You were made to feel. I can't say this enough. I say it to you. I say it to myself. Because it seems that no matter how much stuff I clear from my bodymind and how much freer I've become, there remains an energy, a tendency, to judge certain feelings, to think "I'm not doing it right," because of the feelings I'm feeling.
It's not my fault - this judgment. I came by it honestly. Because it seems that embedded in the human psyche is the story that emotionality is bad.
At one time in our evolution we probably acted on our feelings impulsively, resulting in "bad" consequences. When we were mad at somebody, we probably just clubbed them over the head. At some point, in order to become civilized, in order to achieve social order, it became important to control our emotional impulses, to have mastery over them. This evolved into an increasing bias towards rationality, valuing our intellects, and using them to try to master those less "evolved" emotions. This ability, we have believed, is what makes us superior to the animals.
The popularity of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a reflection of this bias. CBT suggests that if we just control what we think, we can control how we feel. This is a load of crap. Feelings happen. Feelings are energy. The nature of energy is movement. Energy moves and we feel stuff. Emotional energy is biological, chemical, and electrical, just like the other physiological processes that happen in a human body. For example, feelings happen when you smell certain smells. You don't have to think, "my grandmother's house," to feel warm, happy feelings of your grandmother's house when you smell apple pie. It just happens - automatically.
Our friends the animals do not have the capacity for rational thought, but if you've spent any time training or living with horses, you know damn well that they feel. I have one little mare who probably feels and expresses five different feelings in under a minute - depending on what we're doing and what I'm teaching her. (She is, by the way, one of the happiest little horses you'll ever meet. I'm assuming it's because she doesn't feel guilty for the nasty faces she makes at me, nor does she try to justify them. She doesn't reflect on her fear of the plastic bag and try to think through it rationally. She doesn't make her feelings into a problem to be analyzed or fixed. Feelings happen, she feels them, and then they're gone - no problem).
Do the stories in our heads create feelings? Yes. Do the stories we create in response to our feelings exacerbate those feelings? Absolutely. But I'm tired of people, often women people, and especially therapist-women people, coming to see me and feeling bad about themselves, feeling inadequate somehow, not good enough or healed enough, just because they're feeling strong feelings.
Feelings are what it means to be human. If you don't believe me, ask Barbie. After watching the movie for the fourth time, (yes, I had to watch it four times. It took me three times to notice and get why Weird Barbie was always in a split), one of the final scenes still haunts me. Barbie is standing with her creator saying that she wants to be human and her creator says, “I can’t in good conscience let you take this leap without you knowing what it means. Take my hands. . . Now, close your eyes. . . Now feel.” And while Billie Eilish's plaintive What Was I Made For? plays in the background, we see image after image of young girls and women feeling - feeling all kinds of feelings that humans feel - sadness, anguish, fear, rapture, love. Then the camera turns back to Barbie, who after seeing and feeling what it means to be human, says softly and unflappably, Yes.
Even now, tears well behind my eyes and there's a slight constriction in my throat as I remember the power and quiet simplicity of this scene: "So being human is not something I need to ask for . . . It's something that I just become?" That's right Barbie. Now feel.
And as I sit with the tightening throat, a pressure in my chest wants to build and spread with something that's almost too big for me, something greater than my human self can put into words or contain. It's the bright white light of big love that swells in compassion for all of us: What courage it takes to become human!
What courage it takes to show up, to say yes, and feel.
I love you,