235 Days ’til 40: Understanding Intense Emotions

01 Jul

Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

~ Old Native American Proverb

 As an educational professional, I must say that I often think about the intense emotions we encounter on a daily basis.  So often our patrons are very quick to complain and lay blame, but less open to take the time to understand situations or even teaching pedagogy.  In fact, some times it is not just the patrons who are quick to react… the staff members can certainly be guilty of the same.

I find it so critical to look at any situation that may arise (particularly the heated ones) with a view of the larger picture.  This can be very difficult to do when emotions are heated.  For example, a mother may come into school raging at the teacher because she heard that her child had been laughed at in school the day prior.  The teacher handled the incident and had no clue why on earth the parent was screaming.  Only later on did the school learn that the mother’s husband had been picked up the night before on a DUI and was still sitting in jail.  The conversation and the tone really was less about the incident at school and more about the mother needing an outlet to release her stress over her husband’s temporary incarceration.  Understanding this larger picture still does not make the screaming acceptable, but at least it gives the teacher the ability to keep some emotional distance and realize that they did handle the situation effectively and other factors were at play.

I must confess, there have been times in my life where I too have misdirected my emotions.  When my father was dying I was not as focused as I should have been at work – I was also not as objective.  When a teacher made a mistake that ended up with a supervisor yelling at me, I was much less patient with the teacher than I would have been under normal circumstances.  In that moment in my life I could not handle my supervisor yelling at me, so when I had to go back and speak with the teacher I was not pleased.  Sometimes timing is everything…. if the incident hat occurred a year later I would have probably been much nicer to that staff member (months later I did apologize and explain that the timing was horrible).

I have learned to ask both parent and staff members about their personal lives when I get a response or behavior for them that I do not expect or am taken back by.  The more intense their emotions, the more I wonder what is really the root of the anger/ sadness/ fear – it is usually NOT school related….. but sometimes the parents or staff members may need some help sorting the issues to really understand that is the case.  If they are willing to understand that they may be mis-directing their anger or over reacting, it can often immediately assist with lessening the emotional intensity.

And, when that does not work – you can always follow the advice of Jack Handey:

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. ~ Jack Handey

Today, 235 days ’til 40, I seek to continually remind myself that heightened emotions are usually the manifestation of deeper issues.  If I take time to understand this reality, I can respond in a more meaningful way and with the proper amount of empathy.



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34 responses to “235 Days ’til 40: Understanding Intense Emotions

  1. anotherthousandwords

    July 1, 2012 at 00:09

    Chronological maturity does not equal emotional maturity. When petulance or unwarranted anger spew forth from someone, say, aged 50 or above, I know they were never taught how to ‘handle’ their emotions. This is so very sad to me…and I thank you once again for a very wise post!

    Have a great weekend!

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:25

      VERY true! I know many people twice my age who are considerably less mature than I am. Sometimes I look at the people around me and realize that so many adults are “stuck” in preadolescent or adolescent stages of development – so sad for them (and for those of us who have to put up with them.)

  2. anotherthousandwords

    July 1, 2012 at 00:10

    P.S. Love the image…did you take it?

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:23

      Yes, I took it when I was visiting Boston.

  3. tryingtowriteit

    July 1, 2012 at 00:16

    Empathy is difficult. But worth it. Loved your honesty of expression. Great post.

  4. addicttoaddict

    July 1, 2012 at 00:22

    Walk a mile in my shoes? For many of us, far more than that is needed. Thanks for the post!

  5. Katie

    July 1, 2012 at 02:24

    When given a moment to take in a situation, I try to react as if everyone has a cross to bear and maybe there’s is too heavy. It is so hard to do that when someone is in my face unloading.

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:22

      Yes, I understand – that is my challenge as well.

  6. walkwiththerabbi

    July 1, 2012 at 02:35

    “If you won’t control your emotions, it is impossible for you to control your life”
    Alan E. Freedman

  7. Jennifer Stuart

    July 1, 2012 at 06:53

    I always try to think about that in traffic. When I am with someone who is driving and mad at another driver for going slowly or making an erratic move, I try to remind them that the person may be going to the hospital, or have just received horrible news on the phone, or maybe they are just being rude; but either way, it is impossible to ever really know where someone we hardly know is coming from. Always good to take a step back, consider options, and ask when possible. Thanks for this reminder.

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:20

      Very good point! Yes, traffic can be awful and I think it is great to think about what is really going on in the life of a rude driver.

  8. thelastsongiheard

    July 1, 2012 at 07:50

    That’s good advice… and something I need to remember for myself… not when I encounter intense emotions from others, but when I encounter intense emotions from within…

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:19

      Good point, yes, we also need to remember these things when the intense emotions come from ourselves (which, of course, they can and do from time to time).

  9. simon7banksS

    July 1, 2012 at 13:18

    Never criticise a man till you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins. If he doesn’t have moccasins, buy him a pair. That way he’ll know you’re planning to criticise him.

  10. The Quiet Borderline (back in hospital)

    July 1, 2012 at 17:09

    Add on a bit of BPD to that and you’re a total state!

  11. ritalovestowrite

    July 1, 2012 at 20:48

    So true. Btw. Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    Good luck on your road to Enlightenment (and 40.)

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:14

      Thank you and thank you for visiting my blog as well!

  12. lucie193

    July 1, 2012 at 21:16

    Thanks for liking my blog. I think I have 221 days until 40…7th Feb 2013. I’m also mother of two, happily married and an educational professional and ‘want more’ . funny old thing this being nearly 40. I will be following your blog with interest. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:14

      You are welcome! Seems you are very close to my timeline! I hope things go well for you… and yes, it is so strange being nearly 40…..

  13. Hawkruh

    July 2, 2012 at 04:49

    And if I walk a mile in their shoes, am I a mile away from my “stuff?”

    • 400daystil40

      July 2, 2012 at 13:45

      Yes, and you probably have blisters on your feet! 🙂

  14. A Table in the Sun

    July 2, 2012 at 18:02

    I sit in meetings with parents all the time, and I just KNOW that their responses to our discussions about their child have nothing to do with their child, but everything to do with their childhood (and adulthood). It takes some people much longer to grow up.

    • 400daystil40

      July 2, 2012 at 18:50

      Yes, isn’t that always the way it goes? It IS so frustrating!

  15. narf77

    July 3, 2012 at 13:03

    “You are a mile away from them…have their shoes and a healthy dose of tinea…”

  16. sued51

    July 3, 2012 at 14:28

    Try to feel sorry for people who have not learned to handle their emotions…hard to do, but if we all did it, it would diffuse a lot of situations.
    We all have those time you describe (when your father was dying). Afterwards we should “man up” and apologize. It can help dealings with others in the future.

  17. cometscorners

    July 8, 2012 at 23:14

    Great post – empathy should be applied to each other, to our children, our elderly, our animals.. we all have our reasons for being who we are x


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