So often in life we are told it is the mature or professional or right thing to do to control our emotions. And too often some emotions are given a negative connotation, or are seen or felt as “bad.” Emotions are simply information. They tell me how I feel about a situation or person. And I know that to act out of an emotion without control can have consequences. However, I wonder if we are denying others the opportunity to see us and thus treat us as fully human if we never express the anger, sadness, excitement, or joy that we sometimes struggle to contain.
I serve as the principal at an all-girls middle school. Most days I love what I do. And some days it is difficult. This past week I was angry when a parent did something at minimum inconsiderate. I didn’t say anything in the moment because I was responsible for the safety of too many students to be distracted and because I wasn’t sure I would respond in the super-professional way that might be expected. I will probably follow up with this parent later on in what will be a very measured conversation. But, does that measured conversation get across the hurt and fear and disappointment and anger that categorized the moment? I can explain how I feel and felt, but it’s not the same. I wonder if people feel it’s okay to treat “the principal” differently than they might treat “Sarah”, treat someone they see first as a role differently than they would treat a person?
Our brains are wired to be wary of those who are different. Years and years and years ago when humans wandered in tribes, someone who looked different was very likely a threat. Our brains still react accordingly. Could we/would we recognize each other as the same through emotions to which we can relate?
It probably wouldn’t have been good to share with that parent all of the things running through my mind in that moment. But, if I had it to do over again, I think I would have shared some of the emotion that she might have recognized in hopes that we could see and treat each other as people. I’m sure there will be a next time.