Little girl blowing on a dandelion.

Dandelions, Orchids and Society’s Repression of Femininity

I have written about highly sensitive souls before, and I have been on an exploration behind why so many of us seem to be blessed with children with seemingly higher needs than our generation, or the generation before possessed. I am on a quest to find out:

Is there scientific proof behind the theory of “rainbow children”? That our generation are “indigo” children, making way for “crystal” children who are totally breaking apart pre-conceived notions and rules?

Are more highly sensitive people being born because our world needs them more than ever? Is this some grand, existential crisis we are collectively experiencing?

Has there actually even been an increase in sensitivity? Or is our generation just more aware of these traits for some reason?

I consulted my friend Erica L. Robinson about it. She is a graduate of Naturopathic Medicine, Weight Loss expert and self-proclaimed highly-sensitive-person.

“Here’s what we know. Some people’s nervous systems secrete more neurotransmitters in response to a stimulus. So you could take two different people, and play a loud noise, and one would be internally dripping with dopamine, where the other person would barely be secreting any. This tendency is usually inborn, however if a person has undergone trauma, it is possible to develop higher sensitivity as a result.

From an energetic perspective, this can be looked at as masculinity VS. femininity.
The point of masculine energy is to accomplish a goal and not let anything get in your way – especially emotions. Both energies have their appropriateness, but both can get out of balance and wreak some havoc as well.”

I have always been, in retrospect, a more masculine person. I had a hard time working at a women’s only fitness centre, wanting to hit our goals and perform, while it felt like everyone was getting their periods at the same time and huddled together eating ice cream and crying. I fought for a male Divisional Manager, preferring to work for men, feeling it meant “less drama”, more cutting to the chase, and getting-it-done! My friend Erica L. Robinson identifies with this as well, as someone who “bulldozed through medical school” as she puts it.

So Can a Dandelion turn into an Orchid?
There is an old experiment which looked at colicky babies, ones that could be described as “fussy”, compared to easy-going babies of the same age. They followed these babies throughout their lives, and discovered something remarkable.

The fussy babies who were brought up in abusive, neglectful homes, typically ended up battling addiction and ended up entangled with the judicial system or becoming institutionalized. The easy-going, or “dandelions” ended up being much more resilient to what life threw at them. That said, those fussy/ “orchid” babies who were nurtured and securely attached to primary caregivers, ended up excelling in life, achieving exceptional careers and life satisfaction.

I always thought of myself as a dandelion. I thought I did very well under circumstances I don’t think my highly sensitive son would have. Some say adversity builds character, but according to Orchid/Dandelion study, that’s only true if you are a “dandelion”. Growing up I was told I was an easy kid. No trouble. My parents hit the jackpot. I never had an issue with scary movies, my sensory barrier seemed thick, I was never bothered by noise and pursued a bright-lights, big-city lifestyle in my 20’s.

But now… I can’t handle too many kids in a room, I seek quiet. Playdates give me anxiety, and I can’t even keep my thoughts straight (this is why if you know me, I often request kid-free get togethers! I love children, but the chaos of too many in one place rattles me!). I am extremely attuned to my own kids’ needs, and we live a quiet blissful life with a small core group of our people.

Don’t get me started on T.V., I can’t watch the news and I cannot seem to ever pick a show on Netflix, I honestly get too disturbed by most of the options. Once a month I will scroll, watch a trailer or two, read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, give up and go to sleep. I do enjoy my 7 year old’s taste in YouTube, and that is enough for the most part! Stranger Things was good, I loved Atypical, and some of the episodes of Black Mirror, spaced apart! I am absolutely loving “Harvey Beaks” however! haha!

I learned there is also the “Tulip” on the Dandelion – Orchid continuum, so perhaps that’s me? Sensitive yet resilient? I asked Erica about this, and she said, one of the first signs of embracing our divine femininity is becoming more emotional in response to stimuli.

“Through the process of pregnancy and childbirth, your amygdala and limbic brain, actually GROW. And they never go back to the way they were. You can say we have three brains, the limbic brain is all about feelings, and arguably the strongest part of our whole brain. Becoming a parent changes your brain forever and makes you more attuned to stimuli, so you can parent effectively, since, as we know, babies and small children are not logical beings, they are pure instinct and emotion.”

Erica L. Robinson is a weight loss coach who spends a great deal of her time with clients working on what she calls, “the societal crisis of repressing femininity”. She says, “Our mothers who raised this generation of mothers are extremely masculine, because they became parents at a time where feminism was at it’s peak. They reclaimed equality as much as possible for women in the workplace… but they did so by behaving just like the men. This actually fries our hormones. The more masculine we act, the more competitive, the more goal-driven, the more productive we are… These are all good things, but when done out of balance for a female body, over time it actually suppresses female hormones and up-regulates male hormones (less progesterone and more testosterone).

This can can have implications deeper than just hormonal. It can create a lack of satisfaction. Being overly masculine can look like being so goal-driven, you are not in the present and feel perpetually dissatisfied.

Femininity is about nurturing emotions, nurturing where we are at now, and relationships can carry a tense reverse-dynamic. Males having become emasculated by growing up with driven power-suit mamas, and females following suit, carrying the alpha presence in a relationship, even totally calling the shots at home.

This is absolutely not to say that the 50’s had it all right, but if a part of you feels ashamed when you look at those old traditional roles with a wee bit of longing, there is an actual hormonal reason for that. All of this also carries the caveat of course, that if you as a female authentically identify as a man, and if you as a male identify as a woman — this might not apply to you, and there are of course many more outliers of to any situation.

Erica says though she was born as more of an orchid on the continuum, adopting a more masculine M.O. was how she was able to get through such extreme challenges as medical school. But once she reclaimed her femininity as part of her health recovery, she found it was actually shocking to her nervous system.

“When we become so left-brained, so logical, it can actually divorce us from our own hearts, and create a slew of issues and dissatisfaction.”

My conversation with Erica was so illuminating and interesting, and I hope it helps you explore where you might be on the masculine / feminine, orchid / dandelion continuum, and what the possible implications are for other areas of your life.

As new parents, I find we come to a fork in the road, trying to come to grips with our change in identity. This can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Check out my Coaching Packages to see how I can help you explore the “new you”!

Additional Resources:

If you wonder whether you are a Highly Sensitive Person, you can do this quiz by Elaine Aron: Are You Highly Sensitive?

There is a quiz for kids too: Is Your Child Highly Sensitive?

If you are curious how being Highly Sensitive might affect your work or productivity, Erica L. Robinson wrote this article: Is Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person Affecting Your Work Life?

Learn more about the Orchid and Dandelion continuum here:  Tulip, Orchid and Dandelion Theory: Kids and Sensitivity and Raising an Orchid Child in a Dandelion World

Learn more about the theory of Rainbow Children (Indigo & Crystal Children) here. What Are Indigo and Crystal Children

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