I just had a full-body-shaking, deep, messy, roar-from-the-gut kind of cry.

It’d been building up in me for a while.

And it’s not like I don’t cry. I cry probably as much as I laugh. A LOT.

I have perfectly complementary sets of wrinkles.

But this one felt different.

I felt the dam build up inside me to hold it back. I felt the energy vibrate behind it as the water kept gathering.

The water of perceived failures, the water of frustration with myself for not being as far along with my work as I thought I should be, the water of disappointment in myself for not showing up the way I want to show up for others, the water of overwhelm as each passing day added a drop or a bucket to the enormity of what that the dam was holding back…

I knew that the dam needed to break. And I knew that I needed to set up conditions for it do so safely.

So I called a good friend who also knows my work. She took the virtual Jailbreak program and participated in a retreat, where we did in-depth healing work to uncover and purge from our bodies and psyches unresolved personal, collective, and ancestral traumas (that oftentimes we didn’t even know were there).

I’m blessed to have good friends who love me enough to do the work that I teach — AND teach it back to me when I need it.

“It’s an SOS call,” I said to her. “I need to fall apart, I need you to hold me and say things to me to remind me of who I am and what this is all about.”

And she did.

And because we’d practiced holding big spaces for big emotions at the retreat, and we’d practiced going all the way there while being held safely with love and support and without judgment, I knew that she would not freak out, or try to “fix” me, to scramble to prop up the crumbling dam.

She gave me the beautiful gift of holding space. Of being strong river banks for my rushing water. This set me free. I resumed my flow.

As I got off the phone, I was feeling so much more connected with myself and others and my work.

My productivity and motivation kicked into high gear.

And I thought this may help you too.

Our culture wants us to keep building the dam.

It doesn’t create conditions for us to safely discharge our emotions.

As a result, they stay damed up for a while and discharge — erupt — unsafely. Through irritability, arguments with family and friends, the urge to numb with food or exercise, alcohol, work, shopping, or Netflix.

The patriarchal culture teaches us to “be strong,” i.e., suck it up, don’t let your vulnerabilities show, or you’ll get destroyed. Or something like that.

(This is just one of many expressions of what I’ve termed Patriarchy Stress Disorder®. Learn more about it and how it may be affecting your wellbeing, relationships, and work in the world from my podcast.)

We do get destroyed by the emotions that get locked up inside. Stealing space from love, joy, creativity, excitement, motivation, and productivity. Creating pressure. So much pressure. That we either explode or implode.

The “unsafe” discharge happens when that built up energy gets unloaded onto others or ourselves. Causing conflict, alienation, unwanted mental and physical health symptoms.

What’s tricky is if you’re a “strong” and “resilient” person, you can build a really big dam and reinforce it for a really long time.

I’m right there with you. My dam was a nice strong one. It held the pressure for a while.

And the effort it took exhausted me. It depleted my resources.

That’s why I’m sharing this with you today.

I know that you’re strong and resilient. That’s why I ask you to check in with your dam.

Is it time to safely discharge?

Do you have a friend or a loved one who can hold a safe space for your big emotions? Without judging, giving advice, or trying to “fix” you and prop up the dam?

If it feels like a tall order, start them small. Let them know what you need from them.

“I need you to just listen. Just hold the space for me.”

You may share with them the dam metaphor and ask them to be the strong river banks to hold the rushing water.

And you may want to only release a little bit at a time. The dam has control valves for a reason. Use them.

If this speaks to you, stay tuned as I bring to you more from my inner lab or working with my own mental health as a human being and business owner and executive.


Email me at valerie@drvalerie.com to inquire about having me do a talk, a workshop, or a training on mental health in business at your workplace — either in person or virtually. In my trainings, I uncover hidden factors that affect our mental health and teach simple ways to take care of it like we take care of our physical health, so we can achieve the best ROI in our work and personal lives.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Valerie


PS If you got value out of this, please share with someone else who might, too. They’ll thank you later, and I thank you now.

PPS Have you grabbed my free gift yet? It’s an instant re-power tool: this free audio will help you to restore the power of your presence anytime, anywhere, in under 3 minutes.

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