I’m just going to come right out and say it. I think Little Red Riding Hood was culpable when the Big Bad Wolf ate her.
I’m well aware that the wolf was bigger and faster, with claws and very sharp teeth, so I’m not suggesting Red could have outrun him or, G-d forbid, she “shouldn’t have looked so tasty.”
What I’m saying is that Red could have prevented her fate … if only she’d been trained to listen to her intuition rather than been conditioned to ignore it.
We know that Red knew something was up because she voiced her concerns out loud the second she entered her Granny’s cottage with the basket of goodies.
She said (and I quote), “Your eyes are too big! Your ears are too big! Your teeth are too big!”
But what was Red doing? She was steadily walking closer and closer to the big bad wolf…until she got so close he swallowed her whole.
What if Red’s internal alarm system – the reality of what was about to happen – landed in her conscious awareness? I think she would have made a different choice.
Now, if you’ve been holding your breath, wondering where this is going, you can let it out because it wasn’t Red’s fault that she couldn’t hear her intuition. See? I’m not blaming the victim.
I believe there are three good reasons why Red chose to keep moving toward the wolf despite her knowledge that she was in danger.
- First, she felt guilty. Girls and women have been conditioned not to pester people, and the “Don’t be a bother” voice in Red’s head was louder than the “Imma bout to be eaten” voice.
- Second, Red predictably deferred when the wolf gave her his flimsy excuses “All the better to see and hear you with my dear,” because we’ve been taught to value others’ views more than our own.
- Finally, Red, knowing full well that her primary job was to care for others, was overextended, downright burnt-out. Her own protection was the last thing on her conscious mind. (Not to mention so many years of trauma and fear handed down from generations past, she may have been frozen altogether).
As I described in my TEDx, this story is particularly close to my heart because I believe it was me who walked myself into the belly of the judicial system on the morning I was bogusly arrested for domestic violence when my high-as-a-hot-air-balloon-husband lied to the cops (eegad, yes it’s true, a couples therapist arrested for domestic violence, oh my!).
I believe the thousands of years of conditioning to tie our worth to external measures (our dowry, our waistline, bringing home the bacon) causes us to betray ourselves. I believe we have far more power than we’re consciously aware of (that goes for all humans) and certainly more than we exercise.
Imagine if Red had been conditioned to listen to herself. She would have taken one look at that wolf dressed as her granny, left the goodies by the door, and got the heck out of dodge.
The most effective way to liberate has less to do with going after mandatory arrest laws or big bad wolves and more to do with re-conditioning our brains and bodies out of self-betrayal, and it turns out we can do that! We can unlearn guilt; we can choose not to let shame drive our actions, and we can avoid resentment.
There is no denying that bad things happen, very bad things. I wonder how fewer of them would happen to future generations if we trained ourselves to habituate the thoughts, feelings, and actions of worthiness.
What if we stopped trying to prove our worth and instead started owning it?