Sister wounds.

Have you been burned by past experiences with female friends and collaborators? Do you get "stung" by the transactional nature of some exchanges with women? Walk away from interactions feeling like a commodity or, worse, like used and disposable garbage? Have you invested time, energy or even money into a relationship only to get ghosted? Or are you at the point where you've just kind of closed up shop for new potential partners and friends, preferring to stay in your hermit's cave in an effort to avoid this unpleasantness? Well, you're not alone. This theme has been coming to the surface a lot in my work with clients, as well as discussions with friends and collaborators- particularly those that own small businesses. And, while it may seem like a small thing, I can tell you firsthand that the negative impacts on our energy bodies and shamanic soul parts is real and intense. For some of my clients, these "sister wounds" look like the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in their energy body, particularly their heart chakra. I believe this is a kind of spiritual illness emergency, requiring acknowledgement and remediation if we want to move forward whole, happy, and without contributing to the reactive trauma responses that propagate this pattern in our shared energetic ecosystem. I've discovered that this is a bit of a third rail to talk about in the open. Perhaps it's taboo in the context of not wanting to be seen as "gender traitor" to our own kind, or maybe women are sensitive to the potential criticism of being labeled as "negative" or "jealous", or a myriad of other labels used to marginalize and censor the observant and outspoken. But, as a female business owner that loves women and genuinely wants to feel safe collaborating with and supporting others- not to mention as someone that is an energetic field medic, dressing the metaphysical wounds of these collisions- I feel an obligation to get the conversation going. If we're going to grow as a community, heal ourselves and empower others, we need to hold ourselves accountable. For me personally, this means I need to say- or write- what I'm seeing, both in my own life and in my work with clients. After all: how can we make this a better habitat for all of us if we're not willing to communicate openly about it?

So what exactly are "sister wounds"? I define "sister wounds" as the energetic, psychological and emotional trauma of a female friend, collaborator or partner betraying our confidence in bad faith, using us in a transactional way, or disposing of us when we're no longer useful to them professionally or financially. The pain of this "wound" is particularly acute and upsetting because we typically view these women as a safe space, as sharing our outlook and point of view, and as a benevolent alternative to the corporate, patriarchal worlds and misogynistic dynamics so many of us worked so hard to move beyond. Platonic friendships, according to Aristotle, are the "highest form of love", and our female friendships speak to our most noble human characteristics. When these dynamics fall apart, it can be just as devastating as a romantic break-up or outright theft of money or property, if not worse. And, while it seems oxymoronic, women initially intending to do good stuff in the world really do hurt each other, and it seems to be happening more often than ever. When I've experienced this, I've tended to internalized it and look for something that I did wrong to explain it away. Tried to dig into why it made me feel triggered, and assumed it was at least partially my fault. I've spent hours beating myself up for not seeing the red flags (after all, some people think I'm fairly intuitive). How could I have missed it? What did I do wrong? While personal accountability is always a good thing, it's not the whole picture here. In talking with clients and collaborators in the last several months, this theme has come up over and over and, unfortunately, seems to be accelerating as the economy becomes more challenging.

I believe our shared stories and commonalities hold within them the power to raise our awareness and help set us free for a better future….together. What causes the wound? In talking with clients, it became clear that the primary pain of sister wounds come from a lack of reciprocity. In other words: you may have invested time, energy, resources, money, and much more to someone gladly and with an open heart. It could be someone whose business you support or someone you're teaming with, and you want to show up and be a good friend, collaborator and partner. Hell, in some cases my clients have straight up financially and socially supported a friend's new business, taking them under their wing and guiding them as they launch and operate their business. In these situations, there is either an assumed or explicit dynamic of reciprocity, in which you make an educated assumption that the other party will return the effort if and when you need support, too. To look out for you. Be there for you when you need it, too. And sometimes- if not frequently- the other party is not holding up their end of the energetic contract. In one specific example in my life, I remember feeling like someone had cleared out our joint emotional checking account, effectively taking all of the emotional "currency" from our friendship and making a run for it. I genuinely felt robbed. This was someone whose business I supported and invested in and gladly referred my clients to. She was a very close, personal friend, for whom I had- again, gladly- done many favors. When the chips were down for her, I was there. I held space. I invested. I was genuinely under the impression this would be a lifelong friendship and I had a deep sense of loyalty and affection for her. Then, I hit a time in my life during which I needed to undergo a pretty intense surgery. I was moving to a new neighborhood, living alone, caring for a giant puppy, and working full-time in corporate. I didn’t have "normal" parents or nearby siblings to help me in my recovery, and it was honestly a bit of a scary and lonely time. Given this, I needed to temporarily pull back on teaching workshops at this friend's business on the weekends and focus on just putting one foot in front of the other for a short duration. Given the nature of the friendship, I assumed that it would be clear why I needed to do this. I thought it would be okay. Because I thought we were friends. When I communicated this, there was a bizarre, terse exchange on text about how I didn't care about whether their business survived or not. And then silence. For months. I sent an email asking if something was wrong and got a nebulous, nonresponsive answer back claiming nothing was wrong...but everything was obviously, materially different. It was like having a phantom limb. When you're so close with someone for so many years, their sudden absence is really jarring, particularly when you're entering a time when you expected to have their support....just like they had yours. Besides- didn't they realize that I had helped their business? Supported them for years? Why was the focus on the scarcity side of things, instead of gratitude for what had already been contributed and could, very easily, be contributed again? Why was I being made to feel like a bad guy when they knew me so well? And why wasn't this person just honestly communicating their frustrations, honoring our shared history by making a good faith effort to hash it out instead of gaslighting me into thinking "nothing was wrong"? At about month three, I realized it wasn't a temporary. I couldn't continue to suspend disbelief that everything was cool. They weren't just busy with other projects. They didn't have their little volcanic release and come back to center, reaching out to see how I was doing. It was over. And then it hit me: it was over because I wasn't making them money anymore. And let me tell you something: that last part was emotionally and psychological devastating to me. Had the entire friendship been about my financial usefulness to this person? And, if so, how could I have missed the red flags? Did I deserve this in some way? Am I a bad person?

Am I unlovable? In this particular case, I felt really exposed and stupid and unlikeable and naive. It was emotionally and psychologically confusing. And I had big issues with teaming with other women for quite a while afterwards. After all- if I didn't see this coming, how was I ever going to prevent this from happening again? Since then, I've learned a lot and gained a healthier perspective. In talking with others, I realized that this is a consistent theme for all of us that are trying to build a small business. What's more: this seems to be a particular issue in the spiritual and self-improvement spaces, a paradox given the seeming good intentions and earned self-awareness of these thought leaders, spirit guides, and compatriots.

Yes- you read that right. Yogis, energy healers, self-improvement coaches, and the rest are some of the worst offenders. Who would have thought? After all, we see a bit of ourselves in each other, don't we? And, as women working to create something new and healing and outside of "the system", we can be a bit naive about the selfishness, narcissism, or basic scarcity energy of our fellow females. I know I was. I expected problems from men. I expected power games and manipulations and bad behavior in a corporate setting.

I was, I now realize, not prepared for hitting these issues in this spiritual space...and many of my clients have had a similar wake up call. "Burdens greater than you can carry" In almost all of my recent client sessions, the Ten of Trees card from our TOTEM Tarot Deck has come up. The message? "Stop carrying burdens greater than you can carry." This is the card of burnout from obligation, of feeding others through invisible energy cords, and of martyring ourselves for others undeserving of this sacrifice.

So many of us are driven to help and do for others because it's the right thing and we assume that, if the shoe were on the other foot, these individuals would do the same for us. The Golden Rule and basic civility and common decency and all of that jazz. But, when you undertake an objective assessment of individual relationship dynamics, the picture is often different than we feel it is...or perhaps want it to be. When this Ten of Trees card comes up in a client session, or a client shows the symptoms of a myriad of draining energy cords to energetic vampires, I walk my client through a simple audit:

· Has this person(s) ever gone out of their way to measurably help you with something you need? Have they ever offered you help unprompted?

· Has this person laid claim to some or all of your accomplishments, acting as though you achieved them together when they didn’t contribute tangibly?

· Does this person just assume you’re on hand to help with events, projects, or errands, treating you as an unpaid, de facto employee of their operation?

· Is this person's life seemingly marked with high drama? Constant emergencies? And do you spend most of your time in this dynamic acting as their fixer, therapist, or mother?

· Do you feel drained, exhausted and wiped out after a conversation or meeting with them, almost like you've been energetically side-swiped by a phantom car?

· Is there a lot of performative talk and messaging around supporting women and loving women and goddess energy without seeing a tangible, human-scaled example of this behavior in your personal interactions? Does this person have other, lasting friendships? Or are most of the people around them employees and/or “hangers on” or, worse, “Insta friends” only?

· Is this person(s) unusually over-familiar with you, being emotionally intimate with you very early on in your relationship? Do you think there might be a little bit of "love-bombing", the effusive narcissistic technique to disarm and manipulate you with affectionate, complimentary messages?

· Does this individual habitually take services or products for free from others? Or demand your time or insight or advice for free in lieu of scheduling an appointment and paying for your time?

· Does this person tend to "commoditize" others, seeing individuals as either tools or obstacles as it relates to their professional or financial success?

Now, if this exposes some unpleasant stuff, do not panic. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not necessarily the best solution. I tried it. It's a bit one note and limiting. And the primary person it's going to negatively impact is you. So what's the solution? I had a moment with this audit earlier this week, and instead of remaining in the bottomless pit of bad feelings or railing against the cruel indifference of the world, I sat down to write out the ways in which I've facilitated my own pain and disappointment. After all, we can't control anyone else. It's not our job to be everyone's therapist, or point out the ways in which they lack self-awareness or personal growth. But we can adjust our way of being in the world and manage our own boundaries and behavior to ensure we’re not overextending ourselves in the wrong direction:

· Communicate. Turning the other cheek is awesome if you can manage it, but there are times when a behavior is so negative, persistent, and pervasive that the universe is telling us to deal with it. Besides- just swallowing the “dis-ease” can bring disease, both physically and spiritually. And you don’t have to be rude- you can always sit down to write an email and sit with it for a while before hitting “send”. You can couch it in questions instead of accusations. You can simply tell them how certain behaviors make you feel, a trick taught to me by a lifetime of great therapists. This communication can quickly return your energetic real estate to you, and sometimes can even return a lost soul part you need for the journey ahead. What's more: if no one ever says anything to a habitual offender, are they ever given the opportunity to make an adjustment? Is it fair to expect them to psychically know what's going on in our brains? Our pain is not an excuse to be passive aggressive, and we can't really keep complaining if we don't address it head on. At least then, we can say we gave it the old college try. And, at a minimum, we didn’t tell the Emperor how great their new clothes were when we could see they were naked;)

· Get out of your myth. I'm in the spiritual industry and offer my services to others. Many of my clients are people managers, business owners, personal and professional coaches, mothers, therapists, healers and other types of "caretakers". And we are all particularly vulnerable to the heroic myth of our own capabilities. Many people reach out to me in crisis, urgently wanting relief, insight, and deliverance from painful conditions. And, if I don't maintain my typical boundaries, I can get really wrapped up in their "stuff", finding myself in a perpetual and very draining crisis management cycle without end. It's a good instinct to be of service and show compassion, but in my experience I've found that someone in crisis can seldom receive what I'm offering...and, what's more, they tend to continue to demand and ask and become accustomed to the special treatment. I can also get pissy and petulant if they don't say "thank you" for what amounts to free consulting or going above and beyond, especially if I’m really busy. It’s key to remember that no one makes us do these things, and taking accountability and cultivating self-awareness is critical to abating the silent killer known as resentment.

· Listen to your body. Some of the most prolific energy vampires seem like the nicest people. But they're unbelievably draining and tend to leave a toxic dump in your energy body. Pay attention to what your body is telling you: do you feel dread ahead of seeing this person at events? Do you come away from coffee dates or phone calls feeling a sense of relief that you're finally alone, almost like you can breathe properly and think clearly again? Is there tightness in your chest? Muscle tension throughout your body? Were you clenching your jaw? Our bodies are excellent communicators and are always looking out for us, so make sure you’re listening. If you MUST engage with this individual in work or in family dynamics, take some Pink Yarrow flower essence to ensure your energy body is safe from drainage.

· Embody the North Star. What is your North Star? The point on which you focus as you move through your day, your profession, and your relationships? Why did you get into the business or practice of your profession? Now, making money is very important, and I consult regularly with other energy work practitioners and psychics that struggle with money guilt and shame. After all, you can’t do your magic heal-y work if you don’t pay your rent, so this is a crucial step to ensure you can stay in the game. But it’s also important to not have money as your singular, primary North Star. If you do, you’ll find yourself drifting off course, making weird decisions and forming alliances that are all about short-term thinking and money grabs. Your vibration will draw others to you with this same energetic signature, and trust me: those folks won’t think twice about throwing you to the side when you hit a bump in the road. After all, their North Star is money- not you.

Besides, the money comes when you’re professional, focused on continual improvement, and commit yourself to excellent customer service and business fundamentals. Clients will refer you to yet more clients, and your reputation will become your most valuable asset in the marketplace. And, while those short-term money-minded folks might have bursts of success, I’ve come to learn that they tend to supernova in spectacular fashion. Life is a marathon…not a grift.

And, perhaps the most important thing we can do to shift the way we show up in and experience the sister world, is to cultivate and create our own tribe. Talk to them about their goals. See where the alignment and synergies occur. Build a parallel, decentralized sister society that can, over time, take up market share and crowd out the toxicity and learned abuse still echoing in our community.

I’ve been very blessed to have wonderful women in my life, and my recent foray into our Spiritual Transformation Coaching Program has been an incredible reminder of how fucking awesome and magical women really are. I find myself in awe of my coaching clients everyday, and I’m deeply honored and humbled to provide them a bit of support as they take flight to help countless others, embodying their North Stars and showing the world what sisterhood can really do.

We don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. We don’t have to buy followers, trick people into “needing” us by poking at their latent fears or using neurolinguistic programming to unduly influence them, and we don’t have to screw each other over to reach a new professional or financial summit. This is the same outdated, short-term self-cannibalizing thinking that took down companies like Enron and Lehmann Brothers, and we’re better than that.

It’s a feast out there, not a famine.

So eat, drink, and be merry. There’s plenty of everything to go around.