Nurturing Our Humanity by Riane Eisler and Douglas P. Fry

How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future

Thirty Years Later

I’d been looking forward to reading this after reading Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and The Blade two years ago, though it was originally published in 1987, over 30 years ago.

Riane Eisler is a systems scientist, cultural historian, educator, speaker and pioneering attorney working for women’s and children’s human rights, and the recipient of many awards. Her work on cultural transformation has inspired scholars and social activists. She is President of the Centre For Partnership Studies dedicated to research and education.

Douglas P Fry is an American anthropologist. He has written extensively on aggression, conflict, and conflict resolution in his own books and in journals such as “Science” and “American Anthropologist.” His work frequently engages the debate surrounding the origins of war, arguing against claims that war or lethal aggression is rooted in human evolution. He is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

A Guide to Raising More Conscious, Socially Responsible, Caring Future Generations

Nurturing HumanityBringing together these two authors has created an immensely readable work that describes how our societies and families and cultures, not to mention our brains, have been shaped by a system of domination that favours hierarchical structures, ranking of one kind over another, authoritarian parenting and leadership, fueled by fear, tamed by punishment, sustained by conditioning that makes silencing and oppression the norm.

Eisler and Fry argue that the path to human survival and well-being in the 21st century hinges on our human capacities to cooperate and promote social equality, including gender equality.

Social systems that orient closely to the domination side of the continuum are ultimately held together by fear and force. In this system, beliefs and social structures support rigid top-down rankings, and the closer a culture or subculture orients to it, the more stressful it is.

Despite the narratives that exist that suggest humanity is hardwired for ruthless selfishness and violence, there is abundant evidence, referenced here, that:

“Indicates that humans have also evolved powerful capacities, indeed proclivities, for empathy, equity, helping, caring and various other prosocial acts.”

There are examples from ancient times past (anthropological evidence) and present in contemporary Nordic societies, one of the significant differences being a greater sense of partnership and equality between couples and also in the value attributed to “caring industries”, a sector of society that has been virtually ignored by academia, and undervalued, underfunded by governments worldwide.

In contrast, the partnership configuration is more peaceful, egalitarian, gender-balanced, and environmentally sustainable. As in the strivings of countless families, businesses and communities today, the partnership system consists of beliefs and structures that support relations based on mutual benefit, respect and accountability.

Once we understand these dynamics, of domination versus partnership, and the characteristics of each, the imbalance in the world becomes glaringly obvious. This work gives multiple examples and acknowledges that pockets of the partnership approach do exist and are growing, but there are significant challenges to be addressed before we can truly begin to benefit from the improved standard of living that more ‘caring societies’ can bring.

Fear and force are not woven into the cultural tapestry of of the partnership system because they are not needed to maintain rigid top-down rankings, whether it is man over woman, race over race, religion over religion, or nation over nation. Instead of hierarchies of domination, some partnership societies and leaders use power to empower rather than disempower. So love, care, nurturance, and creativity can flourish.

New Evidence About Human Nature

There is now a plethora of evidence from many different fields, ranging from ethnography, history and psychology to genetics, neuroscience and ethology that provide a shock-and-awe set of counter arguments to the assumption that selfishness and violence are central to what it means to be human.

Nurturing Our Humanity Riane Eisler Douglas Fry Caring Economics

Photo by CDC on Pexels

Human nature has an enormous genetic capacity for empathy, working together sharing, caring and helping, however we know from neuroscience that stress can inhibit this capacity by changing our brain neurochemistry. And starting with the crucial early family relations, domination oriented societies are extremely stressful.

We Need A Caring Econonics

As long as caring is culturally devalued, we cannot realistically expect caring social and economic policies designed to promote human well-being and protection of the natural environment. Measures of economic health such as GDP and GNP include as “productive” work, those activities that harm and take life, such as selling guns and cigarettes with their resulting health and funeral costs – but they fail to count as productive  the hard work of people who care for children, the sick, the elderly and others at home, and accord very low value to this work in the market.

The book ends with four cornerstones of Partnership, Childhood Gender, Economics and Narratives & Language, with recommendations and examples of policies and practices towards improving these areas, bringing new economic and social interventions that give value to caring and caregiving work in both the market and nonmarket sectors.

Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future

Riane Eisler and Douglas Fry

I can’t recommend this book highly enough for anyone at a loss to why the world seems to have become so divisive and uncaring, this deeply researched, erudite text stands back and shows us where we’ve been and where we could go, and what policies need to change to bring us to a more humane era.

There isn’t a page where I haven’t highlighted a passage, reading this book makes one see the world differently, even though we already knew it. It makes me realise I’ve been working on evolving my brain for years, undoing the conditioning, rewiring it for a better way to live and be.

It makes me realise how starved I am for stories/films that present and represent the partnership model of society, rather than the proliferation of narratives that continuously adher to and promulgate the domination model. And why those stories have been having such a profoundly negative effect on me recently. The combination of empathising with characters and being witness to their maltreatment by other characters (or the author in their creation of them) is affecting my brain!

“Understanding the origins, natures, and impacts of partnership and domination systems on human lives and societies is crucial to human well-being and survival.”

Lifting the veil on the system behind so much of how our world works, to keep the domination system in place, once aware of it, it is almost overwhelming, the steep gradient of the uphill battle before us, however I like to believe we are on the way, that a new vision of future generations will embrace the partnership model more and more.

Totally fascinating and Highly Recommended.

Further Listening

Podcast : “Is Human Nature Peaceful?” Douglas Fry discusses human nature, our potential for peace, and some of the archeological/anthropological evidence behind his work.

Podcast : Behind Greatness by Inspire North : Riane Eisler JD, PhD(h) – President, Center for Partnership Studies / Author / Speaker – Building a World that Supports Capacity for Caring, Creativity & Consciousness 

Dodging Energy Vampires by Christiane Northrup

An Empath’s Guide

Christiane Northrup, M.D., draws on the latest research in this field, along with stories from her global community and her life, to explore the phenomenon of energy vampires, showing us how we can spot them, dodge their tactics, and take back our own energy.

A while ago I read and enjoyed Christiane Northrup’s book Making Life Easy, A Simple Guide to a Divinely Inspired Life. I’ve had this title on my kindle for a few months and I have been dipping in and out of it in-between other books. For the past few weeks, as I mentioned in my Sunday Morning Haiku post, I’ve been reading a chapter a day of Alberto Villoldo’s Courageous Dreaming, which I have now finished and will be sharing soon, so I went back to this book and finished it too. It’s a time of completion.

I listen to her on Hay House Radio sometimes, she is an advocate for women (and men) taking control of their own health, well-known for her books on women’s health including Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing; The Wisdom of Menopause; Goddesses Never Age and more.

Now she turns her focus and offers more great wisdom for highly sensitive empaths, detailing what that means, giving examples of their tendencies, how they respond and adapt to the world right from childhood, which then explains why they act the way do as adults.

Empaths often take extreme measures to contort their true identities into something less painful. They become very good at blending in and figuring out how to be loved and accepted not for who they really are but instead for how they can serve others.

She describes it as a survival mechanism.

Because they are so attuned to other people’s energy, they suffer when other’s suffer, so they work harder not to make anyone suffer.

You can stop trying to explain why you don’t want to see that award-winning war film.

They also avoid scary or violent movies or television shows because they are too painful to watch.

Due to that ability to sense energy around them, they are often drawn to animals and nature because of their calming, pure and innocent energy. Fortunately, highly sensitive people also tend to experience the simple joys of the world more fully.

Photo by Jean van der Meulen on Pexels.com

Evading Relationships That Drain You

She cuts through what others give terms like narcissism and sociopathic behaviours and refers to people exhibiting these behaviours as ‘energy vampires’, a way of relating to the effect they have, rather than spending too much time on describing the way are. She’s here for the empaths after all.

There are tips and examples of how to recognise these behaviours and why empaths in particular are susceptible to attracting them.

Restoring Your Health and Power

She gives practical advice on how to first recognise and then deal with people and situations that drain your energy. Tips, techniques, practices and tactics that increase your awareness and better equip you to navigate your life and your relationships in an empowering way. The kinds of things you may already know but that we benefit in being reminded of regularly. Recognising the important qualities in a relationship and starting with the one you have with yourself.

Dr. Mario Martinez notes that for each of the archetypal wounds – abandonment, betrayal, shame – there is a corresponding healing field that will ameliorate suffering. These healing fields are energies that oppose the energy of the wound.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Much of the book is then given over generally to how to stay in the light, protect yourself from the dark elements in the world but also in ourselves.

Her suggestions promote well-being, actions that don’t require waiting for something to get worse before being proactive, because problems present themselves in the energetic body long before they are detected by traditional medicine. They can be addressed before manifesting in the physical body, allowing us to maintain equilibrium, well-being. Listening to and acting on our intuitive sense, taking care of ourselves.

Generally speaking, highly sensitive people do far better with healing approaches based on quantum energy, not chemical and surgical intervention. Homeopathy, flower essences, acupuncture, massage, herbs, prayer, yoga, Pilates, chiropractic, medical intuition, and Divine love healings – I consider all of these to be actual health care because of these things interact with the energy field of the body.

Reading this is like listening to her speak, a lifetime of experiences and now she shares the wisdom of it all, holding nothing back, refreshingly courageous in stepping outside the conventional norm.

Ideal slow-reading during a global pandemic. (I’ve been reading this over the past three or four months.)