I Keep Hearing About the Patriarchy…

“I keep hearing about the patriarchy, but what is it?”

For much of the time the present administration has been in power, the word “patriarchy” has been heard more frequently. It is seemingly being used almost interchangeably with “white male privilege.” What is patriarchy and why does it affect women so strongly? Following is an excerpt on this subject from my forthcoming book, Inviting the Queen. You will see for yourself how it has permeated our society for centuries and still curtails the freedoms of women and other disenfranchised groups.

A Brief History of the Patriarchy

The patriarchy is a worldwide culture of domination, maintained by both men and women. I would like to conjecture how it may have begun, and how it spread to become a major tenet of the law and culture, even the very fabric of life in most parts of the world, and how it continues to limit the power of women at all stages of life. Even with the rise of feminism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the present day, the patriarchy is still woven, although somewhat less visibly, into our lives.

Patriarchy is a system that promotes male privilege by being male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered. It is also organized around an obsession with control and involves, as just one of its aspects, the oppression and control of women.

The real truth is that patriarchy oppresses some men, children, and nature as well. It is built on the concept that there is a privileged station in life. Those who would occupy this station can only do so at the expense of all others who would lay claim to it. Patriarchy sets itself up to value only those who are part of this ruling class, in this case, men. But not all men. Only the “right men.” Right Men may be defined as being this or that, or the other thing. There are any number of exclusions that may exist, but the first default setting is being male. Other qualities that admit or exclude men to the elite are race, money, family, accomplishment, age, religion, social standing, sexual orientation, and more. But because women don’t possess the requisite gender, we shouldn’t even think of applying.

Has patriarchy always been the underlying structure, and if not, what else existed in its place? How did it begin and how did it get to be nearly universal? These are some questions that come to mind. Mainstream history doesn’t address these questions, but when it is reported in our textbooks, history gives the impression that everything has always been this way. One of the few views I have found that differ from the assumption that the patriarchy always existed is articulated by cultural historian and systems scientist, Riane Eisler, in The Chalice and the Blade. Her book introduces the concepts of dominator and partnership cultures. Reading her work helped me begin to look at the feminine archetypes through the lens of power.

Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, a specialist in Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures in the region of Europe, offers a complementary view in her seminal work, The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Europe. In her book, Gimbutas proposes that a partnership culture was prominent in prehistoric Europe, lasting on up to the era of the Minoan culture in the Mediterranean (circa 2,500 b.c.e.). In this culture, a Great Mother goddess—let’s call her the Goddess—was worshipped and mortal women were revered as life-givers. Women were even often seen as having magical powers.

Eisler takes the possibility further. She asserts that a culture of peace and reverence for life existed for many centuries that emphasized love and respect for nature. In this culture which she postulates existed in our prehistory, men and women worked as partners with both making equally valued contributions to society.3

Eisler also posits that approximately 1,500 years before the advent of Christianity, the Goddess-centered life of the partnership society was overrun and supplanted by a male-dominated, warrior society through an invasion that may have come from Western Asia and India. The Goddess worshipers were defeated, and the Goddess was made to take a lesser position in relation to the gods of the warrior society.4

Goddess worship did not disappear completely but continued to exist in pockets of Europe and the Mediterranean for some time. By the time of classical Greece and the rise of the Roman Empire, male-dominated society was firmly in place, supported by its masculine deities. Patriarchy was the order of the day.

Perhaps Eisler’s most important contribution to contemporary women is to make the case that domination of women by men is not necessarily the only template for human society. Whether the ancient partnership model successfully existed or not, the idea is worthy of our attention because we are moving toward a successful partnership culture in our own society at present. It is a big step, which is causing us to change our sense of possibility at every stage of our lives as women.

Before we go there, let’s first look at how many scholars believe the patriarchal system evolved. When growing foods and tending animals (agriculture) replaced hunting and gathering as a means of survival for our prehistoric ancestors, human civilization was born. Staying in one place, rather than leading a nomadic life, allowed ongoing, cohesive communities to be established. Whether this agricultural life was female-centered, peaceful, and Goddess-worshiping, as envisioned by Gimbutas and Eisler, is still open to debate. But what is clear is that whether through an invasion of warrior-led, male deity-worshiping hordes who overthrew the matriarchy or through a more gradual shift of power, by 1,500 b.c.e. agricultural civilization was patriarchal. Men ran the political, social, and cultural life of the community.

As agricultural societies grew and prospered, becoming more complex, women’s power positions within them declined. Agricultural society was based on ownership and the primary ownership was of the land. For the most part, men owned the land. But if a woman owned property (in many societies, that was not allowed), then the woman’s land usually passed to her husband when she married. Arranged marriages ensured that the wife’s property was what made her desirable as a wife. That property was her dowry and it afforded her some marital leverage, but society was not a level playing field for men and women.5

It was also usual that the wife would move into the orbit of her husband’s family at marriage, where she had little personal or social support. So, with her property no longer under her control and no easy connection to her family of origin, a wife was easily relegated to a “one down” position.

Women’s positions in society and within the family differed in many ancient cultures. Early Sumerians (circa 5,500–4000 b.c.e.) may have given women more power than they did later. Their religion attributed considerable power to female sexuality and women were accorded rights under the law so that they couldn’t be considered property outright, but the archeological record shows that the law was not equitable in many ways. For instance, the punishment for marital infidelity was far harsher for women than men.

Mesopotamian society succeeded the Sumerian era with its emphasis on the woman’s virginity upon marriage and dictated that respectable women wear veils in public as a symbol of their modesty. Eventually, women’s social positions and their abilities to participate fully in the life of the community eroded more completely. Finally, the law began to dictate more of what women could do and could not do until a good part of Mesopotamian law was mostly comprised of limitations and restrictions for women, as well as assuring some basic protections to them.

There, of course, were other women who rose to high places in particular times under particular circumstances, but it seems safe to say that by the time of the Roman Empire, with its network of roads and imperial connections linking the known world, which were able to carry not only goods and government, but also ideas, philosophies, and religions far and wide, that the patriarchy was well entrenched throughout the entire Western world.

The early Christian Church, still an underground movement, was part of this world and wealthy widows often hosted meetings of early disciples and their followers in their homes. They also often preached and officiated at these clandestine gatherings, but this seeming equality would not last. When Christianity was finally recognized and became the official religion of the Roman Empire through the conversion of Constantine in 312 c.e. it became more accepted and institutionalized, taking on the misogynistic ideas that pervaded Roman society. The Church began to systematically reduce the importance of women to conform to the prevailing attitudes.

Among other symbolic losses was the loss of Eve. Eve began to be seen as the cause of Adam’s downfall and subsequently as the primary cause of Christ’s death and humanity’s need for salvation. Mary Magdalene was mistaken for a prostitute by a pope, who confused her with another biblical woman, and she then carried that designation until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. The Church formally admitted its mistake finally in 1956, but many Catholics still believe she was a whore to this day even so.

Third-century Christians decided menstruation was unclean, and thereafter menstruating women could not approach the altar. Women had never been given the title of priestess by Christians, only that of deaconess. But even so, they could not fulfill their deacons’ duties if they were bleeding. Because of this separation from men and the judging of them to be inferior, the treatment of women became harsher and crueler, until after centuries of denigration women were considered subhuman and a danger to men.

This antipathy culminated in the “Burning Times “of the late medieval era, when it is now believed that perhaps as many as 100,000 people (mostly women) were tortured and killed over the 400 years of the Inquisition.

Many historical elements converged to form this “perfect storm.” The beginnings of a medical profession found the herbalist/midwife a threat to the stature of physicians as healers. The emerging law profession needed an arena in which to practice and seizing the property of those accused of witchcraft was highly lucrative. Combine this with the fact that women were now universally considered inferior and, if unattached and not under the protection of a man, they could be preyed upon with impunity, and you’re in business. Also, the Church was feeling threatened by the unstoppable move towards reformation. Demonizing women and offering up a scapegoat was a way to bind their believers to the faith more closely.

Until very recently, women did not have the right to vote for their own representation in democracies, they could not get a bank loan or open a checking account in their own names and had to rely on their husband’s sponsorship in the financial arena. Women are still fighting in the courts for their reproductive rights, equal pay, and opportunities in the Western nations. We’ve come a long way, but parity and partnership between the genders has not arrived yet.


Do Only Crazy People See Psychotherapists?

Guest author of this blog is Patricia Ariadne, Ph.D, MFT. Please find her information at http://www.drariadne.com. Thank you, Patricia, for your generosity!

Do Only Crazy People See Psychotherapists?

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that, every year, more than a quarter of American adults experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Ordinary people often need help coping with relationship problems, divorce, death of a loved one, serious illness, retirement, and substance abuse. Unfortunately, people are more likely to see a medical specialist when they have a physical injury than a mental health professional about a deep-seated emotional wound. Clearly, the public needs to learn more about psychotherapy: what it is and what it isn’t.

• Seeking psychotherapy does not mean that you are crazy or that you are a failure! These are deep-seated fears that some people have about themselves when they contemplate seeking a therapist. (I often say that the most interesting, self-aware, and intelligent people I know have experienced psychotherapy).
• The psychotherapist does not have a magic bullet. The client needs to do the work. The psychotherapist creates a safe environment to work through issues and responds to the client’s efforts (journaling, reading, dreaming, writing autobiographical material, making changes in daily living).
• Psychotherapy is not instantaneous. It’s an organic process, meaning that it may take time for healing to occur (just like a physical wound) or to change long-standing dysfunctional patterns.
• The past is not dead! In psychotherapy, certain early traumatic life events are examined and “deactivated” so that they no longer unconsciously affect your present life experience.
• The psychotherapist will not tell you what to do, but may make suggestions or recommendations. Psychotherapy is a collaborative relationship during which the therapist will help you find your own answers.
• Psychotherapy is not mind-reading. The therapist may understand elements of your situation because of professional expertise and experience working with similar issues, but s/he does not have magical powers (yes, some people really do believe a therapist can instantly analyze them).

Signs that you could benefit from therapy include:
• You are facing a major life change/transition and you are feeling overwhelmed.
• You are experiencing a long-standing sadness or sense of helplessness.
• You are not able to focus on your work or your family because of your problems.
• Despite all your own efforts as well as help from family and friends, your problems are not improving.
• You are anxious, excessively worried and distracted, and constantly on edge.
• You are self-medicating with alcohol or drugs in an attempt to relieve yourself of your problems without solving them.
• Because of your state of mind, your actions might hurt yourself or others.

A few of the benefits you may gain from psychotherapy:
• Communication skills
• Relationship skills
• How to deal with negative thought patterns.
• New perspectives on past and present roadblocks in your life
• Resilience boosters
• Healing of childhood wounds
• Resolution of trauma
• Depending on the therapist, a better understanding of your dreams
• Again, depending on the therapist, a greater connection to your spiritual center

If you would like to try out the experience of psychotherapy to handle an difficult issue in your life, call Patricia at 760.445.0805 or emailing her at patricia@drariadne.com. Find out more about her work by visiting her website at http://www.TransitionTherapist.com.


For those of you who watch The Good Wife on CBS Sunday nights at 9 PM, you know that one of the lead characters, Will Gardner, has been very unexpectedly killed. After some memory flashbacks by other characters in the series and ongoing references to him, he will disappear.

After reading viewer reactions to his death, and noticing my own feelings, it becomes clearer and clearer that many people have truly experienced a kind of grief over his death. It is not unlike what we all experience in real life when we lose those dear to us and when it is not “real” (as on TV) it nevertheless brings up real feelings. Many times we replay the losses we have endured in the past and revisit the memories. As we replay past losses we can either benefit or not from the emotions that resurface. If our past grievings are unresolved—if we have not yet found peace with them—we may find ourselves feeling sad, angry, depressed or even hopeless. This can serve as an indicator of the need for further bereavement work, that it may be time to see a therapist to help us finish the grieving process. We never “get over” the loss of an important person in our lives, but we can expect and work towards making a kind of peace with the loss. When the memories of our lost loved one finally stop bringing pain and instead bring a sweetness and remembrance of love, we can trust that we can now hold their memories close to us and that a healing has occurred.




Driving through Yosemite National Park today, I saw that it wore its subdued Winter colors–grayed greens, and browns.  The only touches of color were the bright orange/gold of unshed oak leaves left from Autumn’s blazing display and the strong rust color of dead pines.  The deep quiet of the land was then broken by the rush of the newly melted snow as it traveled hurriedly down the Merced, reclaiming some part of its recent absence, trying mightily to fill its riverbed, but not quite up to the demand.

It’s been a dry winter, the rains and snows have been late and it is unlikely that there will now be enough to make up for the delayed arrival.  After three years of little precipitation, the local papers headline “DROUGHT,” giving a name to the pervasive worry.  But deep within this sacred place, there is a feeling of peace, of quiet survival and endurance.  The tree limbs are just starting to swell with buds, showing their promise of Spring’s rebirth.  The stillness holds the promise of another Summer, an awareness that under the soil each plant is quietly spreading its roots, and the yet unborn flowers contain the light.


Depression….Symptoms and Treatment


Depression – Symptoms and Treatment

We so often hear others say “I feel so depressed.”  But are they really DEPRESSED?  What is “clinical” depression and how can it be treated.

According to the DSM V, the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, major depressive disorder must last for at least two weeks and there must be five of the following nine symptoms.

The first and most important of these is severe dysphoria (meaning bad mood) or anhedonia (means loss of pleasure in what one usually found pleasurable).  Without one of these, there is no “real depression”.  So if you find that you no longer enjoy reading a good romance novel, or watching your favorite TV show, or something like that, you are experiencing anhedonia.  Feeling really sad, hopeless, and bleak illustrates dysphoria.

The next symptoms are body-centered.  Such as problems sleeping, either too much or too little, unintentional gaining or losing 5% of one’s body weight,  a change in appetite is another body symptom.  Loss of sex drive is another.  Lack of energy or uncharacteristic slowness of body movement or agitation are symptoms, as well as a pervasive sense of fatigue. Symptoms may follow a daytime pattern, being worse in the morning and somewhat better in the late afternoon or evening.

There are also mental symptoms, too.  An inability to concentrate or focus is often a depressive symptom.  Decision-making may become very difficult or impossible.  Recurring thoughts of death and/or suicide often occur.  Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt are often also present.

As I said earlier, of these nine symptoms, at least five must be present, every day, for most of the day for at least two weeks.

If you or a loved one is showing these symptoms, it is important to seek treatment.

Okay, what kind of treatment?  There are four distinct treatment areas.  The first and most important is suicide prevention.  Since major depression can lead to suicide, that possibility must be looked at first and acted upon if necessary.  This may involve others such as family and friends, and medical/psychological intervention as well.

The second is medication such as antidepressants.  There are several types of antidepressants, none of which are addictive.  A medical doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe these, choosing which type is expected to be the most effective.  Today the most commonly prescribed are Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI’s.  Most antidepressants take from two to six weeks to reach an effective blood level and begin to work.

During this time, and continuing as needed by the patient,  psychotherapy is used to support and later to facilitate insight into the depressive episode, its causes and life changes,  and will lessen the depression and  may prevent recurrence.

The fourth treatment area, involves the patient’s support system.  Spouses, friends, adult children and other family members may need to take an active part in the patient’s treatment.  There are three reasons for the family to be involved in the treatment—to support the patient, to support the family, and in some cases, to treat the family.  Family treatment may be called for if there a dysfunctional family system is a major stressor, contributing to the depression.

So, what I would like to leave you with today is the information that a Major Depressive Episode, contains at least 5 out of 9 identifiable symptoms, that it can be effectively treated by first assessing for suicidality, the use of anti-depressants along with psychotherapy and by the support or the patient’s family and friends.

If you or a loved one is having these symptoms, GET HELP.  Although depression is common, it is serious and is also very painful and very treatable.

On Narcissism


On Narcissism

Designated as a Personality Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5 (DSM 5), narcissism is as prevalent as pimples in middle school.  At its worst, a person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder has such a distorted view of themselves and their relationship to others and the world at large that it is as if they are the center of the Universe, with everyone else orbiting them.  True narcissists see EVERYTHING in relationship to themselves.  Their experiences, their needs, their goals, their feelings, their…their…their.  You get the picture.

Narcissism comes in different flavors.  Here are a few:

Mom, I have decided to go to school to be an interior designer.

Poor me:  Oh, I always wanted to do that but we never had any money and I had to start working when I was 12 to pay for food and…

The take away: Who told you that you were an artist?

I did it first, and better:  That’s great! You know I taught myself interior designing when I was two and everyone always says I have the best taste.

Excuse me, back to me: (Interrupting) That’s nice.  Did I tell you I am going to plant some new flowers in the back yard and… (for at least a half hour before moving on to something else about her.)

Or how about using the same formula different statement:

 “Mom I have decided to write a book about bees.”

Poor me: I always wanted to write, but I was never allowed to by my controlling father.  Did I ever tell you he…

The take away: What do you know about bees, sweetie? You should leave writing to the experts.

I did it first, and better:  I have written many books starting as a young child but I always felt it was too showy to have them published so I keep them to myself (my mom and grandmother actually said this one).

Excuse me, back to me: (Interrupting) That’s nice.  Hey, did I tell you I went to a play last week and…(for at least a half hour before moving on to something else about her.)

So you can see that even if it is someone else’s experience, they are adept at intercepting it and reinterpreting as it relates to them.  Another example might be, a second grader comes home with a picture he drew in school for which he has gotten an A.  The narcissistic mother sees this and instead of praising the child for his talent and expression, says how proud she feels and how he must have inherited his talent from her!

Children growing up with narcissistic parents often have self-worth problems and choose secondary roles in their other relationships, because they are used to being “one down”.  Taking a leadership position is hard for them because they have not had it mirrored back to them that they can call the shots.  They have not been allowed to do that before, so it may not occur to them that first place is theirs to claim.  The adult children of narcissists can usually look back at the people they have chosen for their most intimate relationships and find that those people, too, are narcissistic.  They are drawn to them because that’s what love feels like, that’s what feels familiar.

When the pain of always being the “accessory” to someone else becomes great enough, many people seek therapy to help with their unfulfilling relationships.  That’s when they have a chance to see where it all began and begin to claim their rightful importance as the star in their own play and not feel it is their fate to always be the supporting actor.

If this begins to describe your own life, it may be time to do some inner work with a trained counselor.