As Mother’s Day approaches we are inundated with ads for special gifts, unlimited offers, and countless ways to give tribute to our mothers. We are reminded of the wonderful, selfless love mothers give us and how many of us fail to give them our time and show them our love and gratitude because of our busy lives and exhausting work schedules. In fact, just yesterday, my husband, who saves every article he finds interesting, pulled out an Ann Landers column from May 8, l994 (many of you will have to Google Ann Landers to know who I’m talking about) in which she reprinted a letter from one of her columns a few years earlier, from “anonymous”. In this letter, the author regrets the time not spent with her mother, the lack of understanding of her mother’s advice when she was younger, and her not saying “I love you” often enough. After reading this I began to think of myself as a daughter but also as a mother of three adult children with busy, interesting lives and I felt the need to address them and the many daughters and sons out there who begin to feel a pain in the pit of their stomachs as Mother’s Day approaches and their guilt sets in for not having done enough for that very special mom that has been too good to them so often. This list is not, by any means, a “get out of Mother’s Day” card. It is a reminder to not let your past actions, however hurtful you think they might have been, keep you apart from your mother. Nothing is worse than silence.
"In this letter, the author regrets the time not spent with her mother, the lack of understanding of her mother’s advice when she was younger"
Here’s what this mom has to say to my daughters and my son, and to all sons and daughters out there:
- Don’t ever underestimate my unconditional love for you, even when you are not at your best;
- I always forgive and forget hurtful things you do or say in a moment of anger, even when I don’t say so;
- Forgetting my birthday, not seeing you often, not talking enough is hurtful, but not irreparable. Just talking it out erases that hurt instantly;
- I understand you more than you realize so don’t keep on repeating, “You don’t understand. You never had to go through this”;
- Life is not that different for you as it was for me. Believe it or not, the same frustrations, fears, anxieties that bothered you growing up also bothered me;
"It’s ok to disagree with me, in fact, I expect it. You should be developing your own ideas, ideologies, and finding your own way of dealing with this ever-changing crazy world we live in."
- I too fought with my mother, didn’t accept her advice, and had many disagreements with her only to find out later in life that she was right 90 percent of the time;
- I won’t always agree with your wardrobe decision; that doesn't mean I think you’re a “slut”; I just have different tastes;
- That look in my eyes and that face that says “I don’t like that” means just that: “I don’t like that”. It doesn’t mean any more or less and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t like you;
- It’s ok to disagree with me, in fact, I expect it. You should be developing your own ideas, ideologies, and finding your own way of dealing with this ever-changing crazy world we live in;
"I will always tell you honestly what I believe is best for you without any self-interest"
- I know I often made you do things when you were young that you didn’t like to do like clean your room, dress up for church, go to church, attend adult family functions, but I think you would agree today that all these things have helped to turn you into adults with humility and integrity;
- I know that often I am not the first person you go to for advice, but when you do come to me, remember that although I may not say what you want to hear, I will always tell you honestly what I believe is best for you without any self-interest;
- I know we don’t spend too much time together doing fun things like we did when you were younger, but believe me, I understand that you have a life all your own now full of activity and knowing that you’re happy is my greatest joy;
- I am not perfect!! I know I made mistakes along the way and that you will probably do many things differently when you become parents, but I promise you that you will be surprised at how many things you’ll do the same.
- No, I don’t expect you to be perfect either. I do want you to be self-sufficient, healthy, and happy at whatever you choose to do in life because I believe that these are the fundamentals of a good life, the rest is icing.
- Ultimately, the important thing for you to remember this Mother’s Day is that I love you now and always will, whether you tell me you love me or not, whether you call me once a day, once a week, once a month or once a year.
So this Mother’s Day instead of daughters and sons feeling guilty about what they haven’t said or done, just bask in your mother’s love which is boundless and eternal.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."