Exploring Emotions Through Clowning

May 06 2020

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Holly in quarantine by Joe Rosser

How have you been feeling in your lockdown bubble? Anxious? Sad? Lonely? Calm? Peaceful? Joyful? Or perhaps you've been feeling numb and unable to connect to your emotions at all? Perhaps like me, you've been experiencing all of these states, moment to moment?

In a previous blog “How Can You Play At A Time Like This?” I wrote about how play has been supporting me to navigate my way through this slippy-slidey time of unknowing. In it, I mentioned how play can help us to safely explore and express our emotions. More about this later, but first, why on earth would we want to explore and express our emotions? In my experience, being able to connect with and name my emotional states, allows me to meet myself with compassion and helps me to figure out what I really need.

If I haven't noticed that I'm feeling sad, the world outside can seem wrong, harsh or unfair. When I am able to take a moment to turn my attention inwards, tuning into my body and my breath, I'll find sadness there, quietly waiting to be acknowledged and held. I can hold my sadness, sing it a little song, give it permission to be and when all its tears have been shed, I am left with space.

When I bring this same emotional awareness to moments of joy, through noticing and naming, "I am happy!," I am able to open up my heart and surrender fully to experiencing joy, pleasure and sometimes even bliss.

I have been practicing this naming of emotions throughout lockdown, witnessing myself with fascination as I soar and splat and numb and soar and splat and numb. This is the most peculiar of times, we've been collectively plunged into uncertainty, there is no map for how we should proceed. We are globally making it up as we go along. That's got to trigger a few strong feelings, no?

I think it's largely because normal rules do not apply, that I've been able to meet my constantly changing emotional states with extra gentleness and without the usual judgements. There's nothing in my lifetime that I can compare this time to, so I find myself making spontaneous splodges on a big blank canvas. Allowing myself to feel all my feelings turns every day into a surreal, psychedelic toddler-painted masterpiece.

The same's been happening with my work. How about online clown workshops? Splodge. How about one-to-one creative consultancy? Splodge. How about giving numerous interviews on the internet telly? Splodge. I've never done any of these things before, but in this extraordinary time, I seem to be feeling fine about flinging out imperfect offerings. We're all just trying to make the best of a very strange situation, reaching out to each other from our individual nests with thrown-together, that'll-have-to-do, fuck-it gifts.

I love it. I love the ramshackle, imperfect, home-made, low-bar aesthetic of Lockdown. I'm finding it extremely liberating, creatively. I know not everyone is surfing this particular wave. If you're one of the ones who's been watching the creative explosion from the sidelines – there's space on this wave, whenever you're ready to jump on. And if jumping on is the absolute opposite to what you need right now– please honour that! This pause in Business As Usual is an opportunity for us all to recharge our batteries and we each have different ways of doing that.

I replenish through creative expression and plugging into community, but you might be recharging through fostering closer connections with your family or immersing yourself in nature or luxuriating in solitude. Whatever you're doing, if it's helping – do it more! If it's not, try something else!

I'm incredibly lucky to be receiving a lot of support from my friends, family, partner, therapist, supervisor and my fooling, clowning, meditation and dance communities, during this strange time. Together, they have been collectively providing the holding that's allowed me to safely dive into unchartered waters, both with my work and with this 6-week freeform jazz solo of emotional experiencing.

...And then there's PLAY of course (which is what this blog was supposed to be about, splodge!). Through play, I've been finding space, expression, perspective, power and release. I've been dancing, singing, writing and punk-baking, running about in forests and having my picture taken (see above for the second in our quarantine photos series). Every morning, for the last six weeks, I have shown up for the Clown Workouts. Whatever state I'm in; whether straight out of bed in crumpled pyjamas or fresh and glowing from the yoga mat, I've tuned into the clown state and found parts of myself waiting to say hello.

My clown is a container that lets me access my feelings. She's not particularly attached to any feelings, she doesn't need to get into a big story about why she feels like she feels, or what that means, she just dives into feeling a feeling, like she dives into any other game. It's fun to play at being grumpy or shy or distracted or whatever. My clown doesn't have any sense of social appropriacy, she doesn't know about taboo, that there are some feelings you're not supposed to show. Through playing with these “inappropriate” feelings in the state of Clown, the conditions I might ordinarily put upon myself, as to how I should experience these emotions, simply dissolve and space appears. When it's not a problem to be grumpy or shy or distracted, I can move through these emotions lightly, feeling them fully and letting them go.

My clown has been showing me the way these last 6 weeks. Perhaps yours can offer you some guidance too?

If you'd like to try out how clowning can help you connect with your feelings, may I recommend three of our Clown Workouts:

1.) Clown Emotion workout with Robyn Hambrook

In this video, Robyn will guide you through an emotional roller coaster, before setting you a clown devising task where you'll explore switching from one emotion to another. Perhaps you'll find connection with your true emotions along the way?

If you'd like to make a video response and post it on the clown workouts facebook page, here's the album.

2.) Emotions, Breath and Objects with Peta Lily

Peta will guide you into an exploration of how your breath relates to your emotions, before inviting you to transfer this awareness into bringing life to objects. Perhaps you'll find a sense of yourself there in the object play?

If you'd like to make a video response and post it on the clown workouts facebook page, here's the album.

3.) Who Are You Making Your Audience? With Holly Stoppit

In this video, I will guide you through an exploration of noticing how casting your audience as friend or foe can have an emotional impact on you.

If you'd like to make a video response and post it on the clown workouts facebook page, here's the album.

May you find the freedom to express whatever needs to be expressed.

This blog is the second in a series of Lockdown reflections. Here are the others:

How Can You Play At A Time Like This?

Cultivating Resilience Through Play

Welcoming Joy

Holly Stoppit menu