Twenty-Seven Spigot Rule

Your inner life – including your emotional experiences – doesn’t run on twenty-seven spigots. Instead, it’s a single pipe called, “feeling.” If you turn off just one feeling, then you turn off all of you feelings.

In other words, if you turn off sadness, then you’ll turn off happiness.

Here is an example. Your grandparents were married for nearly sixty years. Then your grandfather passed away. Your grandmother was absolutely heart-broken and cried herself to sleep every night for almost six months. Then she woke up one morning and said, “I’ve shed my last tear. I can’t continue to grieve like this. I have to move on.”

You’re at grandma’s house and her favorite TV show is on. You say, “Grandma. It’s your favorite show.” Grandma doesn’t respond. She has a blank, deadpan look on her face as she stares off into space. By suppressing sadness, she has suppressed joy. By divorcing herself from her feelings, she doesn’t even recognize that she has fallen into despair. She is numb to everything.

This is where we can draw inspiration from the world of acting. Believe it or not, actors struggle with this very same thing. In acting, there is an implicit agreement that actors have with the audience that they are going to let them see what’s going on on the inside.

As one of my acting friends observed: “It’s upsetting to see how our lives inhibit us. It seems horrible that we’re so conditioned to keep everything in. Now, all of a sudden, it’s our job to let everything out.”

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