By hook or by crook: The restricted feminine and its effect on society

The Yin Yang symbol represents among other things  the feminine Yin and the masculine Yang personality aspects in balance.

Unexamined events in our childhood lives have left indelible marks on our unconscious landscape. These marks, or shall I say wounds, have effected how we relate to the world and to ourselves throughout our lives.

I always wondered why I related to people the way that I have and in some ways still do. Why do the actions of some people upset me and others don’t? As I’ve grown older I’ve also become interested in what motivated and motivates my actions and have become convinced that much, if not most, of my behaviors were automatic responses to patterns laid down and built into my unconscious mind during those formative years.

Sometimes those patterns, a template for perception, will reactivate during some modern day events. It’s as though the event reaches deep into my unconscious mind and “hooks” a pattern, a feeling, and/or an early similar event and I find myself feeling and acting in a way alien to my current emotional state. In fact, psychologists label these motivating elements “hooks”.

For example, a person might have experienced a mother who was for some reason, (from the perspective of the child the reason is irrelevant) cold and indifferent to them as a child and out of that learned to do whatever was necessary to gain acceptance and acknowledgment, trying also to be loved and cared for. Of course this would never produce the desired result though over time may become the primary motivator, or hook, behind their material success– a material success with little feeling of love or personal attainment i.e. there’s a lot of very successful people out there who don’t think they’ve really “made it” or feel unfulfilled despite their achievements.

When the fear of disapproval, or failure or the potential for shame comes up many people are hooked into certain response patterns such as denial, withdrawal, and/or rage making it difficult for them to respond effectively.

There are also materially successful people who are self-critical and mildly depressed and full of fear. There are many marginally successful and those that might be considered unsuccessful by the current patriarchal society whose early critical upbringing has added a poisonous aspect to their world view e.g. hooks such as insecurities and powerlessness and who have great difficulty overcoming the negative affects of a less than optimal childhood.

Many males experience a stunted masculinity due to their inability to employ their emotional selves, as do females who have opted to put theirs on the back burner while trying to make it in a patriarchal environment.

What may have caused this damage to our individual and societal potential for happiness and fulfillment has been a depreciated feminine aspect of compassion, intuitiveness and self-forgiveness. Our patriarchal drive toward rationality, high productivity and material success has quite literally cut us off from the feminine side of ourselves and that of our society.

Far too many women have subverted their feminine side in order to compete in a patriarchal system and far too many men have rejected their less dominant feminine side to their personalities due to an unconscious fear of a women’s disapproval engendered from the early mothering of their childhood.

It is said by some psychologists, most notably Carl Jung, that within each of us an archetype, a human race image, of the ideal mother, The Great Mother. Unconsciously everything in our waking world is compared to this image buried within our subconscious. Clearly this affects what we perceive regarding our conscious world mothers both positively and negatively.

Now I’m not mother-bashing here, most mothers do a herculean job of raising their children, but they are human and do make mistakes and on occasion do things that are more in their best interest than the child’s, but what the child does with those instances of not being the best mother are what leads to the negative affects I’ve detailed above. In a society where the father is supportive of the feminine these minor effects would be mitigated but many of these fathers have had their own inner feminine stunted and demeaned if not outright buried. In a society that pays no premium toward looking at its emotional self the feminine aspect cannot bring balance to an overly masculinized environment.

The consequences of restricting the feminine aspect in all of us has profound and long lasting effects on each of us to achieve our potential and ultimately to live in an environment of fulfilled happiness. Sure, we are the most militarily, economically, and productively powerful nation on Earth, but at what cost? We certainly aren’t the happiest, contented, the best cared for, or loved and loving people on Earth and the fear of possible failure haunts nearly every activity. Both males and females in this society seem to feel inadequate and diminished or are running from the possibility of these feelings.

We need to bring greater parity to the sexes not only in the economic realm but in the psychological and emotional realms as well.


Heraclitus and Athena. He was the philosopher who posited that seeming opposites and contradictions were actually a reflection of the unity of the universe.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 This quote from Mathew 25:40 of the NIV bible is all well and good but as Carl Jung, the Swiss Psychiatrist and Dream Analyst asked ‘what if you discover that it is yourself that is the least of brothers and you who needs the alms of your own kindness– what if you yourself are the enemy that needs loving’?

Many would say that we need to reject this aspect of ourselves, but is that so? Are we to rage at ourselves if we too show weaknesses that we are taught to forgive in others?


I would suggest that to reject these shadows in either ourselves or in others only gives them power over us.

“We have met the enemy and he is us” is a quote from the cartoonist Walt Kelly through his Pogo character in the comic strip of the same name and for me speaks directly to the heart of what I believe Jung was trying to communicate.

In many ways “the enemy” is inside each of us and then projected outwardly onto others and to the degree that we can recognize this is the degree to which we can deal with the dark sides of our human nature.

All humans exhibit an inner balancing system designed to maintain an equilibrium within. When too much of any psychic force, positive or negative is exerted either through practice or resistance its opposite comes to the fore. Jung labeled this process Enantiodromia. It’s not unlike the process of Yin/Yang. When a counter force is suppressed for long enough it will eventually make itself known, sometimes in very dark and bizarre ways as with a neurosis.

Essentially when any part of the whole personality of a person or group of persons e.g. a society is suppressed for a great length of time the Being will do whatever it takes to bring back balance. Sometimes “whatever it takes” takes the form of War, pestilence and famine e.g. too much, or extreme, good can produce evil.

Material suppressed into the unconsciousness of both the individual and the collective can eventually breakthrough the individual’s or societies conscious control. There are many examples of humankind’s attempt to produce a Utopia only over time to have it transform into a dystopia or authoritarian regime (note the Communist experiment, Christian fundamentalism, or radical Islam).

Wouldn’t it be better to adjust as we go along, accepting and dealing with all of the personality?

“forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,”

–from the Lord’s Prayer (NIV)

This quote reflects the yin/yang balance of the universe as well i.e. If you cannot forgive, then you can’t be forgiven– if you can’t accept your own weaknesses and humanity you won’t be able to be at peace with someone else’s that then reinforces your inability to accept your own, and so on. In short, the universe requires balance and acceptance of every part of itself.