Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it,
we can never do anything wise in this world.
I recently found my first journal. I flipped to the first page and read the first line:
“I just want to be empowered.”
I wrote that on February 23, 1997. I was twenty-six years old. At the time, I was living in a lovely, panoramic house on the water with two beautiful, healthy daughters and a bodybuilder husband who came home every night. We owned a prosperous local health club, had money in the bank, and were investing monthly. I’d competed in and won fitness competitions such as the Junior Ontario Bodybuilding Championship and the Ms. Galaxy. I’d even set some regional track-and-field records and received the Mayor’s Fitness Award. I’d managed a chain of health and racquetball clubs, including opening my own Crystal’s Health & Fitness Spa when I was only twenty-two. I helped my husband open his Adonis Health & Fitness a year later. I had filmed a national episode of Really Me on YTV, on which I showed teenagers the power that exercise gave to me (for over five years it would run almost weekly across Canada); I’d been on the cover of a few fitness magazines; I’d been invited to be a guest on a national Canadian TV talk show (I said yes); and I’d been asked to pose in Playboy (I said no). I was attractive, strong, smart, kind, and friendly. I had everything: stainless steel professional series appliances, a six-hundred-square-foot kitchen, a table that sat twelve, a Corvette convertible in the garage, and a minivan.
What else could one want? And yet I didn’t feel empowered. To me, empowerment meant feeling at ease within and about myself. And since I had one idea that dominated my thoughts—constantly reminding me of how unacceptable I was—I knew that, deep down, I wasn’t empowered. Instead, I felt like maybe if I did more, I’d be more; if I got enough, I’d be enough. But I was tired of doing and having. And I was only twenty-six.
The night before I bought that blank journal, with my two-year-old sleeping peacefully in her canopy bed, I sat in my rocking chair nursing my youngest daughter and listening to Bob Greene’s Make the Connection. My husband wasn’t home from work yet. It was eleven p.m. I was crying. Sobbing, actually.
I’d hear Oprah say years later: “I didn’t really know what the connection was that Bob was always talking about.” That night, I didn’t really know, either. But something in my heart cracked open just wide enough for me to believe that maybe I, too, could be happy and thin again.
As I look back, it shocks me that I wasn’t thinking about finally dealing with the time when I was twelve years old and my father told me he was going out to buy a gallon of milk and a pack of cigarettes and then never came home. I’d had no idea my parents were even arguing, and yet nothing in my life would ever be the same again. My parents never once sat us down and explained what was happening. It was just never talked about. Dad moved in (three cities away) with his new, crazy girlfriend; and a month later, my older brother followed. I never said good-bye to either of them. I wasn’t thinking about healing from the multitude of traumas that came after that—when my mother threw herself into bodybuilding and partying, moved her 24-year-old boyfriend in, or when the sexual abuse began to occur nightly. I rarely thought about how she kicked me out when I was fifteen, or how afraid I was that—despite the treatment I’d undergone for the early signs of cervical cancer when I was only seventeen, taking the city bus to the hospital by myself—the cancer might come back again.
Nope. I wasn’t thinking about any of these things. I was thinking about my weight, specifically, How had I gotten this fat?
When I look back on that moment, I can see how completely lost I really was. I couldn’t see that the suffering I was experiencing had nothing to do with numbers on a scale. Yet rather than face and begin to process the emotional, sexual, and physical abuse I’d suffered, I believed at that time that if I could just lose weight then I would be happy.
We’ve all been consumed with disempowered, repetitive thoughts—misdirected fear—the stuff that distracts and numbs us from the real stuff.
Skip ahead to nine years later: 2006.
I remember the bewildering feeling I had when I walked into the largest bookstore in Canada—Chapters Indigo at Toronto Eaton Centre, in the heart of downtown—and there was my face, front and center in the store, blown up on huge posters as the “Reader’s Choice”!
With stacks and stacks of my books placed on tables at the front of the store, I picked up the little brochure that explained the poll and read my name in print, there among a list of people who were changing the world:
To create our list, we asked over 40,000 irewards members
to recommend the books that helped them lead
a healthier lifestyle and achieve their personal best.
CHAPTERS | INDIGO | COLES
Forty thousand readers were polled across Canada to see which book had most influenced their life and that first little journal, Simply…Woman! The 12-Week Body-Mind-Soul Total Transformation Program came in at number fourteen! I was in complete and utter shock. How on earth did little ole me, who initially self-published my little ole journal, achieve this kind of recognition?
I continued to scan down the list of names below mine: Julia Cameron, Dr. Phil, Harvey Diamond, Anthony Robbins, Don Miguel Ruiz, Joel Osteen, Robin Sharma, Neale Donald Walsch, Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, John Gray, Andrew Weil, Sean Covey, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Jack Canfield, and M. Scott Peck. I was even ahead of one of my mentors and first publisher: Louise L. Hay.
I was amazed! This success affirmed to me that no matter who you are or what has happened to you, if you decide to, you can create a successful life! I knew, in that moment, that empowerment is our birthright! We were designed to expand our lives! To follow what “lights” us up and to let our “inner light” expand into the brightest, happiest, most empowered version of ourselves possible.
In fact, science tells us that we live in an infinite, ever-expanding universe and that we are a part of that universe. Stephen Hawking explains it in A Brief History of Time:
The discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the greatest intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century. With hindsight, it is easy to wonder why no one had thought of it before. Newton, and others, should have realized that a static universe would soon start to contract under gravity. But suppose instead that the universe is expanding. If it was expanding fairly slowly, the force of gravity would cause it to stop expanding and then to start contracting. However, if it was expanding at more than a critical rate, gravity would never be strong enough to stop it, and the universe would continue forever. This is a bit like what happens when one fires a rocket upward from the surface of the earth. If it has a fairly slow speed, gravity will eventually stop the rocket and it will start falling back. On the other hand, if the rocket has more than a certain critical speed (about seven miles per second), gravity will not be strong enough to pull it back, so it will keep going away from the earth forever.
When someone takes away your ability to expand your own life, you are oppressed, controlled, and disempowered. You begin, as Hawking points out, to “contract,” that is, to shrivel and die. But when you are your own person, able to make your own decisions and follow your dreams, you can expand yourself and your abilities infinitely. Your desires andpassions are similar to the rocket firing upward from the surface of this earth. If they are powerful enough, gravity will not be strong enough to pull them back. This, in turn, expands the world around you. Your dreams manifest!
The necessity of choice is why all our religious texts insist that God gave us “free will.” We must be able to make our own decisions in order to expand consciousness—to be empowered!
When you take away choice, you take away empowerment. When you think you have no choice, you disempower yourself.
As you take back the reins in your life by focusing on expansion, you, too, expand the collective consciousness. Empowered people are in alignment with the universe. Suffering arrives to show us where we are out of alignment. But we can’t give what we don’t have.
To give you a simple metaphor of expansion: Take a deep, fully expanded breath and notice how you feel. Hold for a second. Now, contract your lungs and exhale completely. Notice the difference in your body, posture, and confidence between the two.
Now, try taking another deep breath … but this time, hold it for five seconds. Then, take three more tiny inhales and hold them, too. Notice how holding on begins to suffocate you.
Finally, blow all the air out of your lungs and hold your breath again. Quickly exhale three extra puffs. Hold. Stay static. Don’t move. Don’t breathe. Don’t expand. Wait…
Fear constricts, contracts, and holds on. Gripping. Almost panicked. Life or empowerment, on the other hand, trusts the gentle inhale that will follow. Receiving. Releasing. Allowing. Expanding.
We can’t expand and empower collective consciousness until we expand and empower our own personal consciousness.
The purpose of this book is to empower you to expand your life so you can become the greatest expression of you possible—to give you the Emotional Edge! A big part of this comes from understanding your Emotional Age and how you are showing up in the world. We will dig into your Emotional Age in Chapter One.
Once you get the Emotional Edge, you’ll never give your power away again without recognizing it. You’ll see when you’re sabotaging yourself and come to understand why. You’ll be able to detect when you’re around other people who are attempting to take your power from you and you will learn how to protect, support, and nurture yourself. You will begin to live in a world that is expanding to enable your wildest dreams, hopes, and ambitions to become realities.
The Edge is twofold: it is a powerful, penetrating, expansive quality—the horizon line of possibilities—that creates freedom, happiness, liberation, self-assuredness, and power; it is also the place on “your own path” where you are able to thrive as an individual while joyously honoring the commitments you’ve made to those you care about. You are able to channel your fear and anger into courage and willingness. You are able to live your best life without guilt, shame, or blame.
There are hidden rules we must learn if we want to feel empowered. The Emotional Edge shares these rules so that no more will you feel like a victim of circumstance, genetics, or your past.
Every experience you have colors the way you relate to the world. Your life isn’t necessarily shaped by the things you’ve spent the most time doing or the people you’ve spent the most time with; powerful emotional experiences can happen in a flash but leave an indelible mark. The Emotional Edge will not only help you identify the events that have defined your life, it will also prepare you to be better equipped to deal with the future. It will help you seek out experiences that will fill your life with joy and strength, and steel you against experiences that might otherwise pull you down.
This book is about acknowledging, feeling, healing, letting go, and moving beyond. It’s about dealing with the ways people have disappointed, hurt, or misled you, and coming through these emotions on the other side stronger, maybe even invincible!
The Emotional Edge is about identifying what is standing between you and your most empowered Emotional Age; together we will face these roadblocks and overcome them. The bottom line is that life is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.
Although this book is nongender and many men and couples will benefit from reading it, I personally wrote it for every woman who is tired of thinking about her flaws, fears, failures, and fat—those disempowered repetitive thoughts that are preventing you from becoming your greatest Self.
Women, in particular, struggle with Empowered Communication. For thousands and thousands of years, women have been oppressed. Most of our mothers, grandmothers, and all of our great-great-grandmothers were unable to vote, hold office, own property, speak out publicly, or have any rights over their own bodies. It has been only in the last few generations that women were even considered a “person” by law.
Here in North America where I live, Canada was the first country to grant women the status of “person” in 1917; the United States followed in 1920. Prior to that, the word person referred only to men. A British common law ruling from 1867 emphasized, “Women are persons in matters of pains and penalties but are not persons in matters of rights and privileges.” We were possessions of our fathers, passed down to our husbands. We’ve been “groomed” for disempowerment for thousands of years.
Over the last fifty years, the world has radically changed—from radio to television to computers and Internet. We have thousands of channels to surf now, pornography at our fingertips, chat rooms to consume us, and dating services to supply our never-ending demand. We have toys, gadgets, devices, and systems. We have wireless, cellular, satellite lives with two incomes, two cars in the driveway, and a TV in every room. And yet, with all this stuff, we’re lonelier than we can possibly explain. We’re so full that we’re empty.
Feminism was not intended to cause the breakdown of the “American family,” even if it did. It was meant to give women their rights to become empowered . . . to expand their Emotional Edges! The same way men are able to!
The problem is that many women still struggle with knowing their worth. Even in the year 2015, when a little girl is born, she is a “Miss.” If she should be so lucky as to get married, she becomes a “Mrs.” If she gets divorced or never marries, her title shifts to the stern-sounding “Ms.”
Boys, on the other hand, are born a “Mr.” and die a “Mr.” Their identity is completely separate and untouched by the women in their lives.
At the Vancouver Peace Summit 2009, the Dalai Lama said, “The Western woman will heal the world.” I believe him. Not because the Western woman is smarter, better, or more enlightened than other women, but because today we have the ability to expand our Emotional Edges further than ever before and further than many women around the world are able to even today; women who have no rights or personal freedoms; who can’t drive a vehicle or pursue an education. The Western woman can chase her dreams, follow her heart, and make her own decisions. She has more options and more choices, which means more empowerment. You simply can’t have half the population oppressed and ever expect to find world peace.
The truth is, men and women are different. We all know this. In the Western world, many women have tried to become more masculine to fit into the workplace climate—a place where we were not allowed to be prior to the last fifty years. I believe it is time to celebrate and encourage our differences and allow our two genders to come together—masculine and feminine—to create the balance this world desperately needs.
Although we can’t turn back time (nor should we), we can reflect on years gone by—on what worked and what didn’t—and learn how to do things better in the future, starting right now! We can create a new “Love Language.” (We’ll talk more about this in Chapter Seven.)
Women—worldwide—desire compassion, fairness, kindness, honesty, love, joy, and peace of mind in our relationships—personal and professional. The rest of the world is watching how the “empowerment of the Western woman” is working for society. The goal is for our empowerment to spill over to women in third-world, communist, and patriarchal countries.
In 2015, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, was quoted as saying: “A girl born this year will be eighty before she lives in a world of gender equality.”
We must Close the Gap faster.
In the meantime, there are still millions of women—babies, daughters, sisters, aunties, mothers, and grandmothers—around the world who need our help. Women who, even now, are considered nothing more than a domestic commodity and a birthing machine; women who can’t vote, study, or own property; who have a voice but can’t use it; who are controlled, coerced, hurt, abused, manipulated, and exploited and who want nothing more than to be free … women who would be severely reprimanded if they did half of what I do. I guarantee that in a different century, I would have been burned at the stake.
As Caitlin Moran writes in the shockingly bold, runaway bestseller How to Be a Woman, “It’s been a long, slow 100,000-year trudge out of patriarchy. There are still parts of the world where women are not allowed to touch food when they’re menstruating or are socially ostracized for failing to give birth to boys. Even in America and Europe, women are still so woefully underrepresented in everything—science, politics, art, business, space travel . . .”
The Woman Matters
So much has already been written about the Mother and the Child Archetypes, as well as Carl Jung’s the Father, the Wise Old Man, and the Hero—but what about the archetype the Woman?
Is there one?
And if so, has it been around long enough to give our mind an immediate message that requires no further explanation the way Mother does?
In fact, the Woman Archetype is something relatively new in human history. Even for the brilliant psychologist Carl Jung, his most evolved archetype when it comes to women is the Wise Old Woman.
Jungian psychoanalyst Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés has written extensively about female archetypes and has even recorded an entire audio series on the Dangerous Old Woman. Even Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey refers to only male archetypes. But what about the rest of us—the wise twenty-, thirty-, forty-, fifty-, or even, sixty-something-year-old woman? What about the Shero?
What do you think of when you hear the word woman? Who is she? What is her archetype?
Since the beginning of time there were mothers and daughters in human communities. Their role and the core of what they stand for haven’t changed.
Mother represents safety, responsibility, and protection—mature, self-sacrificing, and perhaps even boring. Daughter conjures up helpless, cute, immature, and, often, flighty or flakey—irresponsible.
But what do we think when we speak the word woman? Has her role and the core of what she stands for changed? How would a woman manage her life, deal with challenges, teach people how to treat her, and take care of herself? Is she spiritual and sexy? Is she thin, voluptuous, fit, or fat? Or do her size and shape not matter?
Can she be prosperous and independent, or does a woman need a man? Does she need sex and attention, or does she need no one? And what happens if a woman has children? Must she become saintly, selfless, and self-abnegating?
This book is, in part, an attempt to define what being an empowered woman means, and the answer to this will serve men, too! It is time for women to stop having to explain themselves, to justify their ambitions, to search fruitlessly for possibilities and role models. It’s time for the word woman to become an archetype that requires no further explanation. It will be a clearly defined symbol.
On a personal note:
I teach empowerment because I needed to learn how to be empowered. I needed to see where and how I was contributing to the drama and dysfunction in my life.
I can see now that in my youth and even into my mid-thirties, I desperately struggled with setting boundaries and with saying no because I was never taught that I mattered and my needs mattered. A lack of parental support left me feeling worthless, while sexual abuse left me feeling tarnished—like used goods. In my mind, why did it matter now who touched, abused, or took advantage of me? Shame has this way of stripping away our dignity and self-respect.
Moving out of my mother’s house at fifteen and couch surfing for three years taught me that I was alone in the world. I learned to trust no one, although I tried desperately to please everyone. Inevitably, I felt empty and lost, and most often I felt alone, unwanted, and unimportant. I just wanted to be happy and stay happy. I just wanted to be loved. I just wanted to be empowered.
I could get along with just about anyone (perhaps because I didn’t let anyone get too close), and yet the most challenging relationships I had were with my immediate family members. Put us in a house together for a day, and you could count on at least one of us crying, one of us yelling, and one of us going home seething mad, determined never to speak to the others again! Ever! Period! Done! Over and out!
All I kept wondering was: Can’t we all just get along?
But we couldn’t just get along.
I knew it wasn’t for a lack of love. We loved one another.
I knew it wasn’t for a lack of brains. We were all smart.
We were all nice-looking, and yet being attractive didn’t seem to help, either.
I knew it had nothing to do with inner strength. Everyone in my family had endured some kind of horrible experience—rape, molestation, abandonment; physical, verbal, sexual, and/or emotional abuse; addiction; betrayal and neglect—and yet we were all pretty fearless in our independent lives. So I crossed out weakness as the reason why we couldn’t get along.
We had the cars, trinkets, houses, and watches. Rolex was a household name in my family. Our homes were immaculate, our cars shone, our yards looked like golf courses, and our clothes were smartly pressed. But looking perfect didn’t help us get along, either!
I’d hear from others how fabulous certain members of my family were, and yet we were so unfabulous with one another. I’m sure they all felt the same way.
So why couldn’t we consistently communicate our needs in a clear, honest, and peaceful way with one another? Why couldn’t we each give and receive and stay in a place of harmony, happiness, and well-being?
Why couldn’t a smart, successful, savvy group of people who essentially loved one another treat one another better?
I had to figure it out. I knew the answers lay somewhere inside of me. It was an inside job.
Sure—the people in my life had plenty to do with my chaos. But I innately knew they were merely showing up to reveal my unhealed stories—my suffering—to me.
Triggers, I know now, are gifts to show us that we are suffering. They tell us that we need a healing of the heart and a shift in our mind-set. Triggers let us know that we need to recontextualize our “stories” to lift us to higher ground emotionally. I innately knew all the arguing had something to do with our Emotional Age and how we were showing up in the world and in our family’s dynamics. We kept bringing out the worst in one another. Never-ending fighting and undermining.
I won’t lie: asking for the answers to these questions spiraled me down the rabbit’s hole. And there was no going back. Once I accepted the initial answers that I’d asked for, I received more than I could imagine and then some.
Writing this book felt like teeter tottering into no-man’s-land; I was afraid to move forward but more afraid to go back. The vulnerability I felt sharing my own truths, mixed with the audacity of writing a book about how to heal your own wounds and become a stronger, striving person, both terrified and electrified me. There is a fine line between madness and mystic. After many Dark Nights of the Soul, I’ve discovered my truth: Love Heals Everything. Every. Thing.
Freedom is on the other side of The Emotional Edge.
Turn off the lights and come away with me . . .
Crystal Andrus Morissette
There is a force in the Universe, which, if we permit it,
will flow through us and produce miraculous results.