Five steps to transmute obstacles into power - How the menstrual cycle helps us to hold the tension in tough times

Sjanie Hugo-Wurlitzer

‘My skin is crawling with irritation after a day of insane and relentless demands from my kids. At times I’ve descended into a rabid child myself and had to grasp a modicum of maturity to prevent myself from squashing them like ants. 

‘I’m really struggling to hold the tension today… I’ve got to hold my hand up to say, dear friends, that the tension has me by the short ‘n curlies.’ 

~ Sjanie, Day 23

Life is hard for pretty much all of us right now. We’re being asked to manage impossible things daily and dig deeper than ever before to stay loving, open-minded and creative. 

The menstrual cycle can be a powerful ally for us in this quest. If we pay attention, it is inviting us to ‘hold the tension’. 

Our biology is wired for pleasure and designed for survival. Our default is to run from discomfort and do whatever it takes to avoid difficult feelings. Most of us have developed a range of ways to deny or seek urgent relief from the intensity of what we’re experiencing. 

But what if you consciously choose to stick with these difficult feelings? 

‘Holding the tension’ is the skill that’s needed to do just that. It’s a strong and transformative act that makes it possible for the obstacle, difficulty or hurt to organically transmute into power. 

But it requires that you learn to hold your nerve and trust your cycle process.

‘Holding the tension’ is a skill that will serve you throughout your cycle, as it helps you to stay immersed in your cycle experience and be with yourself and whatever’s arising. It’s especially useful during the premenstruum, where much undigested history surfaces.  

Often when we’re triggered by something and emotionally stirred up our first instinct is to react to what’s happened and to whoever is in the firing line. We may argue, make a cutting remark, shout back, throw a plate (even if you’ve never done that, you’ve probably wanted to), storm off, and the like.

‘Holding the tension’ includes feeling your response to what someone says, or what has happened, without jumping into your usual reaction or behaviour. The practice requires, in the moment, that you slow yourself down enough to watch the charge of emotion going through you and just hang out with it. 

It can feel a bit like biting your tongue, but by preserving your reactions with awareness, you begin to create more inner spaciousness around the issue, revealing to yourself a more honest response that leads you to the truth of what you’re feeling or needing. 

This spaciousness heralds in more choice, and having choices is everything. The choice not to react, and the choice to do something different. 

Practice: Holding the Tension

  • Deep Listening
    In general, practise deep listening – notice, take in and give attention to what you sense, feel and think.

  • Create an Anchor
    When you’re triggered it may be helpful to create a conditioned anchor to help you pause. For example, over time, Alexandra has developed an almost Pavlovian response when she’s triggered. She immediately says to herself, Keep quiet, Pope, just listen. ‘Breathe, expand and include’ is a great little mantra that Sjanie learnt from her Movement Medicine supervisor, Sue Khun. It’s a useful thing to say to yourself when you practise ‘holding the tension’. It may only be for a few seconds but it briefly interrupts reactivity and offers an opening for something different.

  • Stabilize
    Stabilize yourself within the moment – bring your consciousness to bear on what you’re experiencing and the discomfort that you feel.

  • Take Space
    Resist the urge to react, fix or explain it. If possible, remove yourself from the situation.

  • Allow
    Sit with the sensations: get inside them and let them be.

Practising these steps brings in the opportunity for more kindness and love for yourself and the situation. Which in turn gives you the wherewithal to see and possibly understand different perspectives. 

It’s an effective way to end a power struggle or an unhealthy dynamic in a relationship as it allows you to get to the bottom of why you’re triggered and then, at a less charged time, cleanly deliver the truth of how you feel to the other person. 

Because you’re less reactive, and probably able to put things in a more palatable way, they’re more likely to ‘hear’ you and respond in a fresh way that will bring a new outcome. This may not be something you do every time you’re triggered, but even occasionally employing this practice is going to reap dividends.

The author Matt Licata’s words sum up this practice:

Slow way down and open into the life that is flowing through you. 
Place your awareness into the core of the tenderness and breathe with it. 
Oxygenate it not only with the clarity of an outside witness, 
but by way of intimacy, flooding it with the heart-qualities 
of kindness, compassion, and warmth.

~ Matt Licata


Related posts

See all posts