“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”… Leonard Cohen
The end of the school year evokes some sort of sadness. It is the fact that our routine, as we know it, will have a pause, sometimes a long one, which causes some awkwardness and stress. It is the stress of the attachment, when we suddenly lose those who we care about and love. On the other hand, almost all of us, language teachers, feel we suffer from the “burn-out syndrome”, a condition of over-exhaustion, a never-ending need for relaxation, fun and body rest. It is such a severe concept that sometimes it works as a nocebo situation (the exact opposite of the “placebo effect”). In this case, we let the tiredness get into our mind and body and prison our feelings and mood. We become hypochondriac adopting the symptoms of hypochondriasis. It is true, however, that we live in the era of “forced happiness”, better described by the term “collective Eudaimonia”, even under the Aristotelian philosophical dogma. This Eudaimonia excludes any negative thought or feeling, it tries to protect our mind and body by using simple words in easy mantras like: “What does not kill you, makes you stronger”, or “No Regrets”, excusing your conscious power of choice and responsibility, or, “Just Smile, there is always the worst”, in the sense that your misfortunes are simply a step to the Epicurean phlegmatic teaching. This over-protective cloak has transformed our life events into nonsensical moments of the ephemeral suffering that we have to fight back and make it disappear the soonest possible, at least before it makes us suffer from a long, devastating depression. We learn, with some serious support from scientists, intellectuals, life coaches, psychoanalysts, close friends, neighbours, colleagues and life gurus to bottle our feelings, pack them and send them back with the fastest courier we can afford. The “courier” may be cynicism, pretense, new moods and hobbies, changes and other quackeries. It is such the power of the forced happiness that it is almost prohibitive to share any feelings of anxiety, depression, or any other negative feeling otherwise you are considered “toxic” and “problematic”. We “must” be happy. We should also transfer this mindset to those around us, most notably our learners, we need to help them conceal their negative feelings, avoid them and turn them into opportunities to show how modern and emotionally advanced they are by being constantly and self-sufficiently happy. Is this a viable tactic? It goes with the flow but is it as effective as it may sound? Is it realistic for all of us to be happy all the time? Can these mantras help? Is this mentality a way to make us mature emotionally? Can we really help ourselves or others by avoiding our negative feelings? By having “No Regrets”? Is it humanistically democratic for people to follow the latest trend when it comes to their mental and psychological health? Can we so easily distort the truth of our feelings? Isn’t it a serious drawback the fact that we amputate ourselves emotionally by being constantly happy? Is it normal?
Text by: Dimitris Maroulis
The Main Course
The first step we need to take is to accept the negative feelings and let them communicate with us. Whatever this feeling is, it is a vital ingredient of our life cycle. We should not avoid it, we should not ignore it, and we should not underestimate it. When we are tired because we worked too hard, or, because something else exhausted us we need to be empathic with ourselves, we need to recognize how we feel and why. Then we have to learn how to overcome it and this tactic is called resilience. We have to learn all about resilience and how it works. Resilience works differently to different people so avoid ready-made recipes and definitely well-tested prescriptions. It is not wrong or bad to feel moody, depressed or emotionally drained. Accept it and use your resilience super power to overcome it. Be honest, find the source of your feelings and spend time with them and how they work on you. When something really troubles you, you should go deeper not shortcut. There are though many things you can do before you reach this level. We teachers know very well how to be proactive and what proactivity means for us and our classes. Your negative feelings management skills and experience will tell you and guide you what to do to protect yourself. I am going to share what works for people I know, I am not sure it may work for you but I simply want to give you some examples. They systematically jog and they find physical activity refreshes their brain and body. They spend time with people they love, respect and find interesting. They open up and share some of their feelings; they also share their feelings management techniques. They do some charity work; even if it is something simple and just altruistic, it fills them with gratitude and compassion. They listen to high-quality music, classical or instrumental; it relaxes them and regulates their brain waves. Many of them follow a meditation technique, yoga, or mindfulness; in any case, they try to reach their inside state, they introspect. They enjoy poetry and poetic literature; it gives them the words they need to describe the world around them. And many more. These are just some examples. You may find your own techniques. Measure them and make them count. You need to build your emotional immune system.
The Fortune Cookie
We do a very difficult and responsible job; our duties are many and heavy. Our emotional health plays a dramatic role in the way we perform these duties. Do not mask your feelings; do not fall into the trap of “collective happiness”. Most of the current ideology about happiness pays lip service to support you without your own inside work. Learn how to be resilient and build a healthy emotional immune system. Find the crack that lets the light get on you.