By Babette Dunkelgrun
Interview with Christiane Northrup (above), author of The Wisdom of Menopause, on the psychological meaning of menopause
How do you define menopause?
“It’s a rebirth of your soul. There is a distance between how you have been living your life and how your soul wants to live your life. That causes the discord during menopause. The expectations of society become less important. The same culture that judges your worth by how much you sacrifice yourself for others would have you believe that it’s all about estrogen levels. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all have the tendency to gloss over the hard parts: listening to your own voice and your need to be heard. This changes during menopause. That is the spiritual part of this rebirth.”
What is the biggest misconception about menopause?
“We are taught to be afraid of menopause. We think we’re no longer attractive. What the research shows is it’s women in their 60s and 70s having the best sex of their lives because we begin to come into our own. We just don’t have the ability to put a lid on it. There is not enough incentive to seeing women empowered in menopause.”
Did you have the experience of not “putting a lid on it” anymore?
“When I was writing Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, my daughters were 16 and 18 years old. They would come ask me when dinner was. I said, ‘Don’t you know how to boil?’ We don’t have the desire to keep enabling our entire family and their overreliance on us. We worry that we will lose love if we put ourselves first; we actually get love. We’ve turned ourselves into pretzels to be what someone else wants so often. Menopause is a wake-up call to live a more authentic life.”
What does it take to live more authentically during menopause?
“We as women push our inner voice down with alcohol, food, or excessive exercise and work. The consequence is cellular inflammation. This causes more hormonal disruption and is the basis of many diseases. We don’t teach people in this culture to take care of themselves, particularly women. A good woman makes cookies, is sexually available, looks beautiful and cleans the toilets. Her desire to climb a mountain or keep bees is kept under wraps. During menopause you can no longer not listen to your voice; your body is screaming at you to change something.”
What is your advice to menopausal women?
“You live in a body. It is where your soul lives while you are on Earth. The key at midlife is that you can’t continue to have a donut and coffee every morning, a few glasses of wine every night, not exercise or take care of yourself. One of the things I start with is checking your level of vitamin D. And do something that makes you happy: take a walk in the sun; look at what your life can be like. You’re in labor with yourself; you need unconditional love.”
Are women embracing this “labor”?
“Many women I know are having fabulous 50th birthday parties; they know it’s their turn. It’s so simple. They say yes to themselves and don’t feel guilty. It’s a celebration. The good news is that the fulfilled woman is a blessing to her family, her children, to society, her boss and her church. Realizing that is a transformation. The next step will be to transform the way we do death. We’ll have big, fabulous—funerals.”
Read more on menopause in The meaning of menopause and Still on the journey. Join the conversation by attending OdeNow’s menopause course. For a free digital copy of Ode’s entire Menopause Series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.