I’ve been counseling, coaching, advising, and mentoring women in individual sessions, classes, and, more recently, photo shoots full-time for 12 years.
So I’ve had a lot of conversations with women about emotions and PMS. Often a woman will arrive to our appointment full of emotion. She’ll begin sharing her experience and once she starts feeling the intensity of it, she’ll say “it’s just PMS” in an attempt to dismiss or minimize what she’s feeling. To this I always say…
It’s not just PMS.
Yes, there’s a big hormonal shift before, during, and after menstruation. But that’s no reason to invalidate what these changes are revealing to you about your emotional world. On the contrary.
My view is that PMS is a time in each woman’s monthly cycle where the veil between her conscious mind and her emotional world thins and she’s able to access what she truly feels about the events in her life in an unfiltered and undiluted way.
DO YOU KNOW THE TERM “ATTENUATION”?
Wikipedia’s definition (which is very revealing) is: “In physics, attenuation (in some contexts also called extinction) is the gradual loss in intensity of any kind of flux through a medium. For instance, dark glasses attenuate sunlight, lead attenuates X-rays, and water attenuates both light and sound.”
In psychological terms it’s the desire to dilute your intensity and vibrancy so you can be smaller or invisible.
How many of you as girls were taught directly or through the example of the women who raised you that toning yourself down, being agreeable, pleasing, helpful, going with what others want, and being less opinionated were the appropriate and lovable ways to be? How many of you were told – through words, a withholding of love, or even verbal or physical abuse – that you were being too intense, demanding, selfish, or difficult when you did not conform to an “appropriate” (i.e. diluted or muted) way of being?
My guess is that a lot, if not most, of you received these messages.
Girls internalize these requests to diminish themselves by believing that much of them – their voice, power, perspective, drive, and emotions – is shameful and should be hidden if they want to be loved. As adults we logically know this isn’t true. But these messages, and the trauma of when love was lost when we’ve been “too much”, goes deep. So deep in fact, that many women have buried so much of themselves to feel safe and receive love that they’re walking through life as shadows of the women they truly are.
You may think “that’s not me” and I genuinely hope this is so. I am all for every person feeling deeply free to be and express their true selves.
That said, the reach of patriarchy, and how it influences the way girls (and boys) are raised to “play their roles” goes deep.
How often have you felt as if there’s another life in you that wants to be lived but you feel frozen or trapped to put this vision into motion for fear of how others will see you? How often do you avoid speaking up for yourself (i.e. confrontation), perhaps feeling panic at the mere thought of it? How often have you longed to express yourself more fully but fear being rejected or punished somehow if you do? Develop a creative passion or gift you know is lying dormant within you? Say what you truly feel to someone you love? Set a boundary that would allow you to live with greater integrity, but you feel shame for wanting this? Keep saying yes when you mean no? Minimize how you feel for fear of what owning your emotions will lead you to say/do/live? Obsess about keeping your body small or making it smaller?
If you’ve felt these things, which are all ways the light of your being wants to shine through you but is being held back by fear, then you know first hand how powerfully girls and women are socialized to shrink or minimize themselves.
There are so many ways we can awaken to how we’ve been socialized to attenuate ourselves and, step by step, begin to take up the space in our lives that is ours to take up.
Such as… being around empowered women and men who reflect your best self back to you. Seeking therapy, coaching, mentoring, and/or friendship from those who have insightful wisdom to share with you. Expressive arts. Becoming present in your body. Somatic healing work. Journey work. Journaling. Meditation. Lovingly challenging yourself to take intentional risks to expand out of your comfort zone, and so much more.
All of these things are so helpful, but the most powerful and immediate way we can connect with the truth of who we are right now is to focus on our inner connection by genuinely feeling and listening to our emotions.
It’s magic when you think about it. Once a month your body has designed an experience for you to FULLY FEEL what you feel so you can know your truth, act on it, and live more in alignment with yourself.
No matter how busy you’ve been. No matter how much shame, fear, or insecurity may be influencing how you relate (or don’t relate) to yourself. No matter how inconvenient… once a month your body is going to do its absolute best to bring you into connection with your inner world.
This can, of course, feel uncomfortable. And the vulnerable parts of yourself that you’ll get in contact with will most likely ask you to use your voice in some way, and that can bring up all sorts of old pain and fear as well.
But this is the process of coming home to yourself and creating your life based on truth as opposed to the attenuated, “agreeable” women you were most likely socialized to be.
Yes it can be inconvenient, scary, and uncomfortable. But it’s the deep work of self-love and empowerment I know all of you who read this post are on the path of.
So say yes.
To coming home ever more deeply to yourself.
To being grateful for how your body helps you with this.
To honoring your emotions as messengers of your deeper needs and truth.
To living courageously and letting your vulnerable truth, and not who you’re “supposed” to be, guide you.
• What ways do or did you see your mom attenuate herself? In what ways do you attenuate yourself? Where are places you can practice bringing more of your true self forward?
• What have the emotional waves of your last few cycles shown you about your true emotions and needs?