Athena Refreshes To Find Her True North – February 2017

Kate prepared meticulously for her speech at the annual strategy-planning meeting of her company which sold a popular soda. She heard rumblings from employees pushing for reduction in sugar grams in the soda which were jaw-dropping high. Of course, the suger jolt had a lot to do with why the drink was so successful.

An alpha woman to the core, Kate took great pride in having risen so quickly in the company. She was sure this speech would put her in line for yet another promotion, a birthday present to herself for having just turned 30.

Beautifully composed, confidently presented, she was floored when her speech was interrupted by boos. “Let’s face it,” shouted one young man in jeans and beard. “Sugar is poisonous. People are waking up to that fact. We’ve been cited as a dangerous product in numerous articles.”

A surprising number of people nodded in agreement. Kate stomped out of the room.

In the hall, her cell phone rang. A policeman was calling from a nearby hospital. “Your mother has been involved in a traffic accident. She damaged four parked cars when she lost control of the wheel.”

Her mother Adele had Parkinson’s disease. She had also been complaining about headaches. Kate assumed her sister Violet was looking in on Adele regularly as she had for years. Then she remembered that Violet was confined to bed because of complications in her pregnancy.

At the hospital, the cop said her mother was under arrest and could not be released unless Kate agreed to be her guardian.

What? Looking after mother was Violet’s role. After all, Kate was the family star. Her mother bragged about Kate’s achievements, but counted on Violet. Her mother’s friends seemed to value Violet more. “She’s True Blue,” they’d say.

Kate signed the guardianship paper. After the cops left, a hospital chaplain came and sat with her mother. Though her mother was weak and not completely clearheaded, she was surprisingly optimistic.

“I shouldn’t complain,” Adele said. “I’m rich in many ways. My volunteer work gives me a lot of satisfaction. I have so many friends, and interests such as reading books. And now Violet is going to have another baby.”

Kate was aware that her own name did not even come up. Back at her apartment, her boyfriend Edward called. He wasn’t that ambitious but he was her “steady Eddie” — husband and father material. Plus he was relaxed enough to be good in bed.

Though she often talked to Ed in the same ‘woman in command’ voice she used at the office, this time she broke down. Pouring out the details of her wretched day, she ended with “I realize I hate my job.”

Long pause. Finally Ed said, “Remember how we met at the American Red Cross fund-raising telethon?” Of course Kate remembered. She had signed up for the telethon because it would look good on a resume.

Ed continued: “That night I listened to your phone calls and you were so optimistic and persuasive. Well, I heard they have an opening at the Red Cross here in town for an executive. Why don’t you look into it?”

A nonprofit? Heresy.

Ed heard her gasp and said, “Maybe today the gods are sending you a message. They might be saying that you would be a lot happier if you used your high intelligence and formidable skills to make life better for other people.”

Kate was in the clutch of a Threshold Experience:

If you’re heavily influenced by the goddess Athena, you may be unduly focused on your own master plan. You may not easily get that other people think and act differently than you. Treat this realization as a challenge to explore. Be curious.

  • Life was conspiring to stop Kate in her familiar tracks. She had grown up in a divorced family. Time with her dad was much more interesting than with her mom because he took her to work with him during Kate’s vacations where she shadowed the office manager – all her ‘take charge’ impulses fired. College and business school had been a snap. Adele’s volunteerism had never been on Kate’s horizon.
  • What better way for the goddesses to conspire for change than to have ‘mother’ come to live with her? This could have proved to be a nightmare, but didn’t.
  • Kate was observant enough to open to her mother’s – read feminine – ways. With Adele’s current position so up front and personal every day, Kate was dipping into a deep well of compassion and empathy. Her heart began to open to this unique mother of hers, and she realized she had never given Adele a chance to share how she’d found a life of ‘service’ so fascinating.

Listening to Adele’s excitement and review of her life’s work in volunteer positions, her varied interests, the influence of growing up in a household with a bedridden grandmother – all this led Kate to rethinking what her own life could be.

Kate had already called into work and explained that due to a family medical emergency, she was taking a leave of absence. She took care of her mother Adele with style and grace; helped Violet get ready for the baby and invited Ed to move into her condo. She was still bossy, but she was on her road to fulfillment. Kate followed the dots and discovered a more authentic way of being.

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.