Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Thanking your negative feelings and maybe applications for dealing with kids

I have been listening to a podcast, done a little reading, and researched a bit about the ideas from Jack Kornfield.  He trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, and most impressively spent 500 days in basic silence.  I think I would struggle with 500 minutes, unless I was sleeping, and even then... Here is a website to give you some ideas of something he founded, he has also written at least 5 books. https://jackkornfield.com/                     https://www.dharma.org/

Here is one of the major concepts I pulled out of what I have looked into.  This is basic, but has been significant for me in dealing with inner feelings.

Make sure to "thank" what you might perceive to be your most negative feelings and actions.  For example when you are calm, make sure to "thank" your anger.  When you are calm, make sure to "thank" your frustration.  It only takes a minute.  It is not justifying those emotions, as they may have been misguided, but will allow you to understand them more deeply and approach them from a different angle.

Here is an example:  You got into an argument with a loved one, you went into a depressive state for a period of time.  This could be minutes or days depending on the level of the argument.  There is certainly relationship repairing that needs to happen between the two of you, but there is also repairing of your inner self, that is not dependent at all on the other person.

Your feeling of anger or frustration and then possibly depression or anxiety are not dependent on anyone else.  If you "thank" that feeling and except that it is not only natural, but at times a needed defense mechanism that you have built up to prevent you from being hurt, then you can deal with it.

So what does this look like after this symbolic "thanking"?  That is the hard question, and I think Jack would say there are many ways and is really dependent on the individual.  The important part is to have that acknowledgement without negative self-talk.  By thanking, you are acknowledging with a more positive spin on your emotions.  It starts you off on the path of recovery, back to a normal state, in a much better place. 

How could understanding this relate to school?

We all have encountered an angry, sad, frustrated, etc. child.  We often default to "why" when we could default to, "It happened... what occurred and what are we going to do now" (what are those steps?)  I don't know that children would understand the idea of "thanking" emotions as they might see that as justifying their behavior.  The intent is not to justify, but to mitigate and grow.  Through a different approach, we can get kids to think about "steps" and ways to recover, acknowledge, and improve.

The "why" with kids is sometimes so difficult, deep-rooted, and confusing that it may never be understood within the setting of a school.  We don't have the resources, time, training, and in many cases background information to truly understand every angry or frustrated "why" of students.  When they get frustrated, their defense mechanism may go to a subconscious feeling of neglect when they were a baby, or some sort of abuse from a loved one.  We can't even begin to understand many of our student's "why's" no matter how great a relationship we have with them.

We as professionals can discuss possible "why's" as a way justify for ourselves and build some compassion and empathy.  This may help establish a set of thinking between adults working with the same child, but won't necessarily help them moving forward.  I would also argue that searching for the "why" about students with consistent and constant behavioral outbursts only leads to frustration and resentment with adults.  We internally put our own experiences on them, or see it as, "this worked for me or this other kid, it should apply here."  Examining this would be a much longer and deeper idea than my point here, so I will sum it up with this.

When dealing with a child you work with anger, frustration, unexplained sadness, etc. don't worry so much about the "why" in the moment.  For kids you work with examining that "why" will probably lead to more frustration and questions.  Concentrate on the "what" and skills of recovery.  These are but not limited to acknowledgement, admittance, reflection on behavior not "why", restitution (if needed), game planning, and practice of some sort.  Practice can be as simple as repeating a few steps over and over.

It is certainly not a one stop shop of fixing negative emotions, and for many, there may never be a true fix.  Sometimes it is management and preserving longevity.  How do you keep your car running longer?  Keep up on maintenance.  It may never be as good as the day it came off the lot, but it can still look good, and sound good, many years later if you take care of it.

On a side note I think working with your own "why" as it relates to your emotions, can be helpful, but you are also in your own head all day.  It is much more convenient.     

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