As a young girl, my Mama was a movie buff. She was fascinated by the big screen and the larger-than-life actors and actresses of the 1930s and 1940s.
She attended the first screening of The Wizard of Oz at her local theater in Somerville, MA in 1939 and she told me the story many times.
Did you know that The Wizard of Oz was the first movie to introduce color? Mama vividly described what it was like to witness Dorothy stepping out of the house into Oz and having the formerly black and white world burst with color.
The memory gave her great joy to recall even into her eighties. Her eyes lit up every time she told the story, and color rose in her cheeks making her bloom with youth again for a moment.
It’s also one of the good memories from my childhood, the once-a-year showing of Oz on television and being allowed to stay up way past my bedtime, snuggled up with Mama watching the movie…and when I was old enough to understand it, seeing the joy on Mama’s face as the scene transitioned from black and white to color and she relived that happy moment of her own childhood once again.
Mama was nine when she first saw Oz, and not too long after that, she had a devastating experience that effectively ended the joy and innocence of her childhood. It altered her life forever.
She had 3 daughters, 6 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. She owned her home. She had a modest amount of money saved. She was retired from a career in banking that she was very good at. Her health was excellent throughout most of her life until the final months. She carried her age well and most people thought she was a decade, or more, younger than she was. She was a trim and pretty lady. She was bright and capable – a number cruncher, a puzzle solver, an avid learner. She played piano quite well.
Hearing this, most people would say things like “she had a good life” or “she did well for herself” or “she had a long life.”
Here’s the thing, though: She never fully lived.
She was a hostage to her anxiety for more than seven decades.
And that stopped her from experiencing so many things, and from expanding into her full potential.
Mama was a depression-era child, and despite that, the first few years of her life were happy and safe and her natural sunny and inquisitive disposition shines through in early photographs. She and her mother lived alone – her father having disappeared while her mother was pregnant with her – and Mama often spoke of rocking with her mother, singing with her mother, and the safety she felt in those early years.
She attended a local parochial school where the nuns encouraged her piano skills to the point of helping her participate in local talent shows, getting her a piano of her own, and ultimately, a scholarship to the Boston Conservatory of Music.
Then, her father showed up and that altered the course of her life forever.
He was a violent alcoholic who frequently destroyed things in a rage – including her beloved piano.
And, even more heinous, one night when she was 11 years old, he assaulted her in an alley near their home and left her there broken, bruised, and bleeding.
She was hospitalized for 2 weeks while her body healed, but her mind and emotions never recovered from the trauma.
It was the beginning of a lifelong pattern of anxiety, of never feeling safe, of fearing men…and ultimately, the world.
It set the stage for compulsive behaviors and rigid habits, and the desperate need to try to control every aspect of her life.
It buried that naturally sunny and inquisitive little girl almost entirely.
Her bright mind couldn’t be buried, of course, but it was often consumed with worry and fear instead of her strengths in both intellectual pursuits and musical creativity.
She never did go to the Boston Conservatory; instead, she fled home at the age of 15 to marry a Navy seaman and escape her violent father – and still later to enter into a relationship with an abusive man.
She went on to raise three anxious daughters, and two of us raised our own anxious daughters, and one of my daughters is struggling with her daughter’s anxiety now.
Is it nature? Nurture?
I think it’s both simply because each of us in that generational line has been affected in different ways and in varying degrees, and we all play out our anxiety uniquely.
Some of us are more resilient than others, some more capable of pulling a façade around ourselves as Mama did and hiding it better, some have classically ended up in traumatic situations of their own, others have isolated themselves, and still others have managed to “keep up appearances” in a way that has limited their direct trauma a bit.
It’s also generational energy.
Women, as a gender group, carry the energetic memory of abuse toward all women, and we’re particularly affected by the energy of abuse in our own genetic line.
All of this is reinforced through social programming, media, advertising, family belief systems, and personal experiences – the sexualizing of women, the ongoing battles with gender role definitions, the images of the “perfect” ideal, everything from ongoing misogyny and male oppression to the more current mean-girl bullying among women.
And it’s raised to an exponential power at this time in the history of humanity because we live in an always-on, 24/7/365 culture, that’s plugged into a steady blast of information, with way too much private business publicly available.
Through media and technology, we are constantly exposed to unhealthy stereotypes, endless portrayals of “perfection”, and often, violence, bigotry, bias, fear-mongering, and sexism.
Women are more and more anxious all the time, and experiencing more disease and chronic pain than ever before. In many of the most common pain syndromes, women comprise three-fourths of the number who suffer…and the same goes for depression and anxiety.
All three are a vicious cycle, one leading to another and back again.
And it all begins with the anxiety we carry, formed from our generational energy, our personal experiences, and the programming and beliefs that are layered into our thinking.
Our pain is stored trauma, blocked energy, limiting beliefs, unprocessed emotions and ongoing mental chatter.
I’m not saying pain is imaginary: I’m saying our pain is the physical manifestation of a lifetime (and generations) of anxiety and trauma…another vicious cycle.
We experience something painful, and we stuff down the emotions. We don’t grieve when we need to. We tell ourselves the same negative things over and over. We follow the same worry tracks in our minds again and again. We hold onto limiting beliefs we’ve carried with us for years, sometimes lifelong.
We further complicate things by pushing ourselves too far and too hard, too often. We throw ourselves under the bus repeatedly and we skip our self-care habits. We compromise on sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, hydration, disconnection time, and tuning into ourselves.
Some of our pain stems from a physical happening – an accident, surgical complications, falling, etc.
And yet, many people experience these kinds of incidents and go on to recover fully (or almost fully) within a short period of time.
Are they just lucky?
They have healthy mental and emotional habits. They practice good physical self-care. They don’t have limiting beliefs. They focus on their wellness.
I believe this is even true when the cause of someone’s pain is a physical condition that stems from neurological disease, genetic issues or trauma: while they still experience physical symptoms, they have a fulfilled life of purpose when they practice these same things.
It’s focusing on your wellness not your illness.
It’s prioritizing your well-being – your own healing – before you do anything else.
It’s looking for the internal answers and connecting to your own source of power.
It’s also having a tribe, a support system – having people in your life who understand you and contribute to your wellness.
Anxious people often isolate themselves. Some do it physically, living reclusive lives where they feel safest (though in reality, they’re still anxious). Others get out into the world, but have lots of “I can’t because” ways of excusing themselves from participation in things, and they are isolated within their minds, constantly chasing thoughts around and around, either never talking to anyone at all about them, or having a person they complain to, but nobody they can problem-solve with or get support and encouragement from.
These are the keys to healing.
And women are reaching a point of desperation and danger.
Anxiety, depression, disease and chronic pain are escalating every day among us and it’s getting out of control.
An avalanche is bearing down on our daughters and granddaughters.
We need to turn the tide…for our own healing and for future generations of women. We need to take back our power to heal.
So back to The Wizard of Oz…
Dorothy was a young woman from a loving home – although, it could be argued that there was a precipitating traumatic event in her life since she was being raised by her aunt and uncle – so that’s a lesson in itself: appearances can be deceiving, but that’s a topic for another day.
At any rate, when we first encounter Dorothy it’s clear she’s in a safe situation and she’s beloved by several people. So far, so good.
Then along comes the tornado…and Almira Gulch…and the salesman with the magic elixir – all outside forces for Dorothy to reckon with.
She’s betrayed by her aunt and uncle (or so it seems) and Mrs. Gulch takes her beloved dog. In anger and upset, she takes off from her place of safety. The tornado is already stirring. She encounters Professor Marvel and asks him for the answer to her problems. He gives her some mumbo-jumbo and sends her back to safety…
but it’s already too late for that and she ends up alone in the house, gets bonked on the head with a window and lifted into the eye of the tornado.
When she comes to, she’s very far from home and the first thing she discovers is that she’s killed the Wicked Witch of the East with her house and that the Wicked Witch of the West is none too happy about it…
and that she’s in a place bursting with color and lush growth and interesting people.
As she’s getting her bearings, along comes Glinda, the Good Witch, who gives her the ruby slippers, some instructions, and sends her off down the Yellow Brick Road to find her way home.
Along the way, she encounters others who are having troubles of their own, and they form a team, all looking for the elusive Emerald City where they believe they will find all the answers they need and be given the item of power they all feel they lack – a brain, a heart, courage, and the way home.
After much trial and tribulation along the way – and darker powers trying to prevent their success – they arrive in Oz only to discover they can’t access the wizard, the source of power they’re seeking. More to-do and problem-solving, with a little sneakiness thrown in, and they gain access to the Wizard of Oz…
only to find he’s a showman, an illusionist, hiding behind a curtain using trickery and deceit as a false show of power…
but he’s a good-hearted man underneath it all (and he’s really just using superficial means of shoring up his own anxieties and self-esteem), so he offers Dorothy a ride back to Kansas in his hot air balloon.
Now, Dorothy is faced with a dilemma: leave her support system to go back to the safety of home (not even considering her house is actually in Oz with her – it’s the people she misses) or stay with her new support system of seekers and never go home again.
What to do, what to do…
Ultimately, as the Professor’s hot air balloon lifts off prematurely (as he begins to dump some of his own “weight” that’s holding him down), she’s forced to look within herself.
Glinda arrives and reminds her of the instructions, given way back at the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road, that all she needs to do if she wants to go home is click her heels three times and say “there’s no place like home.”
In finally doing so, she returns to herself, reclaiming her own power, and awakens in her own bed, in her home in Kansas, with everyone who loves her surrounding her.
So what does all this mean to you today?
You own the power to heal.
It’s inside of you, always with you, you just have to invoke it.
Reacting to emotions instead of responding to situations gets you into trouble, and looking outside yourself for magic elixirs or trying to access to someone else’s power is where all the complications come from.
Having a safe place to be is crucial, and having the support of others on the journey with you is super-important, but the power lies within you to effect your own healing.
Learning to seek that source first, to trust your own internal guidance system, to listen to your intuitive knowing is the first step in conquering your anxiety…
and when you can do that authentically, be willing to be vulnerable with your support system by sharing your experience and accepting their caring instead of looking to them for the answers. In doing so, you’ll be giving them a gift in return: when we share our pain and anxiety and what we learn along the way, we support collective healing because as we lift ourselves, we lift those around us.
Everyone with anxiety thinks those around them know something they don’t and have it more together: the truth is we all think nobody really understands and that we’re the only one going through whatever we’re facing, and in sharing, others gain insight and support for their own journey, so they can then look internally and begin to trust their own intuitive knowing.
It’s another kind of cycle, this one a healthy one.
Healing is tapping into your power and getting clear on what your instincts (and your body) tell you.
So I ask again: Do you have Dorothy Syndrome?
Are you going around and around in circles, pin-balling from one possible solution to another, battling through external problems ineffectively over and over, looking to others for answers, and seeking an external source of power to provide the magic answer?
If you are, I’d like to invite you to join me in an experiment: Put on your ruby slippers, tap your heels and turn your attention inward. Make the commitment to listening to your intuition and your body ONLY for the next 7 days AND do whatever it says, right away, without second-guessing, without “thinking it through,” without asking someone else what they think.
Don’t worry if you’re afraid – do it anyway. The Cowardly Lion did. So can you.
Let me know in the comments below what you discover about your internal guidance system, for it’s in sharing our collective wisdom that we all will heal.
Love & Blessings,
P.S. One of the ways I teach energy healing and manifesting skills is through my free Radiant Resilience Community – click below to join us and get The Secret to Emotional Resilience 4-part audio mini-course free