Friday, February 12, 2010

The Girl Cell

I just watched a short (TED Talks) presentation by Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues). I was in awe at the raw power of her speech. She speaks to the “girl cell” in all of us— men and women, boys and girls. She states:

“Imagine that ‘girl’ is the part of each of us that feels compassion, empathy, passion, intensity, association, relationship, emotion, play, resistance, vulnerability, intuitive intelligence, vision.

Imagine that compassion informs wisdom. That vulnerability is our greatest strength. That emotions have inherent logic and lead to radical saving action.”

“… Now imagine that a few powerful people, invested in owning this world, understood that the oppression of this cell was key to retaining their power, so they reinterpreted this cell, undermining its value and making us believe that it is weak. They initiated a process to crush, eradicate, annihilate, humiliate, belittle, censor, reduce and kill off the girl cell.”

Ensler passionately connects the suppression of the girl cell to the exploitation and violence against girls and young women worldwide. She states we exploit others when we disconnect with our girl cell and, more specifically, our emotions.

Exploitation is about disrespecting another’s boundary. One of the reasons this happens is that we lose connection with our emotions. Without that connection our ability to express safely and appropriately is negatively affected. Plus, in losing the ability to relate to our own emotions, we cannot relate to another’s. Disconnection to our emotions can incite us to 1) project onto others; 2) overreact to minor events; 3) become over or under reliant on others; 4) hurt others; and/or 5) experience aches, pains and disease.


A common way to express unwanted or disconnected feelings is to “give” them to another. We tell someone they are angry (or sad or ashamed) when, in fact, it is really our own emotion – an emotion we don’t feel safe enough to express. Another way is to incite others to express our hidden or forbidden emotions. When we project on to others we disrespect who they are and what they authentically feel. We infringe upon their boundaries.

Overreaction to minor events

When the emotions inside us want to express and are stymied, they will look for any excuse to manifest. Misinterpreted signals are treated as aggressive actions or, benignly, we find ourselves more sensitive to life’s mundane events. An example of the former is road rage: a minor or unintentional mistake by one driver sets off uncontrollable and dangerous rage in another. In the latter case, we find ourselves crying over a laundry soap commercial, one that strikes, in some subtle way, a hidden chord of emotion that we hadn’t given ourselves permission to express.

Over or under reliance on others

Without an adequate relationship with our emotions there is a lack of inner trust. If we cannot console own our sadness, expiate our shame or safely express our anger we will look to others to do it for us. We become overly dependent on others to take care of us. Alternatively, that lack of inner trust can express itself with rigid boundaries. If we don’t validate or support ourselves on our personal journey, we will not expect validation and support from others. We become overly independent. We hide our feelings because it is too vulnerable to express, we don’t reach out to others for help and we put up walls that alienate us from our community.

We Hurt others

In the cutting ourselves off from our feelings we are more apt to hurt others. We need to fully accept our own emotions, past and present, to appreciate the depth of feeling in another. Without that relationship it will be difficult to express empathy and compassion and it will be easier to discount another’s perspective. It will also be easier to hurt another physically.

Body aches and pains

If unexpressed emotions do not find an outlet in the above means, they will ultimately express themselves through the body with disease, aches and pain.

Emotions want to be expressed and, in most cases, will not be denied.

I hand it over to Ensler to conclude this piece:

"The girl cell is our greatest resource, a renewable, untapped energy field like the wind. It is there for us, if we activate it and allow it to resist, dare, challenge, feel and connect".

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