It surprises me how quickly the weather changes over here in Japan. This morning was a perfectly clear day and it’s the afternoon now and the clouds are very thick around my school in Yokohama. This reminds me of my emotions. I can be really enthusiastic and then one thing happens in class that frustrates me and turns everything upside down. All it takes is a certain trigger sometimes.
There was a specific instance today while teaching a 7th grade class, a class that normally arouses my frustration rather easily. But instead of reacting as usual when the class is loud and scold them, I tried putting myself in their shoes. I was attempting to use empathy. I created silence in myself and looked at each student, reminding myself that we are not the same age and stage in life. Then I began reflecting lightly on my days in middle school and how confusing it was for me. I just wanted to be cool, I wasn’t defiant in class, but I expressed my defiance towards my family and did little dipshit stuff like remove Honda signs from people’s cars, steal gum from Sav-Ons, care about everything I wear, how I pose in pictures, etc.
I began to empathize with them in the moment when I would normally get frustrated. Did the class begin behaving better? No, they didn’t. But I was able to remove myself from a pattern that I ran in disruptive classes. It was soothing and it makes me so grateful for the stage that I am at in life.
Things aren’t always going to go my way, but I don’t always have to react in the same ways to these situations. I have the freedom to decide how I behave and what I think about at any moment if I am aware of when the feeling arises.
Here is a great bit on empathy by Carl Rogers:
- Look back on a situation where you got very upset with someone
- Why did you get upset with them?
- Now, this is difficult – but what do you think they were thinking? Were they trying to make you upset?
- Think back on a time when you did something to make someone else upset
- How are both situations similar to one another?