The Emotion Extinguisher

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I saw a dance-theatre piece by Pina Bausch on Wednesday, called “Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört” (‘On the mountain a cry was heard’).

Out of the 14 pieces by Pina Bausch that I’ve seen, this one was the most violent towards women. It is a beloved theme of the choreographer. Of course. She was observing people trapped like insects in the fish tank of human condition and putting that material straight from the theatre of life to the stage of a theatre. It is disturbing when what is happening on stage is barely an allegory.

Men were grabbing women, assaulting and torturing them. In return, women were yelling and struggling for their life and freedom, drowning in a thick layer of earth. It left me breathless with a strange yet familiar discomfort in the core of my body.

There is a recurrent scene throughout the piece where a group of men chase a girl and capture her to force her into kissing a man. It’s the most eloquent metaphor of marriage and hetero-normativity I’ve ever seen embodied. Absolutely brilliant. It acted on me like a real catharsis. It dig up emotions I attempt real hard to bury. I’m forever grateful to Pina Bausch to stage my feelings so I can flush them out at the theatre once a year.

I’ve built myself around a very strong implicit rule: “SUPPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS”. (“And even if you happen to feel something, don’t express it as much as possible, because they will use it against you”.)

There was no space for emotion in the household where I grew up. There was no space for emotion as a student. There is no space for emotion at work or in almost any of my human relationships. There was no space for emotion anywhere I’ve been apart from the theatre and the dance floor. My flow is well contained, in a determined square within a public place at fixed hours.

It remains a bottomless taboo for me to expose to my entourage “I’m desperate/sad/angry/scared”. Who cares?

All my life, I had to be in constant action. Emotion immobilises you because it is energy and thought consuming. I don’t want to be disturbed. I’ve therefore disciplined myself to be an expert at extinguishing my emotions as soon as fire breaks out on my inside. I am a firewoman to my own vulnerability. Vulnerability grosses me out. It always did.

A mysterious force has been slowly taking over me, though. Since the turn of the new year. Since Í guided me super gently into new erotic paths.

Something has been awaking in my core in the last months. An awareness that my body and emotions have always been disconnected. I have been gauging my unexplained split, my disability at being emotional in the intimate.

OK. I take infinite pride in fucking without feelings, because as a girl, it still shocks people and I find that particularly empowering (and funny). But even when I thought I was making love, I realise that I wasn’t. Feels like I wasn’t that present to myself or the other after all. Where was I? Lost somewhere on the queer activism field singing a sex-positive manifesto such as “Every time we fuck, we win”? I always had things to prove or a revolution to make.

What about my physical, spiritual and cerebral sensations?

Something’s warming up inside me. I will take a new turn soon, I will finally embrace something beautiful. What contour will it have? Everything is open.

I started 2015 in a strange way. My therapist explained me that the reason why the body and emotions would split so heavily is that a trauma happened. It took me a moment to understand what she actually implied. I fought the idea for as long as I could.

My first ever male attraction, which I’ve been experiencing for almost a year now, has been bringing up memories to the surface of my skin, triggering waves of odd images and hidden desires. I have been profoundly disturbed since our last encounter.

I don’t know if I will ever know for sure, but I am taming the thought that this revelation might be right.

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Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört by Pina Bausch – Picture by Uwe Schinkel

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