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Maureen Murdock

interview by Douglas Eby

 Maureen Murdock is a family therapist, teacher,
and author of a number of books.

One of the themes of the responses to the Gifted Women Forum [which was previously on America Online] is concern about restraining one's opinions, particularly in the presence of men. 

An example is a recent letter to the Gifted Women message board: "Although I have always had great confidence in my abilities and hold myself, but not others, to perfectionistic standards, I don't want to be set apart (above) for my accomplishments. I serve on a prestigious board as the only woman member and often hold myself back (unless it's an issue dear to me) because I feel men dislike assertive women, and I must save my assertiveness for bigger issues." 

Maureen Murdock comments about this topic: 

"It's really tricky, because I don't think women should hide their light under a bushel. I think it's the way women present their argument that becomes the issue. If women have an edge at all to their voice, or come across strident, men don't listen. If they can just center themselves and speak their truth from their heart, men do listen. That's my experience. And I think women really have to be encouraged to speak their truth. 

"But when [the letter writer above] says she holds herself back 'unless it's an issue dear to me' - she's consciously choosing her battles; I think that's good advice, I think that's smart. Because of the way womens' brains and psyches work, we're pretty multifaceted and we see injustices here, there, and everywhere and we feel we have to do something about them all, particularly if you're a heroic type of woman. So I think what you really have to do is choose your issue, and become very well-versed in your issue. 

"Women have to be able to make a good argument for their issue, and when they are emotionally overwrought, men don't listen to the argument, all they hear is the emotion - and the emotion scares them. The men feel like, 'Oh this women is really anxious (or hysterical), and I can't stand hearing anxiety, so I'm just going to shut her down, or ignore her, or I'm going to have to fix it, provide an answer.'" 

Another thing she has noticed, Murdock says, "In a meeting, where a woman may come up with and verbalize a great idea, if a man says the same idea, in his words, then everyone goes 'Oh yeah, that's a great idea' - and the woman has already said it. Some men are not used to listening to a woman's voice speaking great ideas. 

"They're used to being reprimanded by women - as boys - so if a woman comes across with a fabulous idea, they've already tuned her out because she's a woman and she reminds them of Mommy. So that's why women have to have all the facts at their fingers, and a lot of us aren't comfortable with linear argument because we're more holistic thinkers, and we know something is the truth but we don't have the data to back it up, and that's why men don't listen. 

"But I would hope that women don't hold themselves back. I hope women speak their truth from their heart, and put the little germ of wisdom out, because I do think one of the things we do as women is plant seeds, and even if the men don't hear it consciously, it goes into the unconscious. And we need to plant those seeds without fixation on the outcome. If my planting is a true planting, if I've planted well, if I've prepared the hole and fertilized it, then I really have to let the idea be nurtured by the earth and the sun and the rain and air, and then it will come to fruition on its own. I can't force the seed into a plant." 

Murdock is teaching in the Human Development Department at Crossroads School [in Santa Monica] and notes, "We have a tradition of speaking from the heart and listening from the heart, because we use a Council process where a 'talking instrument' is passed. The guidelines are that you speak from your heart, listen with your heart, and speak briefly and to the point. 

"And I've used this process in businesses and organizations and large school meetings, and it's very worthwhile because people really have to listen. When you have forty people, and each person is having a time to speak from the heart, every opinion gets covered; it becomes like a hologram, we have the issue covered from every point of view, and no one's getting interrupted. 

"You can use that process internally as well, with your inner voices. In 'The Heroine's Journey' I talk about the parts of ourselves that are either 'the driver' or 'the annihilator' or 'the critic' - and I can give voice to 'the critic' and listen to her or to him, then send the 'nurturing mother' in to send 'the critic' on vacation." 

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*books by Maureen Murdock:  

The Heroine's Journey

Fathers' Daughters: Transforming the Father-Daughter Relationship 

Spinning Inward: Using Guided Imagery With Children for Learning, Creativity & Relaxation

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