Womanhood-Motherhood (by Roya Monajem)





During my fourth year in medical school, I was involved with a research project carried out in the university’s mental hospital, for a year.  I now do not remember what that project was about, the whole memory of that year is wiped out as the result of a functional amnesia. The root of this amnesia is a shock I went through as the result of my last conversation with one of the residents, whom I regarded as a man with high regards and true love for humanity.  In response to my objection to treating a psychiatric patient with electric shock, he said:  “They are all like  ‘laboratory rats,’ we use to learn about human psyche in order to help other patients with less severe mental disturbances”. Most probably, his reaction was out of mere desperation that many medical students, especially in the field of psychiatry, experience as the result of their failure in helping people.  The cause of their failure is our general lack of knowledge and training in dealing with human soul.  I left medical profession because of similar reasons.  I could not adapt myself to the inhuman medical training that out of mere desperation and self-defense treats people as object (disease) and not as a person suffering from a disease.1

However, during that whole year that I used to go to the psychiatric ward whenever I found time, I was faced with a dilemma that has somehow continued to this day.  “What is the dividing line between ‘saneness’ and ‘insane-ness,’ between the state of ‘health and non health’?  I remember to walk for hours in the streets of the beautiful ancient city of Shiraz asking myself, “What are our real criteria for putting some people behind those ‘bars’ of the psychiatric ward, and leaving some, sometimes in a much worse state, outside? What is the definition of health, physical or mental, without reference to the opposite state, i.e. as the state of the absence of any disease.  Based on this definition, people are either sick or healthy.  In other words, we see it as a black and white condition; but such an approach, based on the old prevalent cause-effect Aristotelian philosophy, has now proved to bear many shortcomings in many spheres of reality, including the problem of health, since every and any malady has a ‘latent’ or ‘hidden’ period before its outbreak and manifestation.  How do we classify the person in this state?  In which category should we put him/her, the category of health or sickness?

This is a state that the western medical system can hardly detect, for most of our common laboratory tests would still be negative in such a state. (This is in fact, one of the main shortcomings of the above system, while some of the older medical systems -- such as acupuncture -- do have some means of diagnosis for even this state of simultaneous health -non-health.)

So if the attempt to define health as the state in which no signs of disturbance is observed is not very accurate, how else can we define health, i.e. without any reference to its opposite state-ailment-?

The definition I have reached so far--after more than twenty years of constant research and contemplation is that “Health is the state in which one finds oneself full of positive energy.1 Positive, because, many tense, nervous people are actually quite energetic, but cannot be considered ‘healthy.’ Their energy is of a negative type and if they do not take these signs--tension, nervousness, etc--seriously, they will soon fall victim of some sort of more grave disorders.  On the other hand, when one is full of positive energy, one’s immune system will be in the state of full ‘mobilization’ and can competently fight against any external or internal disturbances. So we can be sure that such a person is absolutely healthy as long as he/she stays in such a state of possessing abundant positive energy.

How is this state of positive energy normally achieved?  We find ourselves full of energy, when we are physically and mentally active; dealing efficiently with everyday’s life problems, feeling happy  satisfied with ourselves and with  the outside world.  In such a state of self-satisfaction and happiness, nothing can leave a long lasting effect on our body or psyche.

Therefore a high positive energy level is the prerequisite of health and its maintenance. Later in the chapter I will present a ‘Law of Health,’ which when observed will certainly maintain us at such a high energy level.

By the same token, any reduction in energy level would imply the presence of some sort of disturbance in the body.  This is in fact the sign that many mothers use as an alarm, when they notice it in their children.

Now according to recent scientific findings in the field of young science of immunology, there is actually a close, mutual link between the nervous system and immune system of the body. From this we can conclude that there should be a mental side to every physical disorder and vice versa, a fact acknowledged in nearly all traditional and folk medical systems of the world.1

The discovery of such a link between the central nervous and the immune system is the scientific basis for what is now known as  ‘Metaphysical Healing.’  The effect of ‘high spirit’ in the healing process is now a scientific fact.  It is the basis for our claim that all the sex-related disorders in women are linked with some sort of negation and denial of the femininity.  Also women suffering from overweight around the breasts and abdomen are either too motherly—i.e. always long for pregnancy and breast-feeding--or the opposite--i.e. revolt against motherhood.  The last group thinks--consciously or unconsciously--that motherhood is a hindrance to their desire to follow their own dreams, and live their own lives.

As in our present world of lost souls and lost identities, it is not at all surprising that the rate of cancer of the breast and other sex organs is increasing so rapidly among women.  There is a direct correlation between who we are and the types of diseases we are indisposed to.  In our case everything started from the time we stopped appreciating and celebrating our womanhood--motherhood, and began to under-rate all the functions related to them.  In other words, from the time we lost contact with our essence, we began to pay for this self--alienation both physically and mentally.  Illness is just one of the prices and perhaps the most dear one.  But let us not forget that there are two sides to everything, and those lessons in life for which we pay heavily, at the same time are the most valuable ones, if ‘we find the eye to see their real worth.’  Now let us explore this domain in detail to illustrate our point more clearly.

Living in a self-alienated world, having lost contact with our true nature, working and acting more like a machine--a robot--and neglecting the fact that this machine needs proper services at least from time to time, not stopping even for one second to see what is all this maddening rush for, is not in accordance with the nature of our species.  We are supposed to be the ‘cognizant, conscious pensive,’ creature, the crown of Creation.  If we were to live a robot-like life which is close to animal’s way of living, then what would be the point of all this evolution and so on?

In the past, the ritualistic way of living, was a way to become, at least periodically, aware of who we are. This was achieved through different Initiation Rites of Puberty and Adulthood, which announced and marked the end of one stage of life and the beginning of the next one, and prepared the neophytes for their  ‘duties’ in life.  As Eliade says; “Let us say, at once, that the neophyte, when he dies to his infantile profane and unregenerate life to be reborn with a new, sanctified existence, is also reborn to a mode of being which makes knowledge, consciousness and wisdom possible.”1 Other rites and ceremonies made people aware of their role in existence.

Now that our mode of being in the world is totally changed and is replaced by a robot-like existence, which as mentioned before, is not in accordance with ‘human nature,’ what is the easiest and most feasible means to ‘come to our senses,’ and start thinking again? In other words what can possibly take the place of the initiation rites of the past?

In order to answer this question, let us use an example. When do we usually take our cars to a repair shop?  When it breaks down, when it refuses to function any more.  The human machine too, when falls sick, points to the fact that something is going wrong.  This is in fact the hidden message in any sickness and disorder.  It is one of our most accessible means to come to our senses again, and stop our robot way of living 1.

Sickness, and particularly ‘incurable’ ones, may be regarded as a transformed state of an initiation rite. It “makes knowledge, consciousness and wisdom possible.”

Before going any further, let us first point to a few facts about falling sick.  First of all we should note that we fall sick only when both our body and psyche, ‘breakdown.’ That is why any disorder has both a physical and a mental (psychological) aspect, and no disease can be purely physical or psychological.  In other words all diseases are psychosomatic, although sometimes one of the poles becomes predominant, and as the result, the disorder appears physical (like infectious diseases) or psychological (like personality disorders). In other words, the body-psyche relationship is of a mutually, interdependent, complementary (sometimes even compensatory) nature.  A strong psyche can compensate for a weak body and vice versa.  That is why some people always survive from even the most mortal epidemic diseases (as they did from plaque for example). This previously empirical fact is now, based on the discovery of the presence of the mutual link between the nervous and immune system, a scientific truth.  So ‘strong nerves’ would imply ‘strong immune system’ and more effective resistance against all maladies.

Secondly, it appears that in our neglectful-robot-type of living, the only thing that can remind us of our human existence is a ‘breakdown’ ranging from a simple headache or stomachache to the most mortal diseases.  The threat of non-existence, gives meaning to our existence, which until then is taken for granted.  That is why we claim that disease is a Message of Life, and can be interpreted as a transformed initiation rite, leading to enlightenment, illumination and attainment of truth.  One of the characteristics of initiation rites is the difficult ordeal that the candidate (neophyte) should pass through. In case of sickness, the ordeal one passes through is all the pain and sufferings of the disease itself and also those of the process of treatment (all the different laboratory tests, radiology, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, etc).  No total cure is possible without mental transformation, for the disease is a consequence of not only a disturbed physiology, but also a disturbed mind (remember that all diseases are psychosomatic, i.e. has both a physical and psychological basis).  This mental transformation arising as the result of going through the ordeals of sickness, is the factor that can lead to illumination as in the case of initiation rites.

The last important fact about falling sick is that it can act as a mechanism to achieve what we find ourselves incapable of achieving in a more straight forward, direct way.  Depending on the type and the extent of severity of the disease, what can be achieved as the result of falling sick includes, attraction of attention, love and care,  self-punishment (due to the presence of some known or unknown i.e. subconscious  feeling of guilt), arousing the feeling of guilt in the people close to one (parents, spouse, children, etc.), retaliation and revenge (consciously or unconsciously), avoidance of obligations, responsibilities and commitments (with a good acceptable reason), escaping from situations one is scared to face (e.g. examinations)... For example, while a headache can act as a  justified, acceptable excuse that helps us to avoid seeing certain people, going to certain places, confronting certain situations, more severe diseases may help us to achieve all the enumerated above ‘gains’ and perhaps more.1

Generally, we fall sick, whenever we violate the Law of Health which consists of four ‘sub--laws’; (1) proper nutritional diet, (2) proper amount of rest and sleep, (3) proper amount of physical and recreational activity, and (4) a stable psycho-mental state achieved by adopting an active problem-solving attitude toward life, which really means to approach life problems as our major means for growth, development and attainment of wisdom.  Neglecting any of the above four sub-laws, leads to ailment, which can thus be regarded as an alarm, implying that something is not working properly, and if we really will to get well, we should immediately look at the above law of health to find out where the problem lies.  Are we not paying enough attention to  our diet? Or are we not taking enough rest and sleep? Or are we heedless of the importance of physical and recreational activity for our health?  Or finally, are we closing our eyes to our possible emotional or mental problems?  The sooner we start this survey, the less problematic our malady will be. Otherwise a simple cold may evolve into pneumonia, asthma, or lung cancer, and a simple depression into a serious personality disorder.  Never does a very serious disease start abruptly and without any past history of some sort of physical disorders, or deep rooted, unsolved psycho-mental problems.  Once again, let us not forget that there is no ‘Chinese Wall’ between body and psyche, or as an old proverb says; “Healthy brains, are found in healthy bodies.”

 There was no way to avoid such an apparently lengthy discussion.  In order to deal with the problem of health, it was first necessary to clarify our view about this subject and the probable reasons for falling sick in general.  It should be emphasized again that we are adopting a  ‘positive approach’ to disease, defining it as a Message of Life, and a transformed initiation rite.  We are suggesting that if we apply ourselves diligently to it, it can lead to a tremendous spiritual enlightenment.  Exploration of the Law of Health can teach us a great deal about ourselves, and the knowledge of self can lead to the knowledge of God, in other words, Illumination.

Earlier, we claimed that all sex-related diseases among women arise as the result of self-rejection or conflict with our womanhood-motherhood.  A more detailed knowledge of the mental basis of these diseases can help us more toward self-healing. The following table presents the probable mental causes of some of the most common disorders among women.  People suffering from any of these diseases, should first start to look at the Law of Health, to find out which part (s) of the law is that they are neglecting.  In the majority, it is especially the fourth clause of this law that is not properly observed, i.e. people do not adopt a positive active approach to their life-problems.  Then by the help of the following table they can discover where their conflict with their feminine nature lies.  Finally by the help of reminding themselves of all the virtues of womanhood--motherhood, they can overcome their difficulty in reconciliation with their true nature.  Once they reach this stage, they no longer need their sick condition.  They have heard and listened to its messages, and have internalized it.  Healing will then be complete.



Disorder                                                                Probable Mental Cause

1. Cysts                                                 Anger against womanhood/motherhood.

                                                                Fear of becoming pregnant.


2. Diseases of Breasts                          Not enjoying motherhood.

                                                                 Longing desperately for motherhood.

3. Disease of Uterus                            Not enjoying motherhood.
                                                               Not enjoying womanhood.

                                                                Longing for pregnancy.

4. Dysmenorrhoea                                Disliking womanhood.

                                                                Fearing womanhood

                                                                Fearing pregnancy.

5. Infertility                                            Not trusting yourself or>your mate to have a child.
                                                                Fear from motherhood.

6. Uterine Bleeding                              Avoiding sexual relationship.

                                                               Desire to “clean” the inside.

7.Vaginitis                                             Anger at one’s sexuality.

                                                                Not wishing to make love.

                                                                Desperately wishing to Make love.

                                                               Feeling guilty for making love (particularly when accompanied with pain). 

8.Cancers                                              Unconscious desire to die.

                                                               Not enjoying life.

                                                               Giving up, but with some doubts and curiosities.

                                                               Unconscious desire to give guilt-feeling.

                                                                Suppressed anger and resentment;


Cancers of the sex organs imply problems with womanhood; while cancer of the breast suggest difficulty with motherhood.

In the remaining pages of this chapter, we look at the problem of overweight in more detail.

My clinical experience with overweight women on general, shows that they can be divided into three large and two smaller groups.  In general, overweight starts; (1) after puberty (2) after giving birth, (3) after menopause, all marking the three most important stages in life. These make the three major groups.  The fourth, smaller group include women suffering from overweight since birth, and the fifth smaller group consists of women whose weight has started to increase during or/and following an important crisis in life. 

In the past, all the above three stages were always marked by some sort of celebration and rite, while today, particularly among feminists, not only they are not a ‘big deal’ at all, but are even approached with a negative attitude.  For example, while menopause is regarded as a ‘catastrophe’--due to the prevalent view of women as ‘sexual objects’--in the world today, in Taoism, it is somehow welcomed, since it is believed that women attain wisdom only after menopause.1

On general, the mental causes of overweight include, fear, anxiety, insecurity, apprehension and suppression of feelings.  For all the above groups, except the ‘congenital overweight’, all the above causes can be the root of compulsive eating.  When we are not ready to put behind a cycle of life, and are not prepared to face our next life cycle, naturally, an unknown feeling of fear anxiety and apprehension will fill us.  The state of fear necessitates the creation of some sort of defense.  It seems that putting up a layer of fat can act as a ‘shield’, protecting us against this fear. The only antidote is to deal with all this fear, otherwise even the most successful treatments will fail to be effective.  That is why the 12 Step Program can be helpful, since it forces us to stop and look at our life-- our long escape from ourselves (i.e. our feelings).

Thus fear is the major mental cause of overweight.  In other words overweight--those layers of fat--is the unconscious way of defense against this fear, which naturally, due to its effects on body’s hormones, will affect the whole metabolism.  Now a question may arise here: “does this mean that ‘non--overweight’ women do not suffer from fear, insecurity etc.”?  The answer is that, they create other types of defense mechanisms.  As mentioned several times before, different personalities have different attitudes and thus different ways to deal with life problems.

Now after this general discussion, we are going to look at the probable mental causes of overweight around different parts of the body.

Overweight around abdomen symbolically implies a desire to be pregnant. This group of overweight women can be divided into three group; (1) women who already have children, but have not yet overcome their unconscious love for pregnancy and only ‘logically’ and ‘rationally’ resist this longing. They have not ‘solved’ their problem emotionally; (2) mothers who have problems with their motherhood and (3) unmarried women. 

The first group should remind themselves that as a modern woman, they need to develop other aspects of their personality too,1 not only to keep up with their husbands, their children and the world, but also because the end goal of life is self-actualization, happiness and bliss.  They should realize that child-raising is the most delicate and energy consuming duty and in order to do it properly, one should assign quite a considerable time to each child.  They should remind  themselves that a ‘good’ mother, is one who values self--actualization and works toward it as hard as possible.  A ‘good’ mother is one who ‘teaches herself whatever she wishes her children to know.’ And it is not only realizing these important facts and aspects of motherhood, but actually feel the truth hidden in them and believe them.

Another probable feature of this group is that they have a sort of dependent character, and only feel ‘complete,’ when they have their child (children) around and always dread the time when children grow up and leave home.  A quite natural feeling for those who identify themselves only with the ‘mother’ archetype 1 leaving all other aspects of their personality undeveloped.  So they feel sure and secure only during pregnancy when there is no ‘threat’ of abandonment.  Such characters will naturally end up being too protective toward their children, somehow sticking to them and sticking them to themselves.  They will be a victim of serious depression, when their children are ready to leave home and live their own lives. 

Opposite to them are the third group, who negate the mother aspect of their personality, consciously or unconsciously see their child as a hindrance for their self--development and actualization Their overweight wants to remind them of this forgotten aspect of their personality. Another picture might be that they are not happy with their marriage, but are continuing it  ‘for the sake’ of their child (children).  They think that they would have definitely divorced, if they did not have any children, which is in fact a sick way to escape the truth.  They should know that problems with outside world arise from ourselves and as long as we escape ourselves, we will always have problems.  It is only an illusion that if our husband were somebody else, we would not have the same problems. Remember that as long as we are on a specific level of existence -- see chapter 3 --we have the same experiences, in other words we only will repeat our past experiences.  In both cases--whether they dislike motherhood or dislike their husband--appearing like pregnant women is an indication of an unsolved personal problem and negation of a part, a very important part of the ‘self.’

What can help this group, is awareness of the virtues of motherhood. They should start solving their problem by asking themselves; ‘what would they do if they did not have any children?’ Their answers would include; ‘continue their education; get a job, work toward their self-actualization or get divorced.’  If they see that the end result of self--development and actualization is the same, no matter what path we choose, as explained in earlier chapters, then they understand that motherhood can be one way to reach such a destination and perhaps the shortest route.  Once we realize this fact, it will help us to stop negating this important aspect of our ‘self’ and resisting it as a hindrance to our personal growth.

Finally, overweight around the abdomen in the case of unmarried women--as in the case of the first group-- symbolizes a longing for pregnancy. What they should first of all know is that if they are not married it is largely because they are scared of marriage (see next chapter).  Here I should like to emphasize that the only real indicator of our inner or unconscious self, is our deed, or what we indeed have.  No matter what we think, no matter what we tell ourselves and others, our deeds or actual behavior show what our deep rooted thoughts and beliefs are.  If we are not married, it shows that we do not want to marry due to some known or unknown negative notions we hold about marriage.  If we cannot become pregnant, we fear pregnancy and the more serious the cause of our sterility, the more dread we harbor.  So in order to heal ourselves, we have to find the courage to confront our fear and our negative notions concerning marriage and pregnancy.  Without that, our other attempts--from surgery to hormone therapy etc. in case of sterility--will most probably fail.  If they succeed, it means that simultaneously, whether consciously or unconsciously, we have also resolved our mental negativity too.  This is what happened to several of my clients that for years were under treatment for sterility without success, and got pregnant almost immediately after seeing their apprehensions and fears in this respect.  They were all scared of becoming a mother, each for their own reasons that include childhood traumas, not trusting themselves or their mate, doubting their competency in this respect, fearing that they would not be able to follow their personal path of growth and so forth.  In case of unmarried women if they see the meaning of their overweight, this very awareness might be enough to help them to lose weight, for when we find the cause of a problem then it is easier to find the solution.  Once they realize where the core of their problem lies, i.e. realize how important it is for them to become pregnant and in fact it is due to suppression of this desire that it is showing itself that way, then admitting the presence of such a deep longing and desire in themselves can be enough to solve the problem.

To conclude, healthy body implies healthy mind and vice versa.  Thus to immunize ourselves against any sex--related disorders, we have to appreciate and celebrate our womanhood--motherhood.  To do so, we have to familiarize ourselves with their forgotten, neglected or ignored virtues.  We should discover why we have chosen --or God has chosen for us -- to be born as a woman.

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