Whole people create whole systems: the role of the feminine in our collective evolution

Andrea Harding
Dec 19, 2016 · 8 min read

We must learn to integrate our feminine nature with much greater capacity if we are to transcend the limitations of the current paradigm

Across the last four years I have traveled the world, exploring planetary change with leading pioneers in the field of social transformation. These conversations have been diverse, examining transition in many fields including education, the economy, business, spirituality and health. While I have been thoroughly inspired by the emerging collective urge to address our deepest challenges as a humanity, I feel our overall ambitions are being thwarted by what I perceive to be a deeply ingrained, collective psychological fracture. This rupture can largely be attributed to a crisis of the feminine and its relevance to the future of our planet and all men and women is universal.

Detail of female employees in Wetter’s calico factory, by Joseph Gabrielle Rossetti Maria 1765

The very first lecture I attended at university was entitled ‘Why Are There No Great Women Artists?’. I was amused to discover that it wasn’t because women artists didn’t exist, but because women had historically been involved in domestic art such as crafts, textiles and dressmaking, which art critics decided weren’t ‘great’ enough to warrant serious attention. This was my initiation into a post ‘rights for women’ understanding of the world, where the focus isn’t solely on female sexual equality, but the social tendency to demean activities and values that are perceived to be ‘womanly’ or feminine in nature such as ‘feelings’, ‘intuition’, ‘non-linear thinking’, ‘spirituality’, ‘the body’, ‘relationships’, ‘passivity’, ‘openness’ and ‘subjectivity’.

It is possible to identify how this distaste for ‘feminine’ expression has been institutionalised through our social environments. Public structures and endeavors, such as government bodies, businesses, schools and scientific establishments have largely been developed with little attention or regard for feminine qualities. Bearing in mind that gender study and psychology reveal that feminine qualities are not specifically female but present in every man and woman, this suggests that public life is an inherently lopsided experience for all of us. Feminist writers came up with the concept of ‘separate spheres’ to describe this gendered schizophrenia: the private, domestic sphere of the feminine and the public, work sphere of the masculine — where the feminine is the inferior counterpart.

Exploring the role of mind, body and spirit at Futurisor

My work as an MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) practitioner as well as my own direct experience in industry evidenced everything I had learned as a student about these divisions. MBTI is a type of instrument that enables us to explore our personal psychological preferences and as practitioners we learn how results are weighted to take into account people often feel uncomfortable admitting their attraction to what might be considered more ‘feminine’ preferences (introversion, intuition, feeling and perceiving). I have seen people struggling with their public life and work because they don’t know how to integrate their natural inclination towards their intuitive reason or express their feelings openly. I have worked with scientists, academics and politicians attempting to describe their work in purely objective terms when they are clearly motivated by a more personal agenda and observed the inherent unease in them and others that arises from the friction.

The division between our feminine and masculine impulses is a forced and artificial state but we have grown up in a world where it appears natural to divorce them. Attempts to unify them are often contentious because we are wired to believe the ‘inferior feminine’ generally represents a threat to the public masculine agenda. In meetings I frequently hear things like ‘airy fairy’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘ambiguous’, ‘distracting’ and ‘idealistic’ being thrown around when heightened feminine behaviors are in play such as exploring feelings, intuitions and personal needs. Assumptions are generally made that this is because the masculine way of perceiving is superior rather than being the outcome of a form of conditioning or politicisation of nature. Feminist writers have argued that the reason masculine values became positively associated with the public sphere was not because of their inherent supremacy, but because they were more naturally conducive to a world where competition, self-interest and materialism reigns. In other words, a masculine bias may be operating in us because we believe it is necessary for our survival; it is a way of behaving that stems from fear.

Using the body to explore our intuition

This takes me to the potential chicken and egg scenario that I believe is standing in the way of a more profound social evolution. I believe we can reasonably hypothesize that we would see some profound changes occur in the world if we developed our social structures and public institutions to embrace both our feminine and masculine sensibilities — the ‘whole person’. I believe that we would begin to see a reduction in mental health issues, poverty, war and environmental decline as a direct result of engaging our full self. However, I perceive that we are so intensely programmed to suppress our feminine instincts that the majority of the population has no idea how this could occur or how to bring forth feminine insights in a largely masculine preserve. The foremost faculties required to spur us into this space — our intuition, our feelings, our ability to work with our inner space and uncertainty, our need for subjective expression and liberation — are the very things we have been conditioned to be cautious of! Our feminine muscles have been so grossly underused, many of us have no concept of their power or role in our social affairs. I am not suggesting that our masculine ways of being in the world are not important or relevant anymore either. It’s simply a case of bringing our feminine perception into balance so it serves us with a similar level of maturity.

Imagining work in the future at the Ouishare event, Paris

In this context, it is possible to describe humanity’s situation as a self-fulfilling cycle of masculine-fueled public endeavor. We cannot break free in to a new way of doing things because the very thing that can liberate us has been deemed the enterprising equivalent of quackery.

I have sat with this predicament for the best part of fifteen years and I have continued to observe the all pervasive effect of disassociated masculine values in the public world. I have devised all kinds of strategies to ‘switch the lights on’, from using MBTI to raise awareness to developing a psychodynamics tool to reveal the collective business benefits of ‘intuition’ and well being. In my own internal universe, I have been on a daily personal crusade, talking openly about my feelings in the boardroom, confidently expressing my non-linear aversion to the clock and the quantification of everything that moves and asserting my need for personal reflection and well-being.

My inner girl finally had the realisation, to quote Einstein (one logician with no problem embracing his intuition), that ‘no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it’. It is evident to me that we can only solve our planet’s problems by getting out of our own way. We need to step out of our current frame entirely in order to reframe what a healthy way of doing things might look like. Our current systems are wired to maintain their own survival; building new models that service our whole being within existing environments is like trying to walk in a straight line on a merry go round.

In 2012, I exited the corporate world in search of other individuals and groups who were interested uniting their dismembered psyches and creating platforms that would enable their whole person to thrive. This path gave birth to what was originally known as the Noomap and Metta-hub projects and then expanded to include the ‘Synergy Hub 1.0’ experiment in Rotterdam. Together these projects form a whole systems (on and offline) environment for people operating with integral perspectives on self and creativity. The hub is a microcosmic society where a new form of lifestyle is being prototyped and distinctions between home, play and work blur into a harmonious, flowing experience. The honoring of the feminine polarity allows freedom for working with intuition, well being and the body, openness to relative perspectives, alignment with natural and non-linear time, deep inner reflection and spiritual insights. It also nurtures an epic capacity for embracing uncertainty and ambiguity in order to allow creativity to mature. Using this whole systems lens, we are co-creating a new internet technology (formerly known as Noomap, now called H4OME) and a co-creation platform (‘Synergy Space’) that will enable others to co-create in similar ways and experience new forms of social and technological interaction. At the heart of these technologies is the feminine-masculine principle of synergy which takes discrete parts or interests and forms greater wholes out of them, shifting focus away from the masculine weighted agenda of competition.

Synergy Hub, Rotterdam

We are only four years into our experiment, but I can testify personally that the sense of freedom and well being from living in this kind of world is hard to describe unless you have experienced it directly. I feel like my body is breathing with a new kind of oxygen having managed to break out of an unwanted straitjacket. The results of our endeavors are also drawing ever closer, and I’m proud of our willingness to let them arrive in their own natural time, unforced, not rushed and imbued with our trust and good health. Like a child that has been loved, held and nourished with great care, attention and devotion, I feel we are near to seeing a creation that embodies a stunning level of maturity, beauty and brilliance. Indeed, the results are going to be just as magical as the process that gave birth to them and in a new world where our feminine instincts are intact, this, of course, is exactly the point.

For further details see www.noomap.info, www.synergyhub.nl and www.wildwireconsultancy.co.uk

Andrea Harding

Written by

Architecting synergistic solutions to support whole systems transition. Co-founder of the S7 Foundation. Synergy Resonance Navigator at Together.