only he is allowed to call it forth and shut it down once he’s finished with it).
If a woman seeks to open to this energetic fully she invariably gets called a ‘whore’, ‘a sorceress’ someone who is ‘asking for it’ - as if all responsibility lies at her feet. What is sad to notice in my work is how often those judgement come from either the woman herself, or other women - we see so clearly how deeply the inner patriarch energy lies judging inside of her. She can’t seemingly be in this energetic for her own pleasure, sensuousness and delight. She long ago gave the power away to rightly, proudly own it herself - to the men around her, her father (his embarrassed awkward repressed sexual gaze as she metamorphoses through adolescence again so often mirrored back on her as shame, for her to hide, as if she is responsible for his sexual feelings). How the web develops and strangles.
Living in a patriarchal, mentalised society as we all do, cut off from our bodies, feeling, senses, we can see the damage that this judgmental force has put on her. Not only for those around her but worse still for the woman herself. She buries her innate sexual force underground, it lies in the shadows, she builds through the education system a strong mind, a mental force to control, keep the lid shut and worse still often never desires to look into that side of herself for fear of what she’s been told she might find there.
In my own training to be a therapist, a large amount of hours are required delving into your own psyche with a qualified psychotherapist. I was eventually shocked when I was recommended a very well known London one. I was training in the USA but wanted someone in London - these are the days before zoom/remote access. I was around 30yrs of age - he must have been some 25 years older. As we began the initial session I felt relatively comfortable, the room was calm, restful and he seemed genuinely interested in working with me and helping me to develop my professional training.
After about thirty minutes, he stopped me talking, leaned back in his chair across his desk to stretch and said ‘You should know if i were 20 years younger I’d be inviting you to Ibiza for the weekend’. I was shocked. I had felt I was in a safe space but suddenly no, the walls were closing in, I wasn’t sure if i’d heard him correctly so i asked him to repeat himself. Out spilled the same invitation with unashamed confidence. I left the session feeling confused, was it a test? had I passed? I was concerned, felt dirty, scared. I had never met him before, I had gone on a good friend’s recommendation who had been working with him for several years. I came out feeling somehow responsible - not out of conscious choice but more from the conditioning I’d been brought up in that had me believing if there’s a man in front of you coming on to you, then it must surely be my fault, not his.
I was booked in for the following week with him, I thought I should cancel but again friends rallied around and said it wasn’t right and that I should go back and challenge him. They reminded me that my journey to see someone in the first place was to help me build my confidence and career path.
I returned the following week, apprehensive. The man was in a place of authority, he was someone integral to my training and personal development. In analysis terms there was already in that mix of roles: a father/daughter, teacher/student, older (one would have expected wiser)/younger, set of responsibilities determined.
We sat down. I opened the conversation by saying how uncomfortable I had felt with his invitation in our first session, how I wasn’t going to return but friends encouraged me. He sat quietly, he seemed to be listening, I started to well up with tears at having to be so ‘forthright’ in a place where I was expecting to have an ‘expert’ hold a boundaried, trustworthy space for me to drop into my vulnerability, not his. Part of the analysand and analyst relationship must surely be in the confidence of safety?
I finished what I had come to say, I had spoken quietly, respectfully, responsibly. There was a long silence. He looked me straight in the eyes and said “Well, for me to have said that, you must have been putting it out there”.
I see his name on linked’ in. His smug ‘expert’ face. All the accolades and business contacts he has built along the years and I think how do some people get away with it? How can they responsibly sit in a profession that holds itself so highly on bringing consciousness to unconscious behaviour, to professionalism and apparently good conduct?
The upshot of this experience and others similar, have thankfully positioned me in my work and my concerns to help other women (and this article is by no means gender specific on purpose, is purely based on my experience) but at what cost I sometimes wonder?
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Jane Kersel is recognised as one of the most distinguished yoga and mindfulness teachers in London. She is a teacher’s teacher and was a much loved teacher at The Life Centre, Yoga Campus, The Bio-medical Trust + Triyoga (where she trail-blazed and invented their Hot yoga offering and the design of their studios).