During puberty, the degree to which we are supported to become who we really are by our families and social networks is the degree to which we will bloom and remain healthy. When we are not fully supported in becoming who we really are, however, we are at increased risk for developing illness or mood disorders at adolescence. Depending on our temperament, we may either suppress our individuality to fit in or individuate along lines that are foreign or unacceptable to our families in order to remain true to ourselves. Either path takes its toll both emotionally and physically.
At puberty, a girl begins to search in earnest for outside validation for her innermost hopes and dreams for herself as a young woman. When she doesn’t find what she’s looking for, or when she sees women making compromises that the males in her family or society are not asked to make, she quite naturally becomes angry, frightened, or disappointed. That’s part of the reason for adolescent rebellion. It’s a natural consequence when a girl’s longings and sense of unlimited possibilities run headlong into the limitations and compromises she sees in the lives of her parents and other adults. Her unbridled passions are not yet tempered by a fully developed dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (or DLPC), nor has she had to deal with the realities of adult burdens and responsibility.
If her emotions aren’t validated and redirected in a positive way, her disappointment, anger, and anxiety may turn inward as depression, moodiness, or physical illness or it could turn outward as hostility toward peers, parents, or other authority figures. Another possibility is that it can become a setup for self-destructive behavior of all kinds, including substance abuse, getting involved in destructive relationships, or engaging in multiple body piercing and tattoos. Most girls, however, reach a new emotional set point and calm down toward the middle to end of high school.
Spiritual and Holistic Options
The stormy emotions associated with adolescence can be weathered far more effectively if you realize that all emotions are simply messages from our inner guidance system. Each has a function. Each is telling us something we need to know. Each should be felt fully and then released. It’s that simple. If this doesn’t happen, or if any emotion is put down or suppressed, it can cause illness.
If your daughter becomes moody or “mouthy,” give her a lot of space and don’t try to cheer her up or “fix” her emotions. Let her discover the inner guidance that will help her reach her own solutions. However, she also needs to realize that her feelings affect others. If she says “I don’t want to talk about it” when you query her obvious sadness, tell her it’s okay to feel sad, but that she needs to figure out how to solve her problem in a way that doesn’t negatively impact everyone else in the family. Let her know you’re available if she wants to talk about whatever is troubling her, but that it’s not okay for her to sit sullenly at the dinner table without saying a word, holding everyone else hostage.
Despite the pervasive influence of the mass media and mass culture, our daughters can learn that their own inner wisdom and intuitive voice are far more potent guides to a life of fulfillment, health, and joy than anything outside themselves. Once they learn to identify and trust this voice, they will be far less apt to get caught up, at least for long, in the emptiness of meaningless relationships, frantic consumerism, or using addictive substances and processes whose purpose is simply to numb pain and awareness.
Learn More — Additional Resources
- Mother-Daughter Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 15, “Coming of Age: Body, Brain, and Soul at Puberty”
- Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 5, “The Menstrual Cycle”
- Honoring Menstruation: A Time of Self-Renewal, by Lara Owen