Emotions from the Past

Because you are important, your emotions from the past are important. Very important. They are keys to insights about yourself, how you have (co-)constructed yourself, what your expectations of the world are, and how you might be helping those expectations come true.

In short, there is a lot of information packed into emotions from the past.

For example. (Let’s take an example that’s much more interesting than anxiety about waking someone up.) Imagine a teacher who is an expert at filling the void.

Actually, there’s no need to imagine. Click here for an illustrative scenario.

Just to be clear: Filling the void is not an emotion from the past. It is not a Chicken from Hell. It is a coping mechanism many of us have developed in response to chickens from hell, to emotions like anxiety or powerlessness or to destabilizing experiences of chaos.

Filling the void is a very sensible response to emotions from the past.

Why? Because, somewhere along the line, void fillers figured out that a great way to avoid anxiety or powerlessness or chaos was to jump in and get the work done. Do someone else’s job for them. Take control. Keep things neat and clean. Fill the silence. Smooth over egos. Make sure things get done right.

Void filling, in other words, is a way to stave off a deep and often unconscious expectation that, if you don’t fill the void, no one else will. And then something bad will happen.

The void can be any number of things: incompetence, silence, unwillingness, discomfort, uncertainty.

Filling the void — by doing it yourself, by talking, by protecting others — is a deeply ingrained way of managing anxiety, a feeling most of us want to escape. A feeling we have escaped over and over again throughout our lives precisely by filling the void.

The problem is that my filling the void stops others — say, students — from doing the job themselves. And sometimes other people — say, students — just need to step up and do their work. And suffer the natural consequences if they don’t.

There are so many voids to fill. And so many good reasons for filling them. My point here is: If you can notice right now habits you developed in response to emotions from your past — habits (like filling the void) that help you manage anxiety and come so automatically you have a hard time stopping yourself — and if you can see that those habits are keeping you and your students from doing your respective jobs, you are lucky.

You are lucky because you can unlearn those habits.

Unlearning them is one of the benefits of Teaching through Emotions.

FYI, here ends the barrage of daily blog posts, meant to give you a taste of what Teaching through Emotions is all about. From here on out I’ll be posting every Monday just to help you start the week off right. I hope they do help!

Betsy BurrisComment