At The Back
My Messy Bedroom

The ad caught my eye: "Good Girls No More  A women's workshop for recovering good girls." I think it appealed to the still-recovering Catholic girl in me.

I called up the woman who runs the workshop. Frances Kucharsky is a Montreal-based psychotherapist who, according to her flyer, uses psychology, yoga, feminism and art to help good girls get over it.

I know. It sounds flaky. Kucharsky uses a lot of that "reclaim your identity, find your voice" new-agey lingo that drives me nuts (I had to bite my tongue when she starting talking about Winston's struggle for "self-intimacy" in George Orwell's 1984), but the reason she started the workshop is, unfortunately, very solid. Women still make themselves crazy (sometimes quite literally) trying to please everyone but themselves. That is, by being good.

"Many women's belief system is based on the idea that 'I must always be good,'" Kucharsky explains. "In the workshop, I get them to think about what they give up in order to live up to that belief system - things like their own desires, their own needs."

In other words, their personality.

No wonder the biggest complaint therapists get from women, according to Kucharsky, is that they feel like impostors. "In many regards they are," she says. "They spend all their time doing what they think will be pleasing to others instead of just doing what would please themselves."

We're liars, too. "If a woman is not supposed to be selfish, she will pretend to have your best interest at heart," says Kucharsky. "It's one of a number of accommodating mechanisms we use."

As in: "No really, I'm not angry."

"Yes, our communication becomes manipulative or confused," Kucharsky says of this example. "Eventually, we don't know what we want."

And it's all your fault, of course. "Women are notorious blamers," she agrees, "because we see ourselves as victims and the only power a victim has is to blame someone else."

Kinda depressing, ain't it?

As a matter of fact, says Kucharsky, depression is a major consequence of our perpetually pleasing manner. And it's rampant among women.

But wasn't feminism supposed to fix all this? Aren't women finally supposed to be empowered and in control?

Apparently not. Kucharsky admits she expected to get a lot of 40-year-old women struggling with the leftovers from the old days. She was surprised when most of her calls came from young women. She says plenty of us are still not comfortable with emotions like anger. We aren't comfortable with power. If we upset someone, we tend to take it upon ourselves to bend over backwards and make everything okay.

But why?

Because we have the capacity and we've been taught to use it, she says. And that's a good thing.

"I don't want to diminish giving. It's a good quality. But we need more of an equilibrium. If we can develop our masculine side, the part that we've been disconnected from, we'd be better off. We need to learn to feel anger and communicate it in a non-destructive way."

"How about, 'go fuck yourself,'" a girlfriend suggested. Obviously, some of us are more comfortable with our anger than others. But plenty of us still aren't too sure what angry feels like.

Awareness is the first step, says Kucharsky.

"The workshop focuses on helping women discover what they are actually feeling, wanting, thinking, needing. What are you angry about? How do you withhold it?"

One very simple exercise she often begins with is getting each woman in the group to say her name out loud and then getting the group to repeat it back the same way the person said it.

"This can have a profound impact. For example, someone might say her name in this tiny, wimpy voice. When she hears that back, she may decide she doesn't like it. She can then think about what she would like to project, how she would like to hear it, and how to change it."

From now on, you can call me Xena.

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