Light Managing Emotions
I remember my mom telling me about the first day that she brought me home after giving birth to me in the hospital in 1977. She decided to give me what some call a bird bath and gently wiped me off with a washcloth. Well, I didn’t like it. I began to cry, then I held my breath and passed out. Don’t worry I came to but my mom was upset and didn’t know what to do. She called the doctor and told him what had happened and he responded by saying, “your daughter has quite the temper.”
It didn’t always have to be a negative situation. One time my parents had taken me to get pizza for the first time at a restaurant. I was excited of course so I stood up in my booster seat when the pizza was brought out and I began to clap. With all the excitement I began to fall forward, to catch myself I put my hands in front of me and my hands landed directly in the fresh hot pizza....I screamed, held my breath and passed out.
Until I was about four years old many times when I would get upset, angry or sad I would hold my breath and pass out.
During our life span we learn how to manage our emotions as various life stages bring upon challenges.
In college, students face the daily challenge of managing emotion ms and may respond through fear, anger, happiness or sadness (Chickering, 1969). Throughout life stages how we react to different events evolves over time.
Our hope is that as we get older we become more self-aware and we learn to exhibit self-control in how we choose to respond to certain events.
Even as an adult, there are times I think about how I could have responded to a situation differently. I have also learned more about how to respond to others as they are working through developing their ability to best manage their own emotions. The process isn’t perfect and we may fail at times. However, if we can own our behavior (response), find the right resources for support, and learn from an experience we will become self-aware of our actions and exhibit better self-control.
Since 2001, I have worked in higher education with college students either as a staff or faculty member. The challenges students face are wide range from missing a deadline for an assignment to a break up to being far away from home.
For example, one semester I had a student barge into my office and said that everything going wrong for them was my class. I caught myself feeling my own emotional response with how the student initially treated me (I had to explicitly choose to not get angry and to control my initial thoughts of how I might react). I invited him to come in and have a seat. I simply asked what can I do to help. The student became silent and I could tell he was trying to hold back tears. In the moment I believe he was surprised I did not respond with anger, instead I responded with care. I informed the student that he did not need to divulge all the details about his troubles and asked if he would like to hear about a few campus resources. We worked through that time together. Our faculty/student relationship developed over the years and there was a sense of respect. Later the student reached out and told me he appreciated the support, no one had asked him really how he was doing and he was stuck in a feeling that he was all alone.
We (children, students, faculty, staff, friends, peers, all of us) are all working daily to manage emotions. To feel emotion is important, much of our emotion comes from what we are passionate about. Where we must take responsibility is in the development of self awareness and self control. The idea of managing emotions is not say that feeling isn’t important. It is to say that emotions that create distress may harm ourselves or others around us.
The goal is to evolve from having little self control over disruptive emotions and little self awareness of feelings to move to a flexible state in which reaction is a self-controlled response of emotions (Chickering & Reisser, 1993).
Everyone we interact with is managing emotions.
I think the myth of faculty and staff is that we just teach a class or run a program. Once the class or program is done then we begin prepping for the next class or program. That is simply not the case.
Most days faculty and staff are meeting with students who have fears about how to complete an assignment, who is angry with a roommate, who is happy because they get to go home for the weekend or is sad because they are experiencing the death of a loved one for the first time. The list goes from small to large scale. As faculty and staff we don’t know which ones we will face each day but these emotions will be present on our campuses.
As I thought about that more this week, I began thinking about the health and well-being of individuals working in education environments such as K-12 or university settings. As we are being there for so many students helping them work through managing emotions how are we best supporting the health and well-being of our faculty and staff too.
Here are a few questions for reflection.
I would love to hear any reflections you have and are willing to share, please comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn to take responsibility for emotions, and to manage energies, always working within present resources. - Lillian Russell
Chickering, A. (1969). Education and identity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chickering, A., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.