Anger with nowhere to go: Good girls don’t express, they suppress.
When was the last time you were triggered, yet weren’t able to express in the ways you really wanted or needed to in that moment?
Maybe something frightened you in an unfamiliar public setting and you worked to “keep your cool” to avoid feeling embarrassed.
Maybe something or someone upset you or infringed upon your boundaries, but due to company or circumstance, you didn’t want to make a scene.
Or different still, perhaps you were feeling turned on, yet due to shame or fear arising in response, you squashed the pleasurable experience from developing further.
If you answered yes to the above, you’re not alone.
Women are skilled at avoiding and suppressing natural bodily responses to both stress and pleasure.
Within capitalist patriarchy, self-control is considered a virtue. An emotionally expressive and sensually liberated woman is a challenge for the powers that be, to reign in.
The remedy? Perpetuating self-disconnect through shame.
The other day, wearing my other professional hat as a teacher for the School of Embodied Arts, I reviewed a session recording of one of our emerging coaches. The client receiving the session was a mother stuck at home with her kids in lockdown.
During the session, she was interrupted by her young daughter about 15 times. Now, as our stellar coach normalised for her, this was totally ok. This was life. She certainly didn’t need to apologise (which she did however - continuously).
And despite how beautiful it was to bear witness to this interaction and hear this woman speak words of acceptance about her current challenges; from where I sat, observing her child relentlessly ignoring her requests for time and space, something became visibly apparent.
She was fucking furious.
Her body spoke far louder than her words. Her jaw tightened, her fists clenched, her breathing became laboured.
After about 20 minutes of attempting to stay “calm” and “balanced” (code for keeping her shit together), the mother began to check out of her body. As the coach moved towards closing the session, the mother’s eyes glazed over and she slumped back, seeming to resign herself to the fact her child was now sitting ON her, whining in her ear, refusing to move.
As I watched, I saw this woman unconsciously moving through a classic progression of nervous system responses.
Responses that I recognised, because they’ve played out in my own body.
Responses that in many circles, are accepted as part and parcel of womanhood.
Anger with nowhere to go.
As a mum myself, I’m pretty well practiced at creating space for my girls to express how and what they need, because I’m devoted to helping them develop a sense of embodied autonomy and connection.
But in my experience, it’s a hell of a lot harder to give myself permission to follow my physiological impulses, particularly around anger or pleasure, because my 38 year old body has been trained to suppress them for decades.
My body knows how to perform “good girl”.
Most female bodies do.
The mother in this coaching session did too. More than that, she stayed admirably patient with her child through a trying situation.
But I bet your sweet bippy she lost her shit once the filmed session ended!
To be clear, my newly graduated coach did a great job of taking care of this client.
I do suspect however, that if rather than wrapping things up because they felt too hard to continue, if the mother was invited to allow her physiological impulses to move through and complete in her system, she may have walked away feeling some sense of resolution, not to mention a hell of a lot more resourced.
This could have been facilitated even with her daughter in the room. They could have done it together!
Simply using her arms and hands in a strong pushing away motion, accompanied by whatever words she wanted to express, might have supported her body to regain a sense of centering and stability.
Stomping, shaking, or circling her hips with awareness and breath, might have served to mobilise the emotions bubbling away within.
Screaming into a pillow might have helped to release the build up of charge in her system.
All actions that “good mothers” who do well to keep up appearances, might recoil from in normal circumstances.
Yet in a safe container, held by a stable and embodied presence; how might she have honoured the needs of her body?
How might she have met her instinctive, primal responses with reverence, without them flooding her system (which likely happened in private, once the session concluded).
It’s these explorations that continue to demonstrate to me time and time again, that we cannot heal and flourish until we’ve acknowledged and made space for the patterns, wounding and trauma stored in the body.
YES, I believe it’s necessary to normalise and connect through shared challenges experienced by women within patriarchal society.
AND, I believe that in order to heal, thrive and innovate beyond the confines of cultural norms, we as women and mothers have a responsibility to disrupt and disentangle from the “good girl” programming as it lives in our individual and collective bodies.
Anger with nowhere to go, will burn us alive.
Shame cowering in the depths of our hearts, will deny us our potential.
Pleasure blocked from coursing through us, will wither away our desires.
Our bodies can be our ball and chain, or our greatest ally.
I’m here to stand for the latter - I hope you’ll stick with me.
To learn more about me and how my unsMothered Framework can support you to unlearn shame and embrace your wholeness, head here.
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