Thursday, 18 February 2016

Being aemotional

Dear Reader,

Do you consider yourself an emotional creature?

Do you 'really care' about your pupils?

Did you love your children as soon as they were born, with a fierce and unconditional power?

None of these things are true for me.  I have had colleagues at school jump back in alarm at me saying my behaviour towards pupils is not built on love or care, but the rational desire to better their lives.  I have had nurses scrabble for forms to write on when I told them I didn't really feel anything about my baby, yet, because she was just a lump of tissue I had painfully expelled.  I have had ex-husbands try exhaustively to get an emotional rise out of me because they were so disgusted by my lack of feeling.

However...

I'm proudly aemotional. It hasn't always been the case.  As i have matured, I have seen others make terrible decisions based on fear, on hatred, on desperation, on so-called love.  I don't want that to be the life my children have, or my pupils, or my partner.  I don't want them all riding around on a wave of my emotions.  I don't want to be that inconsistent parent or teacher who makes the sun come out or the thunder happen just because I feel a certain way.  I don't want to use emotions as an excuse for being a dick, like so many seem to.  It seems selfish, and unfair.

So, I have tried to confront and reduce my emotions. It starts by identifying that they are essentially chemical.  You get angry partly because you haven't eaten.  You get jealous partly because your'e hormonal.  You get euphoric partly because you did some exercise.  The trigger isn't usually that critical.  Once identified, it helps to be able to talk through that with someone, or in your own head.  Rationalise it.  Explore it.  Ask yourself 'what if?'.  Put yourself under the microscope, and it will change you - the observers paradox says so.

When I read about Genghis Khan and his Mongol Empire, I loved the idea of the 'cold face' - warriors were trained to keep a poker face so they would never betray emotion to the enemy. No matter what happened, they would maintain their composure.  There is a tale of a group of warriors scaling a vertical cliff  in order to ambush the enemy (a familiar concept in Mongol warfare - do the impossible to the take the enemy by surprise).  A few lost their grip and fell, wordlessly, to their deaths.  Crying out would have compromised the warriors left behind.

I'm not advocating that we all push our emotions down to a deep place where they bubble up later, or refuse to show any kind of love and compassion.  But using emotions as an excuse to behave badly is not acceptable, nor should we be modelling it to children.  Show them how to take their emotions, identify them, and let them subside before making decisions.  

Ask: what would Genghis do?


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