Zinnia Finds Strength Amidst Fear – May 2017

Zinnia came from a divorced family. Under the agreement, she was required to spend summers with her father who was an alcoholic. From the time she was little, given the slightest provocation when he got drunk he would slap her around

When she was about 10 she tried to tell her mother about it, but her mother said he was too powerful, and could go for full custody. As a teenager, Zinnia gravitated towards abusive boys, smoke lots of pot and played truant from school.

Zinnia’s grades weren’t good enough for college, but she was physically strong and for that reason decided to go to massage school. It was a natural fit. She easily found work after graduation.

She was a hit at the spa where she worked because she was so adept at sensing where people were feeling pain and helped them address it. This success kept her demons at bay.

Ordinarily politics is not a subject that naturally comes up when you go for a massage. But Zinnia was seeing a big change – people were coming in with more headaches than usual.

Trying to lift the mood of the people who came to her for relief was becoming increasingly difficult. She was resonating with the collective anxiety which had risen in response to widespread national political problems. During her quiet moments, the bad times she had experienced with her father were coming back to haunt her.

She had to fight the urge to quit her job and go back to the self-destructive habits she had when she was a teenager. Empowered by the trust her customers and employer had in her hard-earned ability to empathize while with her clients, Zinnia chose another path.

She took a vacation from media. She limited contact with draining friends and acquaintances and she gave free messages at a shelter for battered women.

Persephone January 2017

There’s Something Very Controlling About Her

The Persephone woman can be a sweet, gentle New Age type – more passive than active, rarely asserts or takes a stand. She’s the one who wears long flowy skirts, lots of bangles and long earrings to the PTA meetings – dresses like a ‘girl, or sometimes a gipsy.

She gives off a hint to let people believe she’s somehow different – has esoteric skills. Perhaps she does! Her voice hasn’t quite matured, or she may ‘almost’ speak, in a whisper that’s very imitating and controlling.

As a psychotherapist, I’ve come across many women with strong Persephones in them, usually in their teens. I don’t judge her behaviors but listen carefully to discern some interest in developing beyond her dark reality. Usually it’s not there. She’s on a steep learning curve. I’ve spent time hanging out in her Underworld myself.

Some would call her an airhead, this terminally cool adolescent/woman and youngest of our goddesses. The Greeks had a phrase for her – Puella Eterna – Eternal Girl. Foolish and headstrong, she generally end’s up the victim. Hopefully today her parents have a lot of patience and will grow her skills. Persephone is caught in a curious cycle because she needs a dash of healthy narcissism in order to greet the world as a young adult, so of course there will be mistakes made.

Persephone Will Do Exactly As She Chooses To BECAUSE SHE CAN.

Excitement – ah that adrenaline rush. Disaster doesn’t appear on her radar – seems to circumvent her control switch. Her learning curve is steep. What will it take to learn to make life-affirming choices?

Not wanting to live the boring life of her parents, this hottie fell for a guy dangling bling her way and ended up in the sex trade – addicted to the rush and promise of her new-found life – until she walked in on her roommate. Dead. She called her parents to kidnap her back. Of course they did.

This experience on the dark side was a wake-up call to move onto another track. She thought she had been both too smart and exceptionally beautiful to have to follow the same rules as everyone else her age – school, work, exercise, fun. Eventually fear led her to make more considered choices.

In her myth, Persephone was separated from her mother Demeter, her feminine ground. You can learn about separation and loss, assessing strengths and limitations from her experience. Reality check is serious business. You begin to listen to your intuition to anticipate when you are vulnerable to being blindsided.

Once you’re able to set limits and boundaries, your voice becomes deeper, you stand taller. People begin to take you seriously. You no longer look like you’re waiting to be swept away.

The adult Persephone has learned to commit to her husband, has let her children know she’s in charge, and has found meaningful work. Having given up naivete for responsibility, you become a grounded woman. Even though there’s still a child in you who wants to play, the adult calls the shots. Disasters still occur, but without the drama. Let’s just call them a bad hair day.

Persephone – December 2016

Are You Playing the Wounded Card?

 “Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” Tina Fey

As a psychotherapist, I see many young women who are “Persephones.” This personality type is based on the Greek goddess Persephone who was abducted by Hades, king of the Underworld. Wrenched from her mother Demeter, the beautiful maiden plunged into depression.

Many children and teenagers experience an emotional trauma growing up, but some young women notice early on that they are getting attention and special consideration when they recite their tale of woe. Their retelling becomes habitual, even embellished.

Sally is a case in point. She was a happy only child until her brother was born. Her parents, who had been trying for years to have a second child, lavished the darling boy with affection. Sally felt abandoned, particularly by her mother. She recited her plight not only to her parents but also to her relatives.

In high school, Sally gravitated toward students on the fringe, who encouraged her resentment of the “in” cliques. Her loose ill-fitting clothes reinforced her image as Sad Sack Sally. She became an injustice collector: “My teacher who gave me a poor grade didn’t like me.” “The gymnastics coach is a bully.”

When she was 16, Sally went on vacation with her family to a Miami hotel. While they sat around the pool one evening, Sally said she was taking a walk around the grounds. Instead, hearing a party, she wandered into a nearby dive. There she quickly met a handsome guy who plied her with a couple drinks. He suggested they move on to a hipper place. As they walked towards his car, Sally felt his hand tighten on her wrist. Fear gripped her.

At that moment, a squad car pulled up and cops got out and arrested the young man. Sally burst into tears. One of the cops took her aside and explained they had been tailing him because he was reported to be molesting young women. “Why do I always have bad luck?’ Sally asked in despair.

The cop replied in a no-nonsense attitude: “You are a target for predators because of the way you dress and conduct yourself. Men like this guy troll for vulnerable women who look like they need a friend. Unless you change, something like this is going to happen again.”

This encounter changed Sally. An experience on the dark side was a wake-up call to move onto another track. In therapy, she listened to herself: “Why do I always have bad luck?” She figured out the encounters and triggers that set her to wallowing in self-pity. And she learned, by practicing, how to stand for herself in situations where she’s uncomfortable. She stopped resenting her parents and classmates. She cooperated with her gymnastics coach and made it to the seasons’ regional meet.

How about you? Do you find yourself slipping into Persephone mode? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you burning people out with your constant complaints?
  • Are you super sensitive to slights?
  • Do you sulk often?
  • Is your voice negative, complaining or whiny?

You can learn about separation and loss, assessing strengths and limitations from her experience. Reality check is serious business. You begin to listen to your intuition to anticipate when you are vulnerable to being blindsided.

When faced with choices, can you say?

  • yes,
  • no,
  • maybe,
  • not now,
  • maybe later,
  • never?

Tip: Go ahead. Write these on post-its and scatter them on your mirror. Practice. Hear yourself saying them every day. Put some attitude into it.

Once you’re able to set limits and boundaries, your voice becomes deeper, you stand taller. People begin to take you seriously. You’re more grounded. You no longer look like you’re waiting to be swept away.

Your habitual security patterns were challenged in the Underworld. Once you’ve integrated your struggles, become accountable and responsible to yourself, you can be especially helpful to others who are seeking fresh, more appropriate aspects of their own personalities.