Hysteria: Wisdom of the Womb
Hysteria: Wisdom of the Womb
By Joshua B. Geetter, L.Ac.
Natural Highs, Spring 2007, pp. 8-9
In my clinical practice, I see a significant number of women complaining of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Chinese Medical diagnostics includes a model called the eight principles which I often employ in these cases. Amongst these principles are two etiologies or routes of pathogenesis; internal or external generated illness. More often than not, these anxiety cases fit the diagnosis of an external pathogen. In Western Medicine, these disorders are considered to be internal to a woman’s biochemistry. This Chinese differential diagnosis of external pathogen resulting in anxiety is a fundamental departure from the Western Model. Because diagnosis defines how the illness is viewed and treated, this departure has profound implications. These are of such potential import to patients and society that I am compelled to share them via publication versus one patient at a time in the clinic.
Why is it that an honest patient intake should so often yield a diagnosis contrary to that of Western Medicine? Could it be that these women are experiencing natural and healthy internal responses to an unnatural and unhealthy external environment? Many women in modern cultures are experiencing sane and natural stress reaction responses which they and their doctors diagnose as “Hysteria, Depression and Anxiety.” The patient, doctor and medical model are correct within the context of Western medicine.
However, other models do exist. Oriental Medicine and Eastern Philosophy offer a beautiful and empowering model which is clinically effective for many of these patients. For those patients and humanity at large, we are obliged to share and consider this model.
Oriental Medicine philosophy is rooted in Taoist and Buddhist schools of thought. The differential diagnosis of Hysteria references directly to the creation theories of these schools. In describing creation, Taoist cosmogony and numerology state:
“Tao produced one.
The One produced the two.
The two produced the three,
and the three produced ten thousand things.”*
The ‘Tao’ or source of all creation is likened to the number zero. The ‘ten thousand things’ are analogous to all manifestations in creation. From Tao, all manifestation springs. This source of all creation is described as empty, yet pregnant with all possibilities. Tibetan Bhuddism describes the source of all creation similarly. The “Dharmakaya” (source) is likewise thought to be a pregnant void which births all manifestation. Both the Tao and Darmakaya accord to emptiness, and numerologically speaking, to the zero. Women’s anatomy, specifically the womb, corresponds to source, Tao, Darmakaya, and the zero. Therefore it is said,
“The spirit of the valley never dies.
It is called the subtle and profound female.
The gate of the subtle and profound female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.”*
Valley and gate equate to womb. It is widely held in Eastern philosophies that women literally embody the root of all creation. In this case the natural upwelling of their emotions is the expression of Tao, and should be heeded.
Western philosophy speaks to this upwelling of primordial wisdom without equating it to source or women’s nature. Carl Jung speaks of the ‘Zeitgiest’, the common subconscious.* This is the shared consciousness of any given population. It is exemplified in a flock of birds, a herd of elk, a crowd of people, or all humanity sensing and responding as one. Jung’s ‘Zeitgeist’ equates to the “One” in Taoism, which is the manifest expression of the Zero. What is the tenor of the current human ‘Zeitgeist’ worldwide? Is it infused with feelings of peace, harmony and a calmness of spirit? Is humanity as a whole, at peace today, or is there pervasive anxiety?
The current ‘Zeitgiest’ world-wide is infused with mortal fear, fear for the fate of our progeny, anxiety, depression and despondency. It is womens’ nature to resound with the common collective subconscious. Any sane woman should be experiencing awareness of anxiety, depression, fear and despondency today. It is actually unnatural and not sane for women not to at least be aware of these undercurrents. For one woman, this natural awareness is paired with the wisdom that she is sensing source and not “going crazy.” Another woman, ignorant of the Eastern model, knows not why she is experiencing “Hysteria.” Her Western MD can treat symptoms with drugs, but she is in danger of truly “going crazy” due to misapprehension of her experience.
Women in the modern Western culture are impoverished. They suffer the poverty of ignorance. The thought that their anxiety, depression, fear and hysteria may be put in healthy context and thus channeled for good has never been taught to them. Unaware of their connection to Tao, they are helpless to cope and fall into pathologic hysteria.
The Greek root word hyster literally translates to uterus. The modern word hysteria has the connotation of insanity. This means that to have a uterus is to be by definition, insane. Given this precept it is no wonder that women are diagnosed as hysterical and thus treated with medicines which disrespect their true link to sanity, wisdom and source. Over prescription of anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytics, birth control and Hormone Replacement Therapy, hysterectomy and institutionalization, and other misinformed treatments are now the norm to treat a misinformed diagnosis of hysteria. These protocols treat the symptoms poorly, and they do not address root issues. For more discussion the reader is referred to my article “Good Morning Prozac Nation” Natural Highs, Spring 2004*.
Allopathic medicine and the patriarchal society which informs it, operates on a fundamental misapprehension of reality. Reality is that the source of all creation is empty, pregnant, and analogous to the womb. Knowledge of this fact leads society to respect for women’s wisdom. Medical treatment of psychic agitation in women then includes “educate, support and empower her.” Ignor-ance of this fact results in a societal view which births a misinformed medical corpus. Ignorance, in Taoism and Buddhism is considered to be a root cause of suffering and medical illness. Dispelling ignorance literally is considered medicine at the root level.
These teachings are largely unknown in modern culture. Women today, when feeling anxiety, are taught that their feelings are pathological. They are not informed or validated that their experience may be born of innate health and wisdom. In such a state they are powerless to help themselves and much less their society. This does not have to be the case. Healing for patient and society through education is at hand if we disseminate it.
In many clinical cases I feel justified and indeed am obliged to offer the patient that her “illness” may actually be “health” crying to be heard. I have seen that verbal validation of her feelings effectively treat the symptoms. A visible weight comes off her shoulders by learning that her feelings are her birthright. These women experience profound healing of “hysteria” through psychological validation of its root in health. With herbal, acupuncture and counseling support they often are able to taper and discontinue taking drugs. Next, these women turn the previous pathology into its commensurate virtue. They become empowered by their inner wisdom connection, and utilize it to inform their lives in a positive, healthful manner. Information coming from source then ceases to be pathogenic. It becomes fuel for healing and teaching themselves, their families, their communities and the world at large.
The way of respecting innate wisdom in what we call Hysteria holds immeasurable healing potential. The import goes beyond the individual patient. Publishing this information is worthwhile if it sparks transformation of just one woman’s anxiety. If these teachings spread, womankind and humanity will be transformed. Each woman’s current suffering is the Tao calling to be heard. The current pervasiveness of anxiety related illness directly correlates to the depth our societal ignorance and imbalance. We stand at a crisis with equal measures of potential illness and health facing us. Enlightening women to their birthright of wisdom can catalyze health from one woman to all beings. May it be so.