For long, I have been interested in understanding emotions. Their source and how to better deal with them. My interest comes from observing myself acting in unskillful ways when taken over by emotions such as frustration, deception, hurt and fear.
I have used Yoga teachings to try to better deal with my emotions, with some good results, but I am still hunted by them and I still lose control over my actions because of them. It is not because Yoga teachings are ineffective, it is, I think, because of limited understanding so far. Maybe my inability to go deeper than just seeing their source.
During the last few months, however, I have had two intense experiences that have led me to reflect on how I work with these emotions and try to figure out a better way through.
The first was a big fight with my husband earlier this year where we both contemplated (again) the solution to separate. After further discussion, however, we decided to keep trying. I decided then that I wouldn’t go into the same cycle again. I needed to get to the root of my frustration. Through reflection, a therapy session, and some reading, I realized that I haven’t been a good communicator during all these years. I have always thought I was, but I wasn’t. Out of fear to be rejected or perceived as a problem, I have often chosen the “suck it up” path in everyday small frustrations that unfortunately didn’t disappear but just accumulate until, for some reason, I reach my limit and explode for the smallest thing. Then, the focus is all on that negative emotion and explosive reaction, and a lot of time and energy is then spent regretting my behavior, apologizing, and forgetting what got me there in the first place.
Maybe because of the culture I grew up in, I have had an unconscious negative relationship with my own needs, and I have used what I have learned through the study of Yoga to confirm this attitude believing that if I practice “non-attachment”, I would at some point not need anything. What I think now, is that at the level of spiritual development I am, I need to set myself more realistic goals that can allow me to better walk the path with a more peaceful mind. Befriending my mind, understanding my needs, reflecting on which ones only I can meet, and which ones I can communicate in a constructive way to people around me.
The second experience I had this Spring was at work. A couple of weeks ago, I felt frustration escalating again towards the leadership in the school. This has happened quite often towards the end of the school year. The problem is that when I experience frustration, anger, sadness, and/or fear, I struggle to go deeper than that. All I want to is to get rid of the emotion, so I either judge myself for feeling as I do and suppress the emotion, or I find someone or something to blame for how I feel. Luckily for me, started listening to the audiobook Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, and I think this is going to be a game changer for me, not only to better meet the needs of the people around me but to show more compassion and understanding towards my own instead of getting lost in the overwhelm of my feelings ignoring the need behind them.
Reflecting on my marriage, my frustration often comes from feeling lonely. It can be in everyday life or when planning for a family celebration, vacation, or project. The need is to be a team. To get help. To feel that we work together towards a common goal. I have, however, been unable to communicate this because asking for help felt like nagging. Heading toward our daughter’s confirmation this Spring, my husband was much more helpful than he usually is, and I was so thankful! This made the process less tiring for me, and it felt like we were sharing the joy of celebrating our daughter instead of me running like a headless chicken all the time. I expressed my gratitude towards my husband and explained that I have been needing to feel like a team, but was unable to express it in a constructive way because I hadn’t taken the time to formulate my need in my head. Now he knows, and if he forgets, I will be able to remind him.
At work, I realized that my frustration came from a feeling of uncertainty, insecurity, and unpredictability. Because we are a small school, and we have changed principals quite a lot in the past, changes have happened in a way that sometimes has felt ad hoc and without taking into consideration the professional development of teachers. There aren’t any bad intentions from our leaders, just circumstances making things difficult for some, including me. The insecurity comes from my own self-doubt, but the uncertainty and unpredictability come from not knowing what my tasks for the next year would be and whether I would have a say on what I am asked to do or not. I realized that I have come to a point in my professional life that I don’t want to continue being subject to circumstances to that level, and then decided to change jobs. I have been offered a position where it is clear which subjects I will be teaching, with an open possibility to develop in other areas. There isn’t necessarily something “wrong” with the school I’m leaving, but there isn’t anything “wrong” with me either seeking for more predictability. That is what I need, and thus, that is what I should seek. If the school I’ve been working in for years, is unable to offer that, why keep exposing myself to the frustration described above?
As silly as it might sound to some, for me this has been an eye-opening Spring. I am not wrong about having needs, I just need to listen to them and express them in a way that helps me and does not mess up with others. In light of Yoga, I would also argue that many of these needs can be met by myself if I continue working with myself. For example, insecurity. No amount of validation from people around me will heal my insecurity if I don’t work with it inwards. Other needs like closeness when I feel lonely, help when I have too much on my plate, and a pair of ears when I need to digest an experience, are absolutely possible to communicate to my husband, friends, family, and colleagues.
Discussing my “amazing” discoveries with my husband. He asked some critical questions about my inability to express my needs better. I confessed that it often feels that they go against my wish to be flexible, kind, and reasonable. He then reminded me that any idea I have created in my head of who I am or should be is nothing more than “ego”, and it obviously stands in the way for me.