There is genius in our darkness.
Genius that we usually never see, never notice, never get to know.
Well, we are a world of men and women who have not just been encouraged, but actually taught to put a large lid on our emotional expression. If I were to burst into a flood of tears when I realize I am at the bottom of my jar of Trader Joe’s crunchy, no salt, almond butter – even though I actually feel that way – because I know there is no time soon I am going to hit a Trader Joe’s again, and I love that stuff, and the day is not complete if I don’t have it – not only would I think I was crazy, but my boyfriend, daughter, friends, neighbors, mother would totally agree.
“It’s only almond butter, Regena”.
During these times, it’s not.
It’s a loss of control, a disruption of routine, a fear of the unknown, a disconnection from comfort, and way more, besides.
We are in times we have never experienced before.
We may not know how to handle the flood and flow of emotions we are feeling.
And we do not have much experience with staying in true emotional connection on the daily.
Women have a vast, elegant range of emotional expression.
Every single emotion is true and right and relevant.
Each of us have 88 magnificent keys to play the full range of our inner emotional piano.
But all we are encouraged to play is middle “C” over and over and over again.
When someone says “How are you?”
We say “Fine”.
But are we?
Are we ever just “fine”?
We are many things all at once – happy, sad, grateful, scared, uncomfortable, embarrassed, tired, impatient, overwhelmed.
And these days, in the middle of the pandemic, we are feeling more than many things at once. We are feeling so so much that sometimes we can’t handle it or process it. And we just have to shut it down so we don’t get too overwhelmed.
Shutting down has a consequence.
When we continually disconnect from our emotions in order to get on with our lives, we end up stuffing our feelings inside and the outcome can often be that we feel numb. Or depressed.
Which, to be honest, is way worse than weeping in the pantry over the last jar of almond butter.
We find our way back to home plate by connecting with ourselves, not disconnecting.
When a woman is connected to her emotional truth, no matter what it is, she feels alive, she feels enlivened, she feels herself. When we numb out, we feel we don’t matter. Because in choosing (unconsciously sometimes) to numb, we are choosing to disconnect from our truth. Which makes us feel worthless and unworthy.
We all have trouble feeling.
This pandemic has emotionally overwhelmed all of us at some level.
Our emotions get jumbled together and short circuit each other. For example, I am grateful to be recovering from COVID-19. I am the luckiest woman on earth.
But I’m frustrated at how tired I am every day.
I am overwhelmed by the thousands of people who have died. And grieving my friends who are sick, my neighbors who have died. Grieving the deadly impact on black America and hispanic America. Grieving with people who have lost jobs and are struggling financially.
All of us have had our lives change dramatically.
We can hardly catch up with our emotions.
And when emotions get stuck inside of us, and we put a lid on them, the result is depression and numbness.
And I have worked way too hard to learn to feel in this lifetime to lose myself to numbness now.
There is so much grief, despair, frustration, and sadness that wants to and needs to be felt. So I wanted to share this practice that I teach.
And the practice is called Swamping.
It’s a practice where you are deliberately choosing to feel every drop of emotion.
You are not pretending that everything is ok or fine.
You are actually throwing a party for your feelings.
Inviting them in.
Choosing to feel, instead of going numb, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
What we feel, we can heal.
Feeling is a way of finding yourself, not losing yourself.
Returning to home plate.
Think about it – every woman is gifted with 8,000 nerve endings. We are designed to feel deeply.
But the patriarchal world culture does not encourage women or men to feel. So Swamping is a way to begin to really connect to the expression of emotion.
BTW, this exercise is not just for women. Do it with your kids, with the men in your life, and everyone will feel better.
Enlivened. Clean. Clear.
So how do we do it?
You can Swamp alone, or with friends and relatives.
Create a playlist that has a big emotional range. For example, when I did an Instagram Live with Marie Forleo on Saturday, I ran us through three songs. “Counting Bodies Like Sheep” by Perfect Circle for anger and frustration. “Make it Rain” by Ed Sheeren for sadness and grief. And then we finished with “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing” by Tory Kelly for fun.
So what does it look like?
Put on your dark comfy sweats.
Pop on your playlist.
Grab some friends or go it alone.
Move your body. Punch the air, stomp, jump, roll around on the floor. Make sure the movement feels good to you.
Let the emotions pour through you, no holds barred, just like when you were a little kid.
It’s OK to feel awkward at first. The more you Swamp, the better you will get at connecting with your feelings.
You got this. You were born for this.
The more we feel, the more we can heal.
With so much love and pleasure,
Regena is a feminist icon, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.