"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," spoken by Perez in Act 3, Scene 2, The Mourning Bride (1697) —William Congreve
“Hell hath no fury.” We’ve all heard this and may even have used it in reference to a jilted woman. “Cranky old woman” is another one.
Both phrases connote bitterness; another term which is frequently applied to women. As if there were something wrong with being unhappy about a wish or dream denied?
It is true that any woman scorned can become dramatically enraged and a woman in late perimenopause and into full menopause can be a force to be reckoned with. Our culture is behind in understanding that advances in medicine mean women are living longer. We have a lot of time to be productive after children go off to college and even after retirement. This means we can do more and yet we’re told it’s time to stop dreaming, take a back seat, and that there is no place for our collected wisdom.
Wouldn’t you be pissed?
Why All The Emotions?
In her book, Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women Over Fifty, Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen delves into what it means to cross over into Crone. Her work stresses the importance of owning and being proactive in defining what crone means and uses mythology and history to do so. In chapter two of the book Audacious Aging, a collection edited by Stephanie Marohn, Dr. Bolen refers to the older woman as “a juicy old crone.” There is a much different energy to that than our typical understanding of the word. Who wouldn’t want to be called a juicy old crone over a cranky old woman?
And, no discussion on archetypes would be complete without mentioning Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes and The Dangerous Old Woman series. Dr. Estés animates the archetypal patterns of the Wise Woman in her series using myth and poetry. Dr. Estés asks, "Did you know, you were born as the first, and the last and the best and the only one of your kind, and that eccentricity is the first sign of giftedness? These are two of the crone truths I have to offer you." Approaching elder years as being equally valuable as the younger creates a safe space to review the past and move forward into the future continuing to offer value.
The Value of Validation
Could it be only that older women are tired of being dismissed? Tired of their wisdom being ignored and angry because they've had enough invalidation to last several lifetimes? Can you imagine if menopause were approached as a Second Spring, as it is in China? If we were viewed by ourselves and others as a “juicy old Crone,” there would be a sense of validation that whatever emotions are arising are appropriate. Validation eases the need for snappy retorts and sarcastic comments which can occur when we feel unheard. Approaching anger with a sense of normalcy and curiosity allows for wisdom to reveal itself.
Here is the bottom line: anger is a valid emotion. Anger informs you that your boundaries have been violated either overtly or covertly. Whether those violations occurred when you were 20 or 50, or yesterday, doesn't matter. Sometimes what happened at age 20 is not allowed to come out of a woman’s mouth until age 50.
The internal psychic pressure built up from not speaking up, and not being authentic, can appear explosive and out of context once women let loose, so to to speak. At some point women no longer refrain from expressing their opinions and feelings. This explains why a seemingly innocent remark can quickly turn into an argument. It explains why being ignored or dismissed now can trigger a heated response .
Angry outbursts decrease when menopausal women begin to own the wisdom in their life experiences and express themselves authentically. By giving themselves permission and validation to speak up more frequently and more honestly, the pressure to be heard stops building. Communication becomes more fluid, thoughtful and productive.
So, the next time you're confronted by a raging woman over 50 try offering some validation of her concerns instead. Ask questions, seek to understand what she’s trying to express. Repeat what you think she said and ask for clarification or more information. Open a discussion about what her dreams are these days or ways she might explore contributing to the world in new forums. When you offer curiosity and interest over scorn you also benefit from her substantial wisdom and power.
Michelle Wolff holds a Master's degree in Education, has 20 years experience working with people to transform their lives and loves to help you rewrite your stories about life. She has been a therapist specializing in trauma and brings these skills to her coaching and energy healing work. She is writing her third book of poetry in 2017.
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