In What is ancestral trauma? I describe the key psychological wounds that humanity suffered as a result of the drought, desertification and famine that gave rise to patriarchy. Here I want to focus on the second of these wounds: zero emotional and sexual growth.
Patriarchal societies are implicitly zero emotional and sexual growth societies because that growth would destroy them.
Drought and famine
In Saharasia, geographer James DeMeo documents how long-term drought in the Sahara, the Middle East and Central Asia led to desertification, famine and fighting for resources. The Sahara—once a savannah like modern-day Kenya—turned to sand.
This began around 6,000 years ago and took several millennia to unfold. Analysis of stalagmites from Kuna Ba cave in northern Iraq by Professor Ashish Sinha of California State University reveals a ‘mega-drought’ as recently as 675-550 BC.
“A passive indifference to the needs or pain of others manifested itself, and hunger, feeding of the self, became their all consuming passion… The very old and young were abandoned to die. Brothers stole food from sisters, and husbands left wives and babies to fend for themselves. While the maternal-infant bond endured the longest, eventually mothers abandoned their weakened infants and children.”—James DeMeo, Saharasia
Over time, peaceful goddess-worshipping Neolithic societies gave way to violent nomadic tribes. Only the most violent survived. This meant the suppression and repression of all the feminine aspects of humanity. In its stead, the victorious male warrior was revered. Any form of feminine expression became a source of profound shame.
These warrior societies created the template—military, political, financial, social and psychological—for every patriarchy that followed, including today’s global society.
Zero emotional and sexual growth
In order to compete in this dog-eat-dog world, entire peoples shut down their capacity to feel until their natural processes of emotional and sexual growth collapsed. Arrested development became institutionalised to the extent that it was no longer identifiable. It became humanity’s ‘new normal’. Shame became unconscious.
In How shame affects life energy, I describe the mechanics of this process. Masculine energy is unconsciously diverted into repressing feminine impulses to prevent shame:
The reason for this was simple: shame got you killed. Deuteronomy 22:20-21 states: “If the man was right and there is no proof that his bride was a virgin, the men of the town will take the woman to the door of her father’s house and stone her to death.” (CEV)
Note that the condemned woman is taken to the door of her father’s house. Not only is she killed, but her whole family is shamed. The responsibility for her behaviour falls on her father. This creates a huge pressure for fathers to control their family’s emotional and sexual behaviour that still surfaces today in honour-based violence.
In The Mass Psychology of Fascism, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich writes: “Suppression of the natural sexuality in the child… makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of authority… At first the child has to submit to the structure of the authoritarian miniature state, the family; this makes it capable of later subordination to the general authoritarian system.”
The result was that children didn’t just shut down their emotions and sexuality in the present. They shut them down in the future as well. To survive, they stymied their own future growth.
And ours. Thanks to epigenetic inheritance, we’re still running the same programming—what I call the Patriarchal Operating System. We’re a species stuck in emotional irresponsibility and immaturity. Our society, our economy and our environment mirror this. We’re stuck like the little plastic figures in the photo above.
At the 2021 Intergenerational Trauma Conference, Peter McBride, Director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, noted that inherited traumas are not memories. The sufferer “holds on to the experience as a living experience”.
The trauma that ancient people felt as the deserts expanded is alive inside us. We’re clinging to a 6,000-year-old ancestral trauma that prohibits our emotional and sexual growth as human beings.
This has huge implications for our most significant social structure, marriage. In Patriarchy demands that our relationships are stagnant, I write:
Saying “I do” is permitted only in the presence of a representative of the patriarchal establishment. We think we’re committing to a life of ever-growing love. We’re not. We’re pledging to uphold patriarchy. The notion of the happy, monogamous, lifelong couple is the fantasy we cling to, to make the unconscious horror of zero growth bearable.
Patriarchy demands stagnant relationships for the simple reason that emotional growth will destroy it.
In practical terms, this stagnancy manifests as a psychological hole at the heart of our key relationships. In Is there a hole at the heart of your relationship? I write:
It’s the hole where we hide our truest selves from the one we love the most—because we’re afraid they would reject us if they saw what was inside.
So, what’s in this hole?
Our deepest and darkest emotional and sexual truths… the stuff we hardly dare think let alone speak. Things about our partner—or perhaps our in-laws—that trigger us but we never dare mention for fear of rocking the boat. Desires for sexual experimentation that flit through our mind while we engage in the same dull, disengaged sex we always have.
Michael Picucci, author of The Journey Toward Complete Recovery, writes of “a deep psychic schism within almost everyone in our culture which prohibits enduring, loving relationships to form, which at the same time can remain sexually alive and growing”.
I’ve mentioned sexual growth a lot. Why is this important? For the simple reason that sexual energy is the energy that creates and animates life. When our sex lives are stagnant, our life energy is stagnant. It’s a playful energy that wants to dance with us, to break through stale patterns and bring freshness into our lives.
As long ago as 1932, Wilhelm Reich wrote: “Sexually awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology”.
What’s not to like?