The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad – Emotions as Power
One of the things that’s taken for granted, is the absolute depth and severity of the prohibition against emotions
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One of the ways in which we learn to curtail ourselves as women (or to behave and maintain the status quo) is to prohibit and suppress the rich emotionality of our inner feminine worlds.
Think about that for a moment.
DO YOU APOLOGISE FOR YOUR EMOTIONS?
How many times have you apologised for crying? Or deemed it inappropriate that you showed feelings?
How many times have you felt bad for your anger? Perhaps instead you twisted it sideways into manipulation, blame or passive aggression in your effort to silence its directional power?
What about jealousy? Have you felt envious of another woman and secretly backstabbed or undermined her in an attempt to rid yourself of the discomfort of maybe wanting what she has?
Or your sorrow? Your shame? When did they last see the light of day? Or did you just pretend and smile sweetly when inside you were dying?
I used to pride myself on my deeply nuanced capacity to hide what I was feeling. I remember once, at a gathering, I was having one of the most severe panic episodes of my life. But the person I was having a conversation with would not have known that in a million years. I continued to smile and nod my head supportively at appropriate interludes. I have been - and continue to be if I am not careful - a master at hiding my emotional life from others.
emotions as movement
When the fact of the matter is, that hiding emotions or trying to suppress or control them like this is deeply harmful to our bodies and psyches. Because emotions do not disappear. They just.... need to be able to move.
Gabor Mate talks about this extensively about the harm of emotional repression in his seminal work "When the Body Says No." This book cites many examples of research that show a direct link between the suppression of an emotion and the manifestation of physical disease.
Another teacher of mine - trauma expert Irene Lyon - talks of the harm we do when we stop the natural flow of our emotions. How we store them inside where they harden and atrophy and prevent our natural state of creative expression and embodied power. A large part of the healing modality that Irene teaches is about bringing grounded movement back into a system, so that stuck emotions can release. Her teachings literally help us get those emotions moving again.
the curse of the good girl
So let's think about the opposite of emotional movement.
Let's think about the shut down and how it manifests in so many of us. And perhaps why we might think the shut down serves us. Initially all least.
Let's turn our attention to the good girls.
Good girls smile. Always.
Good girls placate the emotional experiences of others - they are groomed to regulate the world around them.
Good girls also refuse to have emotional experiences themselves. (Ok occasionally they might go all Kali on us, just before their periods and all. But generally speaking, good girls behave by being nice and polite. By refusing to challenge the status quo and by ensuring that others get what they need first at all costs.)
"Try and name one good girl, just one, who changed the world. And you actually can't. She said. Because she can't."
EMOTIONS AS AUTHENTIC POWER
The tragedy of all this is that most of us women would agree that we have been monumentally conditioned to perform as good girls in almost every aspect of our lives - our careers, our relationships etc etc. Determined to compete in a man's sphere at work. Or to earn a man's love at home if we are heterosexual. We readily repress. And we forget who we are in the process.
But what if there was nothing about our emotional natures that actually needed fixing in the first place? What if there was no actual need to fit ourselves into behaving well?
What if, instead, our main problem as women was that we hide away our authentic emotional expression and freeze ourselves over in an effort to maintain being nice? And what if we refused to do that? What if we let our emotions rock the boat once in a while?
Personally, I can feel the relief in imagining the life of that kind of woman.
It's like I can feel her begin to move again.
(It's almost as if - shock horror - there was nothing about her that actually needed fixing.)
following the arc of emotions
So how do we carry out this ultimate act of rebellion then, as women? How do we actually ride that wave of emotion in a way that feeds and nourishes us and everyone around us? How do we reclaim the deep emotionality of our inherently feminine nature in a world that seems disgusted by it at every turn?
Let's start by going back to the very basics of emotion.
What is an emotion?
We have already discussed that emotion is really an energetic movement that happens within the body. It can have a lot of different flavours, of course. But in essence, the common denominator of every emotion is that is needs to move.
And all emotions then - because they move - could be said to exist on an arc. Because there tends to be an actual movement pattern inherent to each emotional form. In other words, every single emotion known to us, can either be debased or exalted in general terms.
For example, anger in its debased form is more often than not harmful. The passion of our anger is often used to prime our blame, pain and criticism of others. When we lack acceptance and expertise with handling our anger, we tend to send it outwards as a form of attack. Rather than as a positive and empowering force which compells us to take the kinds of actions we deeply desire. To create the kind of world we long to live in.
Or sadness. Sadness in it's exalted form can bring deep stillness and beauty into our lives. Sadness can contain an exquisite surrender. Yet in it's stuck and debased form will almost almost result in depression and inner powerlessness.
bad girl manifesto
So you can see that there are a lot of ways we can transmute and overcome our conditioning as women - but reclaiming the arc of our emotionality in order to empower ourselves is perhaps one of the most effective ways I have found to date.
As such, I have written a guide below to the main emotions and how to exalt them all.
It's a type of Bad Girl's Manifesto you could say. And I hope you enjoy it!
Exalting Your Emotions Through The Power Arc
“Aggredi” is the root of the word anger. It literally means "that which means to move forward, to attack, to understand, seize opportunity and/or attempt."
Which is very fitting I think because anger is a powerful emotion indeed, and one that we are more often than not poorly equipped to handle. When it comes to your anger - this is the question I advise you to ask yourself..... How do I use it?
For example, I have traditionally used my anger behind my blame and criticism. (Just ask my husband.) One day, I started trying to put it behind my desire instead - and the effect on the outside world was almost instantaneously different. Because the truth is you are not entitled to chuck your rage at the world - no matter how outraged you are or how much suffering you have been through. The fact that there is injustice, does not mean you get to create more of it with your hatred.
Your suffering and your mistreatment will most certainly have made you angry, yes.
It's up to you to alchemise it and play it forward differently.
We are the women of the pivot. Which means we get to alchemise our rage into love. You don't get angry about something you don't care deeply about. So stop debasing it and making enemies. Stop calling people out and dissing them for not living up to your standards. Start inspiring them with the depth of your rageful passion for a better world. This is not emotional repression. It is pure alchemy. We feel it, and we harness it consciously.
This is how we curate change.
Anger is love in action.
Here's a simple litmus test: the rage must work for everyone in the room or it works for no-one at all.
Literally this is my favourite emotion of all time. (We all have one that we do well, and do often at the expense of all the others. Well, fear is mine.)
Yet often I have asked myself - what is the point of all this fear?
Well - in the kinds of coaching circles I have frequented over the past decade or so, there is a well-known phrase that "fear is the acceptable face of desire."
It took me a while to really get that in my system. Because surely fear is about what I don't want? How is there desire in that?
But then it was explained to me, that even the fear of death contains the desire to live, right?
So we can use fear as a guide - she speaks loudly and so we can have her direct us to the gold at the end of the rainbow. We can allow her to speak.
I have had many clients who have frozen their fear down. You probably know someone like this yourself. It's like they fear nothing. They are the types that go all in on the thrill of the ride. It's like they need intensity, just to be able to feel at all.
In my opinion - they are the unlucky ones. I value my fear because she is loud and clear. Sometimes, it feels like she has me by the throat. But in truth, that is generally only if I am trying to stuff my desires down into a hole.
So ask your fear for a moment. Coax her out gently if she is accustomed to you giving her a hard time in the endless pursuit of being cool. Ask what she wants. This is a powerful alchemical practice. Respect the fear.
Mmmmmmm. Juicy envy. Miaowww.
So envy is a close relative of fear, right? Because again it points to an underlying desire. But the thing I love about envy is that it's like there is an extra layer to it. It offers even more guidance to women's power if we are willing to listen to it.
Debased, envy leads to bitchiness and backstabbing and undermining of another's glory. It destroys relationships and, as women, envy is a socially acceptable emotion to have. (At least quietly.)
But envy is interesting because it shows us the limiting beliefs we have around our own havingness. There is never envy of anything or anyone, if we can see a clear route to having that thing personally. It's only ever when we are convinced that the same result is not possible for us that envy will rear it's little head. In other words someone has what we want. And we feel envy because we don't believe we can have it too.
Exalted however, envy can lead to generosity and celebration. If you are willing to follow envy all the way through the power arc then she becomes an expansion of our willingness to receive. Envy will show us our limits, and can invite us to step over them. She leads to a closer relationship to desire and builds connections too, if you use her well.
If you turn your envy to a celebration of what that person has, she can begin to work magic for you. This becomes even more powerful if you are able to speak your envy to another in an empowered and self-accepting way. Hell - you might even find that envy opens some doors for you. And wouldn;t that be nice?!
Doubt is another of my faves - the sister of worry and fear.
In my life, doubt shows up like an inner statistician - checking and auditing everything that passes to make sure nothing will go wrong for me. Ever. She is the one who hates to make mistakes.
Which, when you think about it, is even kind of cute. Like - no-one has my back quite so hard as doubt.
Of course, in her most debased state it is pretty obvious the destruction she can cause. Doubt will hold you back until perfection is reached. Doubt would barely let you leave the house if it was up to her. She's like: "Are you SURE?"
Exalting your doubt is all about getting her in the right position at the table. You most definitely do not want her as queen of the realm. But as housekeeper she is a perfect ally - and you can listen to her advice here without being tripped up by her.
It is all about keeping her focussed on a role in which she can thrive. She is trying to get things in order. To ensure your success, you will want to be the boss of her. But you might not want to give her the sack completely.
Joy is a funny emotion because, on the surface, we can see nothing wrong with her.
I was fascinated to be taken into a deep dive of joy recently by one of my coaches. She challenged me to express joy without limits. To really let it take the space it wanted and deserved in life.
And the amazing truth was - I could not.
I tried to express what I was happy about. But I kept trying to second guess her and justify her existence. It was like I felt compelled to apologise for her. The kind of "Oh well this makes me happy but, ya know, let's see how long that lasts, right?"
Or "Well I did/had/received this thing but it was a long time coming, and I had to suffer really really hard to get there."
I found it very hard to just express the bigness of my rampant and unabashed joy for life without having to shroud her or cloak her in some way.
Debased - joy feels like this. She is almost like your guilty secret. Hidden, she can fester into a full-blown addiction or craving. She has a compulsive flavour like a hungry ghost. She gets stuck at the party that never ends, but she's furtive in the corner like she has no true right to be there. Debased - you have to make excuses for her existence. This saps us of an extraordinary amount of energy as women. Because it takes a lot of power to keep something like joy down.
Exalted joy on the other hand is expansive and infectious. It lifts the vibration of everyone in the room. It gives permission to stop hiding and to expand.
Consider this then - next time you feel happy or joyous about something - let yourself feel the outwards and generative motion of this particular emotion. Let her take up space. Allow her to be the fattest lady in the room. And see how that feels. Chances are, other women around you might be inspired to do the same.
Ah sweet sweet sadness.
Stillness and beauty. Grief and love . The two sides of the same coin.
The thing about sadness is that she really only gets us into trouble when we avoid her embrace.
Have to say that sadness is probably my least favourite emotion. As a life long asthma sufferer, I have a stead stream of people telling me "I need to access my grief as it lives in the lungs." Which is weird because, without fail, every time they say that, I get almost immediate access to my anger. Just saying. (I mean they may be right - no doubt emotions correlate with specific organs of the body. But, you know, I'd rather listen to what MY lungs have to tell me. I think that's perfectly reasonable.)
If we avoid our sadness though she tends to grab us by the short and curlies anyway. Constant low grade depression. A fog that claims us as soon as we wake and refuses to shift. A nascent swamp of self-hatred and misery. These are all sadness in her debased form. Claiming our power and settling us firmly in the victim seat for life.
More often than not nowadays I try to let her take me on a journey.
Sadness often appears for me if I have been pushing my body too hard for to long. Or missing my practices and my connections.
And if I let her lead me through the power arc, if I let her take the reins for a while, it almost always ends up being a kind of magnificent relief.
Think of your sadness as being a long lost friend who is leading you to a deep, still pool in order to help you drink. She wants to lead you home and into great stillness. Exalting sadness is all about letting her do that for you.
Shame is a tricky one. Because we are all told that shame is simply destructive and that we must banish it from our psyches in the name of empowerment.
"Be gone, shame!" Is the supposed mantra of the liberated woman.
And I can understand this, as our refusal to engage with and exalt our emotions full stop, is often caught up in an inner shame spiral. If we are ashamed os something, it tends to get buried or killed alive. It enters the shadow realms where, ultimately, I would argue it is much more destructive.
Rather than just burying shame further though, I would like to suggest a different and more exalted path.
The exalted point of shame is to call us into devotion and our desire to serve. Surrender is the exalted form of shame. And frankly, surrender is hot. And full of power.
If we allow ourselves to actually feel our shame, it can lead to such a sweet connection. We get to feel the results of our actions on others. We get to take on board our impact on the tribe. And shame reminds us that this matters to us. That it matters because we belong here.
Navigating shame like this can take a lot of skill. But if you try letting shame claim you for a bit, you might be surprised at the sweetness there.
I tried to avoid this one.
But there it is.
We all know disgust. It can strike at any moment - often when something or someone violates our boundaries or transgresses a need in a powerful way.
Obviously, disgust debases easily, In fact, I might even go so far as to say that it is debasing by its very nature.
And that's why disgust is an advanced players game in my opinion.
Repressed or disempowered, disgust really controls us with aversion. We avoid this. We avoid that. We don't want to feel disgust - it's an inherently awful human experience.
Irene Lyon - my trauma teacher - talks about how disgust can surface very easily as we build more capacity in the system and release old, frozen patterns of distress. She mentions that it is common for people to even gag or vomit when they are deep into a healing cycle.
However, in it's exalted form, perhaps disgust is the biggest ego-digester of all.
Because disgust points us to what we despise.
And as humans, what we despise is normally just a part of our psyches we have disowned.
Go lightly with this one dear women of the pivot.
Disgust can be full of turn on and electricity when you get closer to her. She can lead you to the spiritual depths as she rubs your nose in the shit of everything you did not want to see about yourself also.
Disgust is the ultimate spiritual humbler.
how was that for you?
So how was that for you?
Did you find yourself more comfortable with some emotions than with others? Do you have one emotion as a superpower? Are there some you already exalt and others you firmly hide away, even from yourself?
Perhaps I forgot one that is even more important than those listed above?
I would genuinely love to know how that impacted you and what you learnt from it and even what I missed. Hit me up with a reply. 🙂
For me I would go so far as to say that this process of reclaiming our emotions is so powerful, that I have even begun to enjoy the ride. Because what if we actually let ourselves feel it? What if we let ourselves feel it all? What if we actually enjoyed the feeling of it?
What would the world even do with a woman that free?
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Categorised in: Feminine Power
This post was written by Julia