What do Lady Gaga, the start of spring and your bodies have in common?  So much.

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If you were like so many of us who witnessed Lady Gaga’s amazing Oscar performance of “Til It Happens to You,” you were moved.  The song is amazing, but it’s her passion and power that make it so riveting.

I later learned one of the reasons this song affected her so much was that she, like the people she sings about, was sexually abused.  In an article about her story, she explains how the trauma of the abuse lasted for years and manifested itself in her body.  She was in chronic pain for years.

The idea that feelings and memories can bury themselves in our bodies may sound a little “hocus pocus” for some of us.  And I get it.  Aren’t feelings all manufactured in our brain?  Where do our bodies fit into this?

Well they do.  And I, myself, have spent that past year starting to explore my own feelings via my body.  I’m fortunate enough to have an executive coach who employs some techniques of Somatic Experiencing.  What is S.E.?  Wikipedia defines it this way:

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a form of therapy aimed at relieving and resolving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical trauma-related health problems by focusing on the client’s perceived body sensations (or somatic experiences).

Psychology Today further explains: “When any part of this normal cycle (cycling between alertness and stress) is interrupted, the charge of energy gets ‘stuck’ in our bodies. We can then fail to fluctuate easily between states of different intensity. And the charge stuck in our systems will likely be triggered when in the future we encounter events, people, or things that remind us of the earlier experience that was never completed.”

Fortunately I am not suffering from major stress like that of Lady Gaga.  But my coach and I still feel the techniques could help me be more aware of how my body is holding emotions that are preventing me from experiencing happiness and progress.

I’m not writing this story to compel you all to try out Somatic Experiencing.  Rather, I’m continually struck by the strong connection between our emotions and our bodies.  Our bodies are not just vessels or shells.  They shouldn’t be ignored unless we’re hungry or cold, nor should they be turned into the only reflection of we are.  

Are bodies are ARE us.  We are intimately connected to them. And so we must nourish, care for and connect with our bodies as much as possible.  And certainly when we experience trauma — both physical and emotional, we can’t will away the pain, we have to face it in mind and body.

Spring has sprung and it’s a time for new beginnings.  It’s also a time when we are more physical again.  Let’s celebrate this time by re-connecting with, listening to and caring for our whole selves — mind, soul AND body.  

 

“The inevitable dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance is the engine not only of philosophy but of civil society at large.” Andy Martin. SXSW, Satre & Scissors: Getting Prepped for SXSW Reflects the Basis of Philosophy

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I’m in SXSW now but before my trip, I knew I had to clean up my act before my panel. I don’t mean I had to behave like a responsible adult (the totally wrong move in Austin :)).  No, I had to get beautified.

When it comes to getting my hair cut, I push it off as long as possible. I just can’t commit the time. But when I do, I enter into a state of euphoria as soon as I plunk myself down in the stylist’s chair.  This is especially true when I’m at getting styled by my good friend, and beauty expert to stars and tech gurus alike, Gad Cohen.

Hair transformations have been even more top of mind for me thanks to this week’s episode of American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J Simpson.  Poor Marcia Clark (played superbly by Sarah Paulson) undergoes a hair redo in order to be better liked in the courtroom. The look on her face as she’s about to get shorn totally looked like mine: gleeful excited and full of happiness.  Thank goodness, my result did not resemble her’s on the show! Oy.

Why do so many of us love this type transformative experience? Is because we all need a change? Actually it goes FAR deeper than that.

This question reminds me of a post a wrote a few year back in response to a pretty heady article in the NY Times, The Phenomenology of Ugly called Philosophy: A Bi-Product of Ugliness.  In the Times piece, writer, Andy Martin, realizes (while getting a haircut) that our recognition of our ugliness (in other word the need for physical improvement) is the basis of philosophy. We believe that the world, like ourselves, can be improved.

Here’s an excerpt from my post:

Is vanity vapid or virtuous?  Andy Martin certainly makes a case for the latter.  As you can imagine from the title of his article, the piece was a bit esoteric (lots of references to Sartre and Camus, with a bit of Britney Spears mixed in). But what I got out of it was quite interesting.

In essence, he writes that analyzing your beauty (or lack of it in his case due to a very bad haircut) can have great consequences. That is, by virtue of recognizing that an aspect of your appearance can be improved, let’s say a bad hairdo or big zit cropping up on your chin, you realize that improvement is within reach in other aspects of life.  Says Martin, “that original, self-conscious, slightly despairing glance in the mirror (together with, “Is this is?” or “Is that all there is?”) is a great enabler because it compels us to seek improvement …The inevitable dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance is the engine not only of philosophy but of civil society at large.”

If the knowledge that we have some power over our looks empowers us to change other aspects of our lives for the better, maybe a dose of vanity is what we all need!

I certainly walked away empowered from my amazing transformation experience thanks to Gad.  I feel like I can conquer the crazy networking in Austin and, especially, my stage event on Monday.  But knowing that any kind of change — even just a few inches chopped off and colored — can be the spark to even greater societal movement, gets me all goose-bumpy.

If you’re in Austin, come to our panel!  But if you’re not, then go get a haircut :).

As one of the world’s ugliest problems, could beauty be part of the answer?

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In this week of heightened awareness of violence against women (first with the win of A Girl in the River: The Price for Forgiveness at the Oscars and second thanks to the march against violence by the UN Women for Peace), it seems an odd time to chat about beauty.  It amazes me — no, downright depresses me — that violence against women is so rampant.

The topic of beauty seems so frivolous in comparison to issues of violence.  Some even argue that the social pressures around beauty are a form of violence — think anorexia, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and general low self-esteem.  Oh, yeah, and you could claim that the pressure to be beautiful is a way for ensure women’s subservience to men.

But hang on there.

No question a focus on beauty can lead us down some dangerous paths.  But it can also be a form of expression, rebellion and pride. From Afros and long beards in the 60’s to goth make-up in the 90’s, clothing, make-up and other things of beauty, have been powerful signals of revolt.  I’ve written about this a number of times in Beautyskew over the years.

In one instance, Disturbing But Awesome, I highlighted how a famous beauty blogger, Lauren Luke, urged women to fight against domestic abuse by NOT covering up their scars with heavy make-up.  She uses the extremely popular medium of beauty-how-to videos to implore women to stand up against their abusers.  It is extremely powerful.

In another post, Clothing is Power, I referenced a story about a woman who wears her high heels as sign that she CAN.  This is the story told by Jasvinder Sanghera, who founded Karma Nirvana in Great Britain to help victims of forced marriages and honor-based violence.  In an interview with 48 Hours, she tells of a women who escaped after two years of being held captive by her family for rebelling against their traditional ways, and not marrying the man chosen for her.  When Jasvinder met her for the first time after her escape, this girl was determined to express her freedom via her attire…no matter the weather or circumstances.

As I referenced in this same post, this story reminded of my college studies about Iran (a course that propelled me to study Anthropology throughout the rest of my college career). We learned how westernized, highly-educated women were forced into subservient, second-class roles in society after the revolution.  No surprise they were forced to wear the chador (black veil) as a way to further limit their mobility (physical, social, educational, etc).  And yet, women found little ways to rebel. How?  They would wear the chador in a manner that would appear as if it were “accidentally” pushed back on their heads. Or they would sew tiny silver threads into their chador that only a few could see up close.

Lastly, our sexuality and attractiveness should be celebrated not downplayed! Why? In “Look at My Ugly Face!“, Sara Halprin, psychologist, author, and documentary film-maker explains that in ancient societies, “women’s procreative power was understood to be linked to all sorts of creative abilities.”  Goddesses ruled!

So, as we gather to march or, at the very least support the UN Women for Peace March, let’s be proud to be strong, beautiful women and men who can use our power — beauty-oriented or otherwise — to change the world!

For more information about the UN Women for Peace March on Saturday March 5, visit: http://www.unwomenforpeace.org/march-in-march/

RISE. UNITE. and MARCH with us this Saturday!

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