Feeling Good

I have come to a frightening conclusion.

I am the decisive element in the classroom.

It is my personal approach that creates the climate.

It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.

I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.

I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

Haim Ginott, a variant of this is often wrongly attributed to Goethe

Our emotions are complex ambiguous, shaped by many factors and influences. Much of the time we have choices as to how we shape our own and other’s experience of our emotional state. We need to bring presence and emotional intelligence to all our interactions more than ever.

A New Dawn

I was recently reminded of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. As is so common with Nina Simone’s amazing talent, the song is beautiful, engaging and highly evocative. From its spare ambiguous opening the song ramps to a big band celebration of the potential of ‘a new dawn, a new day and a new life’ to bring the chance to feel good and find new freedom. The listener is taken on a journey as Nina Simone leads us through the discovery that she does indeed feel good and that better times are as real as the natural beauty referenced in the song.

As human beings, our emotional state is influenced by narratives of our own making. We carry emotions from day-to-day and moment-to-moment reinforcing both negative and positive emotions based on the stories we are telling ourselves, telling others and creating as we go. At times, the emotion we experience whether a high or a low can be widely divergent from the circumstances of our situation. As social creatures, we can also be drawn into the contagion of the emotions of those around us.

Those narratives play a major role in our emotions but there are also times we can choose to drop them or swap them. Finding that moment of choice, that new dawn, is often about our ability to find presence and see with new eyes and think with new thoughts.

The House of the Rising Sun

Presence is an opportunity for us to reset our emotional narrative, escape our bubbles and its cascade of self-confirmation. Presence gives us a chance to choose which of our own personal ‘Big Lies’ we continue to carry and which we discard. Remember in emotions we are always both experiencer, giver and receiver. Staying present helps us make choices as to how the ‘decisive element’ of our emotional state plays out for others and ourselves.

Discovery of the emotions lying beneath the narrative can be a powerful learning opportunity. Dissatisfaction can be driven by the power of yearning, as an emotional state that signals to us the need to change, to act and to move toward something new. The emotional energy that comes from new and different conversations can signal more work that can be done and will be productive.

Not everyone gets to choose their emotional state. For those that have the option, we should take care to explore presence and how we can be a constructive influence for our own development and those around us. After all, what we think and feel underneath the imposed stories and unnecessary ones, is one form of agency that can never be taken from us whatever we may be obliged to perform. Finding that also enhances our unflappable power to make change. Our emotional comfort gives others confidence and is often confused with wisdom.

so they wouldn’t do anything except listen to the songs in their
heads which were sad ones like nearly all good songs and watch
this feeling rolling in, sunshine or rain, we don’t know yet,
it’s a good one, it’s the best one, though it has no name.

Emily Berry, No Name

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