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What else is possible in a circle of women?

Findings from an initiatory journey beyond the ‘Good Girl Box’

Being in a circle with other women scares me. This has not kept me going there. I find it nourishing and necessary to create spaces for women’s culture. And my fear has been revealing to me more and more, how I can contribute to shift these spaces from ordinary into extraordinary spaces for healing and collaboration among women. Here I will take you with me, if you like, on a journey down to that place, where unconsciousness in action starts to become consciousness in action or more simply: it becomes a possibility to choose more Responsibility.

Before I knew how that goes, I would just shut down and leave if I found myself in spaces among women that were not working for me. Like when I visited a local group for mums with babies with my son, when he was a few weeks old. As a mother of a small baby, I was desperate to get out and connect. But it soon turned out that the purpose of coming together was not, as I assumed, to collaborate, experience community, have supportive exchanges and give the children the opportunity to play with each other. Instead, in the first meeting it became obvious to me that the actual purpose of this ‘women’s circle’ was to gossip and complain about the fathers of the children. I felt more angry than afraid there, because I was a NO to participate in this kind of exchange and left. Today I would call this an ordinary space with the purpose of creating and perpetuating Low Drama. Back then, I had no idea that I could speak up, connect and transform such a space. Something was holding me back. I did not have that option to choose from because it was far outside my Good Girl Box. I will say more about that, but first I want to take you into a completely different world of women’s spaces…

I have been so lucky to meet with women, who are on the path of the evolution of consciousness, where the purpose IS collaboration and healing. In the past, I have come together with the most committed women I can imagine in various contexts. I lived together with five deep, wholehearted, creative ‘ecofeminist’ women in a shared flat, who were together on this path of evolving consciousness with me. I lived in an ecovillage for three years and experienced various women’s circles. Also in these women’s circles, if I put my focus on it and start opening up to the deeper layers that I have buried under some numbing, I start realising that in the background there was fear. Something holding me back.

It dawned on me that I was interacting with these women out of a story and the story goes like this: if the capitalist patriarchal empire out there is so excruciatingly cruel: destroying gaia, our connections and the feminine, then finally when we get to be amongst each other there is an unspoken agreement to be NICE with each other.

So “nice” I was. How did that go?

I would scan the room constantly to make sure not to do or say anything that other women might find too sharp because -after all- this is a women’s space and so, per definition, we needed to be soft, kind and gentle with each other. If all of us play nice and dim our force of clarity, then the space is safe. Safe and nice. I would hold back my clarity about what was not working for me. I would be adaptive to the space completely, suppressing my rage, not speaking my truth, not showing up with what I was angry about, and also not setting clear boundaries.

I would unconsciously rescue other women by listening longer to their stories than I wanted. I was too afraid to interrupt them, because I thought that they would be offended. Or I would rescue them, by submitting to play the game of filling each other’s voids by consoling each other or with compliments.

I would suppress my inner voice that was telling me that this was not working, that it was not what I was here for and that something completely different was possible. I had no words for that and no clue how it would go.

I would also suppress my Joy and avoid shining too much because of fear that the others would compare themselves, feel inferior, and then hate me for shining. So I hid my ecstasy away and dimmed my light, carefully making sure not to stand out too much.

If another woman was stuck in her story or attempting to get out of something by doing the same behaviour over and over without trying something new, I would comply, managing her victimhood, instead of creating other options with new consequences. I would also not give direct feedback to women. Instead, I attempted to carefully manipulate her into seeing that there is, maybe, something else she could try.

Generally, I would unconsciously try to manipulate the space into something that could work for me, by adding this extra softness to my voice so that I would be accepted because I was ‘feminine’ enough and could not be accused of trying to overpower others. I did not dare to directly take a stand for the kind of relating between women I was longing for. I assumed that if I would be more confrontative or challenging I would not be accepted or even kicked out. I was acting out of my survival strategy.

In Possibility Management we call this kind of survival strategy the Good Girl Box. A Box is the set of assumptions, expectations, stories, beliefs and thinking patterns that we construct around ourselves while growing up. You have a box. I have a box. And none of us IS his or her Box. The Good Girl Box is neither good nor bad, it is just a strategy I took on, to survive growing up in Modern Culture. It was the best I could do back then.

The Box lies between me (my Being) and the vast space of Possibilities available at any moment. One year ago I was so fed up with this habit, that I decided to go through a series of experiments and try out what else was possible. I practised not smiling if I wasn’t feeling like it. I experimented with being a problem if I actually was one. I attempted to step out of the automatism of being adaptive. I felt the fear, anger and sadness that was lying under this construct of having to be nice. I experimented with wearing ‘bad ass’ clothes that totally freaked out my Good Girl Box, and which allowed me to sense into these new and unpracticed other identities. I decided to dive right into this construct and grab it at the root.

By going through this phase of noticing, in detail, how and when this strategy took over and going through the Processes to feel the pain behind the survival pattern, I started to get aware, how this strategy of being good and adaptive is keeping me from living the life I really want. The facade got serious cracks. It was starting to crumble: Do I really want to act out of this habit, that superficially looks like it is taking care of connection? Where, I am nice, so nobody can hate me and we stay together? If being good and being nice is compulsory, then I cannot live my truth. It means pulling away from directly showing up with people because in this story conflict is dangerous. Conflict would lead to separation. I started noticing the poison that this strategy could be for deep intimate connection. How it was killing the possibility of actually being with each other and how it could lead to inner starvation for intimate relating, while mistrust, competition and manipulation thrive quietly, secretly under the superficial layer of the nice girl sugarcoating.

The tricky thing is, that if being ‘good’ becomes so much of a habit, trained over decades, then in the end I might think it’s just a facet of my character to be flexible and ‘good tempered’. Maybe it is? AND beyond this monoculture of faces, voices and ideas that are available for me under the dictate of the Good Girl Box, lies a whole other universe.

My heart always knew that something more beautiful was possible amongst women. I got a glimpse of what that could look like, when I decided to offer a Training for women who also wanted to leap over the limitations of the Good Girl Box. We came together with the purpose of discovering what we are, beyond the show.

I called it the Good Girl Busters Training. Four courageous warrioresses signed up and we went on a six week long intensive journey, dived into initiatory processes, held space for one another to feel the underlying Emotions, that were fuelling the construct. We empowered each other with fierce and clear Feedback, Possibilities and Experiments. We travelled in a deep initiation process back to the root. To moments in our life, while growing up, in which we decided that it would be more safe to remain a Good Girl, instead of being seen with what is really going on. I reconnected to the rage stored in my body since then. Feeling the sadness of the loss of authentic intimate connection, foremost with myself. I started to feel the huge fear kept hidden inside, coming from the story that I was facing a hostile world out there, that would blow me away, if I stood up and used my voice to speak up.

This was a space of connection and collaboration beyond anything I had experienced as possible among women before. In retrospect I see three core elements that made a change for me in this women circle:

1. Feelings

This Training took place in the context of Possibility Management. A Gameworld that provides Initiatory Processes to enter Adulthood and take Responsibility for Feelings and Emotions. This meaning, that our goal was not to be on a “feel good team” or “look good” in the space but to become real with each other. Showing up with what we are feeling right now and also, what Emotions from the past are triggered on the transformational journey to the limits of the comfort zone.

2. Feedback

Good Girl Boxes seem to develop excellent scanning abilities. In order to be able to adapt to whatever the space requests, and so make it ‘safe’, the Good Girl Box scans for other people’s needs, wants and limits. It gets so good at knowing what other people want, that it knows how to fulfil their needs, even before they mention them. In this evolutionary team we decided to use these excellent scanning abilities in upgraded ways that would instead help empower each other and fuel the Transformation in the space. We created practice situations, in which the survival strategy would want to kick in and then use our conscious Rage to do something else. With a coach at the side, who would provide detailed Feedback, on what was working and what was not working and also Coaching, on what else to try, we made steps outside the limitations and explored, what else was possible.

3. Initiation based

One main purpose of getting together in the Good Girl Busters Training, is to go through the Initiatory Processes needed, in order to be able to take more Responsibility. This was for me a complete shift of space, compared to the women circles I attended before, where the purpose was either just being together as women, or to experience more connection, be in community or the purpose was undefined. Instead, we empowered each other in becoming more clear, more direct, more fierce, more dangerous, in order to live full out, become more adult and be able to create a life where our Bright Principles can truly do their work in the world. This revealed a richness in connection, and led to such raw directness with eachothers Beings which was high quality soul food.

Do you also feel trapped in your habit of playing the Good Girl? Then you might want to try some of these Experiments:

1. Step out of habitually smiling. If you are used to being nice and friendly, no matter what you are actually feeling beneath that mask, then you might consider doing the simple Experiment of not smiling at all for one entire day. What do you feel if you keep your face earnest or neutral? If you resign to automatically respond with a smile if someone smiles at you? What Emotions come up for you if you step out of this habit?

2. What do you want? For a Good Girl the habit of adapting to other people’s agendas and fulfilling other people’s needs rather than taking a stand for her own needs, wants and impulses can be so strong that it turns out to be challenging to actually say what she wants. Is this familiar to you? Do you hear yourself say things like, ‘oh I am fine with everything-you decide’? To step out of that habit, experiment with using the two words ‘I want…’ at least three times a day for an entire week. Notice, what happens. What fears come up when you let yourself be seen with what you want? These could be doorways to Emotional Healing Processes you can go through with a spaceholder.

Image: thanks to Jeremy Perkins on unsplash

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