Fitting Together

Your nose is in a rose and you are breathing in the delightful fragrance.

You are fighting with your partner about the same old thing.

You are stung by a student’s blatant disrespect and are plotting revenge.

You give a student one last extension right before grades are due in hopes she’ll get the work in.

You can’t stop thinking about that moment in class when a student whispered to another student and they both laughed. You’re sure it was about you.

What do all these scenarios have in common?

They’re examples of fitting together.

This concept of fitting together is crucial to Teaching through Emotions. Why? Because, as living beings, everything we do is based on fitting together.

Smelling a rose is a great example. To put it super simply (because that’s the only way I can describe the amazingly complex process involved in a single sniff of a rose), molecules from the rose release into the air, which we take into our nasal passages, where there are receptors that are perfectly constructed to attach to, or “bind with,” or fit together with, the scent molecules. It is that fit, that collaboration between the rose’s molecules and our olfactory receptors, that results in the glorious experience of smelling a rose.

This same basic process is true about relationships. Whenever we interact with another human being, we co-construct a fit. As Harriet Lerner put it many years ago, we engage in a dance together, figuring out our steps as we go — or falling into patterns that lock us into dysfunctional roles.

Like when we fight with our partner about the same old thing. Like when we feel hurt by a student. Like when we work harder than our students are working. Like when we assume the worst about others and ourselves. These are examples of relational patterns that involve fitting together.

And because they’re patterns, they are predictable.

Think about that: If our interactions with each other, our relationships, fall into patterns, and if we can discern those patterns, then we can figure out how to change them when they’re not working out. Well — we can figure out how to change our steps in the dance. But that amounts to changing the dance! Because if I change my steps, then you’re going to have to change your steps. One way or another.

I can’t help it. I’ve got to offer an example. But this blog post is already too long. So look for the example in your inbox tomorrow morning. It’ll be about filling the void, since that’s a relational pattern I’ve already talked about.

Betsy BurrisComment