Someone I barely know on social media recently decided to give me some “soul advice” on how the seeminlgy innocuous words I’d sent out into the ethers could boomerang back and knock me out. She warned me “with great love” that I should be wary of “attracting” that which I so aptly described. Of course, she’d never met me personally or conversed with me to know the subtleties behind my use of language or my philosophy of discernment, but she had an ardent need to share her “metaphysical principles” and apply them to my situation, regardless of whether or not I had invited such “helpful” observations. She presumed we were empathically intimate, based upon her identification with my facebook posts. It made me ponder the “deeper meaning” of advice-giving, as often indiscriminately shared amongst women, and how it might be a distorted expression of would-be sovereignty.

In fact, “giving advice” amongst women, meted out with the same alacrity as “endearments”, is tantamount to psychic warfare at times, my reality challenging the primacy of yours. The equivalent of Alpha males having pissing contests (see Trump v. Korean Leader Kim Jong-un) is Alpha Feminist New Cagers fighting for spiritual supremacy. After all, the “love” of endearments “guarantees” that what I’m saying is coming from love and is thus incontrovertible, immune to disagreement. How could you possibly object to someone’s “advice” sealed with the imprimatur of love? (and why DO we fall for these “spices of endearments” over the meat and potatoes of relationship?)

The bottom line is that another woman’s sovereignty is not there to be co-opted, broken into or plundered as so much free real estate up for grabs. We cannot secretly “adopt” the power or talent of others to compensate for our own lack of self-ownership or self-knowledge. But why are we so afraid of another women’s truth without conditioning it in advance with controlling endearments? Why do we avoid the dignity of honestly earning “right relationship” with other women through facing our mutual pain, differences, and latent conflicts but instead go straight to the safety of endearments? Do we not think we have an honest leg to stand upon or that we can only stand when we’re complicit in our brokenness? It’s time to stop kow-towing to an imaginary, invisible male hierarchy in the arena of female interactions.

The obvious corollary is “why do we automatically honor men’s opinions over women’s as more deserving of consideration, space, and action, even when they don’t deserve it”? (You need only look to the pathetic, unhinged state of national politics and to your workplace for egregious examples of unearned male respect). And yet why this knee-jerk need to preemptively “armor” ourselves with numbing endearments against any real communication with other women? Could it be fear of an imaginary Oz, the ghost of the Mother Wound, that power that lurks behind the patriarchal veil? Fear of the Exiled One, the Dark Mother, who pulls back the curtain at unpropitious times to dismantle our integrity “for the well-being of all”, while violating the very ground of our existence with pronouncements of who we are and what we are feeling? Are we replicating this paradigm of the insecure, invasive Mother in our interactions with other women? Are we caught in an infinite loop of invalidation and disempowerment fueled by an unconscious relationship to the Dark Mother?

Perhaps it is our underlying core belief, reinforced by family, society, and ancestry, that our deepest feelings and beliefs are “homeless”, not welcome ANYWHERE and that we must somehow attach our “belonging” to a source, plug it in SOMEWHERE, even if it means ”merging” with another woman’s hard-earned identity. A petit-theft, these thorns of “helpful criticism” and identity-hijacking are camoflaged by dulcet tones of affectionate “ownership” and encouragement, just like an invasive mother. Women historically have either sacrificed themselves by falling on their own sword or found strength through empathic usurpation of others’ successes, male or female. Jealousy tears open and dissects another’s flower of success to hide from one’s own failures, and to soften the edges of another’s sovereignty and brilliance, one that we may secretly covet. We wish to dissolve the sense of alienation from our own natural place in the Universe by denying other women their rightful place as well, to keep the playing field even. We’d rather be broken together in the patriarchy’s separatist hierarchy than alone in the terror of the patriarchy’s heartless hegemony.

Most “answers” to these questions revolve around understanding the storyline of patriarchy and its long-term impact on women’s self-worth and self-knowledge. These “toxic rituals of female social connection” are residues of unresolved systemic suppression of the voices and opinions of women as legitimate and worthy of attention. They are a modern twist on an old dagger, a covert solution to our passive and “shameful” need to be “seen” and recognized for our worth without acknowledging our shadow side. We sublimate ancient wounds of dismissal, abandonment, and persecution in generous endearments and advice. Our “helpful”, gentle words convince us that we are more peaceful and powerful than our oppressor, that inner critic who denies our intrinsic importance and routinely dismantles our sovereignty. The real work is to face our inherited inner shadow, to transmute distortions into understanding, and to develop home-grown sovereignty. Blaming, one-ups-manship, and codependency are toxic avoidances of responsibility, transforming our hidden strengths into poisonous barbs that tacitly support the patriarchal agenda. They are tactics for avoiding the painful, core truth that we must FIRST tend to and heal our own feminine psychic wounds. Not necessarily alone, but with solid boundaries and structures of support that allow for relational balance.

Unsolicited advice-giving seems to have its roots in the hierarchical structures and privileges of rank within the patriarchy, not in sisterhood or the desire to lift us all up. We must acknowledge that we can’t “merge” with others out of sympathy or need in the name of kindness or equality. That discredits our autonomy and uniqueness. We must fight for our individual truth amidst the daily assault and battery of lies, displacement of truth, and false pacts. We must own this Warrior’s Apprenticeship. We can’t mute our voices under a blanket of soft lies. We must allow the diamond-hard edge of truth to creep into our voices and be heard, not appease and water down the truth to avoid the sharp edges of change.

The Truth was never the exclusive province of men, and, has largely been vacated. It’s time to call out the elephant in the living room and embody the truths we’ve been hiding. Can we explore relationships of mutual responsibility with woman without imploding or exploding? Can we find our real voices without triggering a sister’s unhealed wounds? To borrow a term from Somatic Experiencing, perhaps we must “titrate” feminine empowerment i.e. slowly incorporate it into a new and gentle social code of our own invention, so as not to incite reactive combustion or rebellion, and avoid re-traumatizing ourselves after aeons of mistrust and embedded doubt. We must transcend old rituals of rank, superiority and competitiveness that poisoned our original relationships of sisterly trust and fueled the need to give unsolicited advice to improve our “rank”. We must clean out the cobwebs of custom and compulsion and take back our innate honesty, our natural humility, and our feminine crown of ancient wisdom as custodial principals of a planet that sorely needs us.