Accessing our feelings and having a language to speak about them is a practice. Most of us have been taught to dumb down our feelings to provide the generic responses that tick the box. Often the question itself comes from a conversational programming considered polite…. or even obligatory. Do you REALLY want to know how I feel?
For more than 20 years I have been facilitating groups for women and girls. The overall theme is to awaken our connection to our depth of feeling, recognise it’s inherent potency, and utilise it to find our authentic woman voices. Through our feeling body we begin to hone our intuitive perspective. Over time we discover a fluidity, a dance where emotions can come and go, where we can validate our unique feeling values and eachothers. Connected to our feeling responses, we dare to vision, dream, and inhabit the unspeakable vastness of what it is to be women. It doesn’t come easy, women have been silenced for centuries.
The talking stick is passed around. “How do you feel right this moment?,” I ask the women and girls in the circle.
“I had a headache yesterday, but I feel better today.”
After several weeks in the group I patiently clarify the question.“That’s your physical feeling body. What about your emotional feeling body?” We are in unfamiliar territory.
“Good?”, fidgets another anxious looking teenager hoping to get the answer ‘right’.
“Not bad,” replies a woman after some quiet deliberation.
“I dunno”, grumbles a hunkered pubescent girl from behind dyed black curls.
A proud, well coiffed woman with a practiced smile admits, “ I don’t know.” “Look deeper,” I suggest.
Women come to these groups to connect to themselves and to a sense of sisterhood. They bring their daughters to welcome them into a wider circle of women. Together we cultivate trust to navigate our sometimes distant and delicate inner landscapes. Together we learn so much from eachother.
I want to help her touch her own vulnerability, women’s greatest power. “Close your eyes, allow your breath to deepen and feel inside . Somewhere around your heart, or further south, perhaps in your lower belly. How do you truly FEEL?” I persist.
She became agitated, unsure of what answer was required. There was no box to tick. “I don’t understand the question,” she said.
“I’m asking you to explore your inner emotional landscape, and to the best of your ability, articulate that to the group, as a practice, allowing yourself to be witnessed in your authenticity.” After several minutes of quiet her eyes shone glassy, but defiant, “I feel comfortably numb.” Inside I felt as if my burning flame of hope had been bulldozed by a woman’s acceptance of, compliance with and resignation to a colourless inner landscape.
The bulldozer was now overturning the sacred and ancient grandmother trees. In my private world, I was on my knees crying for the lost threads of connection back to the heart, the feeling body, grieving the devastation of the Sacred Feminine’s expression. But in that circle I held her gaze. I breathed slowly, deeply. Through my eyes and heart I offered great respect and compassion for the depth of wounding that must have occurred to make a healthy, well educated woman choose to be cut off from her feeling body.
“I’m comfortably numb.”
My prayer is those two words never sit side by side in a sentence. How can we accept numb as comfortable? I have never seen a woman comfortably numb, only conditioned that way, and to the trained eye of the empath, or the innocent eyes of a child, ‘comfortably numb’ is clearly in a corset of distress…..paralysed in discomfort.
‘Comfortably numb’ can’t taste the passion for life, the power of human connection, the depth of wonder at the beauty in nature, the lightness of grace. ‘Comfortably numb’ will not feel the mountains majestic patience, nor the whales’ generous compassion, nor the ability to respectfully wail and weep till tears carry our loved ones to the other side.
Several weeks later our group met again. “How are you feeling today?” The talking stick came to the same woman. “I’m feeling proud of myself. Yesterday I said “NO”, for maybe the first time in my life, to a situation that didn’t feel right to me. That’s new for me.“ The warmth in my heart that moment could have contributed to global warming.
Women are known for our wide emotional spectrum. Perceived through the lens of linear patriarchal views, our emotional life is an out of control rollercoaster, a blind monster named Hysteria we must avoid at all costs. Perceived through the empathetic heart of the Feminine our emotions are signals, our path to discernment and recognition of our needs. We have been falsely taught to keep these emotions in check, certainly out of public view, and by so doing we have lost access to our boundless realm of emotional experience.
A few emotions fit in the ‘socially acceptable’ range: happy (not too happy, please) resignation, generosity, loving (within limits) disappointment (only momentarily) hurt (grow up and get over it), and grief (that’s enough now, cheer up, life goes on.)
Authenticity is like a muscle. If we have been taught or shamed to conceal our true selves we may temporarily lose access to the feeling doorway. Through connecting to our tender and vulnerable hearts we can access the power of compassion, the gift of humanity. As we become available to the wisdom borne of those feelings we uncover our empathy, instinct, and self trust. I am not recommending emotional indulgence or drama drama drama, ad nauseum. I am suggesting we dare to feel the enormity of our emotions and become masterful in the transformational capacity of the heart .
Begin now, what do you feel stirring inside you?