On Sisterhood and how to overcome difficult times

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women-friendsWho have not gone through a difficult period in life? All of us I would say. And each one of us has probably developed strategies to overcome these moments, altogether with the emotions and feelings that accompany them, moving forward in the path of life stronger and brighter. Some of us are specialists in this amazing capacity that is resilience:

The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.*

Today I would like to honour one of the most important factors that make resilience possible for many of us: Love and Connection. My subjective life experience has always taught me that Love and Connection (in all its shapes and sources) is the most important factor that needs to be present in my life to make it possible for me to feel happiness, gratitude and to overcome life challenges. Research on resilience also confirms that Love is actually the most essencial factor in shaping a person’s resilience:

A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.*

And my life experience has also taught me that amongst Loving relationships, friends, and mostly women friends, have a special role to play. And why is that? Why do I strongly invite all women to develop and nurture authentic relationships with other women?

What I have experienced is that true sisterhood works as a strong source of awareness against male domination and can provide the tools to fight it and overcome potential damaging relations.

Very often women get trapped in romantic relationships with dominant men (or women), or violent or unloving relationships, that hinder their development. In a society that so obviously value and encourage couplehood people tend to believe that this kind of bond should be the source of all joy and fulfilment. Therefore it is difficult to realise that fulfilment and love can and should come from different people and types of relationships. On the other hand it is hard to accept when a relationship is not working and act upon this realisation, either to improve the situation or to break up and move forward.

In this context, to nurture loving relationships with other women friends functions as a protective factor against unhealthy relations with men (or women). Real care and respect for each other wellbeing and self-development is the key to make it work, as certainly no one who feel true love for another person would let her (him) be trapped in dysfunctional (violent, unloving, destructive) relationships without at least trying to raise her (his) awareness about it.**

In professional contexts women are very frequently affected by sexism, in a direct or indirect way. For instance they may be misunderstood and their skills seen as lack of confidence, they may feel insecure to address certain discussions or even to apply to a promotion, or even be used in a tokenistic way. In this scenario, I am convinced it is relevant that our women friends have a certain degree of gender awareness and tools of analysis of reality from a gender perspective, as it is not immediately obvious what the dynamics are under the surface.

Despite all I am convinced that Love is the main and primary ingredient that needs to be present. Under these conditions close spiritual alliances between women can be much more empowering and supportive than other types of relations and therefore work as real loving bonds that enhance self-development and, ultimately, happiness.

* Definition from American Psychological Association

** The definition of Love I make reference to is the one from M. Scott Peck (The Less Travelled Road): The will to expand the self with the goal to nurture its own and other’s spiritual development.

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About Ana Rodrigues Afonso

I am a woman with a strong creative drive and I engage in foundation processes with my whole heart, head and hands. I am passionate about women’s empowerment, spiritual and self-development, and non-formal education. I work as a freelance trainer and consultant. My main fields of expertise are women’s empowerment, leadership, self-development and love. Linkedin: https://pt.linkedin.com/in/anarodriguesafonso

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