There are 5 primal human emotions. We come pre-wired with these from the beginning of time. Fear, anger, sadness, shame, and joy.
That’s 4 negative and 1 positive emotions, if you’re counting. And that’s because primal brain’s #1 goal is “don’t die” — that means a negative interpretation of most things makes it easier to spot those things that actually COULD be trying to kill us — so we only get 20% bandwidth for yummy good stuff.
This is why it takes a lot of effort to feel GOOD sometimes.
Nice to know that’s just how we’re wired, huh?
(Why does the media try to make us feel so WRONG for how difficult it can sometimes be to find happiness? Hmm.)
Next up, there are differences in male and female brains when it comes to SHAME (note: There’s not yet significant data on where gender fluid, transgender, and gender nonbinary folks show up in this measurement. I HAVE ASKED! It’ll take a few years for there to be enough data to share on that granularity and you know I sure as heck will share it when the experts churn it out). For the purposes of my life’s work (y’know… helping you figure out how to live your dreams), I tend to go less with gendered brains and more with “creatives” and “non-creatives” because there are WAY more similarities across gender lines among those of us who choose to be storytellers for a living, from my research.
According to the prevailing data, shame is something that female/creative brains feel about 12 to 17 different categories of things (depending on whose research you prefer). Even if we go with the low number (12), that’s a lot of different flavors of shame, ranging from being labeled to how we feel about our bodies, from our childhood itself to our sex lives, from aging to having survived trauma. It’s… shameful how many different ways we can and do feel shame.
The male brain — and I’ll go as far as to call it the patriarchal male brain — feels shame about one thing and one thing only:
THE APPEARANCE OF BEING WEAK.
It’s not even weakness we’re talking about here; it’s the perception of weakness.
So, let’s take this to my assertion that TO CELEBRATE IS TO TOPPLE THE PATRIARCHY.
The patriarchal setpoint is inherently male, and therefore feels shame only around appearing weak.
We know, thanks to hustle culture and decades of programming in our own lives at this point, that if we would just work harder, we could have everything we want. If we’re feeling a hole in our hearts, we need to fill it with more work and more achievement and more material goods. To have survived a trauma is to be a victim which is the victim’s problem. To need anyone else is to be weak. Oh, right and weakness is to be avoided at all costs.
In my Expansive Capacity mastermind, we’re unpacking the work of desire, receiving, and joy. We’re finding it’s complicated to allow ourselves to feel joy and without going as deep into this as I’m able to (and I’d like to), it’s basically like this:
To celebrate is to relax. To relax is to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to appear weak (SHAME!!) and to be weak is to be dead.
See: primal brain’s primary directive — “Don’t die!”
So patriarchal brain actually pushes against celebrating joy as if it’s an issue of life or death.
Because from an evolutionary wiring and dominant culture perspective, IT IS.
I share all of this to encourage you to celebrate joy as much as you can, as often as you can, as PUBLICLY as you can. As I said in our Expansive Capacity Zoom the other day: “You don’t become MORE a target when you celebrate. You are already a target to people outside your third. CELEBRATE. Relax. Teach your brain it is *safe* to succeed.”
(Note: There are Circles of Safety. Be sure you know yours and practice being joy-filled and happy to STRUT about your glee in those places that are truly safe first… then expand. Slowly. Make it feel non-threatening to your brain. We’re going for growth the speed of fingernails, baby.)
If geeking out about this sort of brain stuff, success stuff, upper-limit-problem stuff, impostor syndrome stuff, enoughness stuff brings you joy, please join me for a livestream at 12pm PDT on Wednesday (check your time zone here). Yes, there will be a replay. I’ll post it just below, actually. But I hope you’ll be there live as I dive in on this with you at bonniegillespie.com/live (and push through to Facebook and YouTube too)! Pick your favorite platform and let’s play The Bonnie Gillespie Drinking Game (it’s take a sip every time I say the word “patriarchy” and you’ll be drunk by noon every day, darlin’). 😉
See you then. And ’til then, please do find your joy. Feel your joy. Feel NO SHAME about having things in life to feel GOOD about — especially while there’s so damn much to feel like shit about out there.
It’s actually how we begin to erode this toxic dominant culture in the most gradual and ease-filled way. It’s how we stay sourced for the big stuff ahead too.