I once met a man who told me, “I have no emotions, emotions are a woman thing.” I smiled, knowing that, when someone speaks with this much conviction, it makes no sense to tell him otherwise.
The primary emotions in our lives are Fear, Anger, Grief, Joy, and Compassion. When we deny ourselves the experience of these important emotions, it can make us ill. I have seen this happen over and over again. This time I’d like to talk about it from my own personal experience.
As a child I lived in fear and I had good reason to. As I discussed earlier this spring, fear is the emotion that saves our lives when we meet up with a life-threatening situation. Emotional (and physical) abuse is a life-threatening situation for a small child. There are three possible reactions to fear: fight, flee, or freeze. I froze a lot and sometimes I had the presence of mind to run away and hide. That probably saved me from becoming emotionally crippled.
The act of freezing prevents a person (and especially a child) from totally inhabiting his/her body and space. And so, in later years, I learned to ground myself and be comfortable in my physical reality. In the 5Rhythms dance, the first rhythm, Flowing, is about this very thing: connecting to your breath, grounding with your feet, and being totally present on the dance floor.
As I grew into puberty, and started understanding what was being done to me, my fear turned to anger. I started teaching myself to fight back. Of course, the anger was, at first, misdirected and ineffective. But that isn’t the point, the point is that the anger needs to find a means of expression. When anger gets bottled up, it becomes a black thing inside us that eats us.
Only when we have been able to breathe and move through our fear, are we able to release our anger. The second rhythm of the dance, Staccato, is the rhythm of fire, of the fire of anger and being able to stand our ground.
But life can still wound us and I have been no exception. I have lost loved ones and hopes for the future. I have been forced to see things that I didn’t want to see. I have been hurt by the wounds of others, including the wounding of the earth. And these are the moments to let go of all thoughts of staying calm and rational, to just let the healing power of the tears flow.
Holding back grief will sap you of all your strength, all your energy, and wear you out. In the dance, the rhythm of Chaos helps you let go of control and feel your grief. But only if you have been able to move through your fear and let out your anger.
And so I have learned to let go and express the important emotions of fear, anger, and grief. What happens then, is that life lightens up. Suddenly we are able to see the beauty of sunrise, sunset, and rainbows, no matter what our circumstances are. Suddenly it’s no longer about doing and having but about being. Joy is the ability to be with ourselves and our lives, no matter what is going on. Joy is the Lyrical rhythm of the dance, the rhythm of lightness.
And at this point, we… I… can let go of my preoccupation with myself and my own story and turn my love and understanding to the world around me. To view everything that ever happened to me or through me with compassion. To view the world, with all its craziness, with compassion. Then I… we… enter into the age of wisdom in the rhythm of Stillness.