Your Emotions Are Friendly Messengers [1/5]


Hi everyone. It’s Rocky Biasi here and I’m joined by Mark O’Connor, who is a teacher at Emmaus Catholic College. And we’ve been really good friends, we went to university to do our education degree together, and we’ve been talking quite a lot in these quite uncertain and unprecedented times about how we can best support students and maybe even teachers themselves through this time. And so thanks for being on Mark and thanks for doing the job of interviewer, but you’ve got a whole bunch of expertise too. So I’d love for you to jump in here too. And hopefully what we can talk about can be of help to some people in the school community.


Mark: I’ll chime in with a few thoughts, but I’m genuinely interested to get your perspective and your experience and this wealth of knowledge that you have about how to reframe certain situations. Because obviously I can see some real anxiety in society at the moment, like you said, whether it be from teachers or whether it be from students.

So mate, I’ll kick you off with this obvious one, first of all. It’s overwhelming. There’s a lot going on in the world at the moment. And this coronavirus is causing some pretty mass hysteria, and obviously there’s different levels of that hysteria. What’s your number one go-to best piece of advice for people when they’re getting in that overwhelmed state, and they’re starting to worry about things that essentially they can’t control?


Rocky: Okay. Really good question, Mark. And I’ve put together seven tips, and I’m not going to give you all seven right now, but I want to see if I can give you a few. The first thing is it’s okay to be feeling the way you’re feeling. I know that I’ve had my own moments. You and I spoke about it when this first crashed, and the ramifications that had on me, and then I’m thinking the ramifications on others in the society. And yeah, I’ve had my moments, to say the least. And I think to be honest with you, if you’re living through these unprecedented times, it’s quite normal to be worked up and anxious and stressed and worried about what’s going on and what the future holds. So I guess the first thing I’m going to say is it’s okay to be feeling the way you’re feeling.

And here’s the other thing I know, Mark, and it’s this. If you start pushing those feelings down, if you don’t acknowledge them, if you don’t validate those emotions, they actually get stronger. So if you push them away, if you try to ignore them, the emotions are actually intensifying. And one of the things that I like to say is treat your emotions the way you would treat someone that you were listening to.

So, you and I, Mark, we do some work around Accidental Counselor and we’ve spoken about this in the past. And I say, look, if you’re listening to someone, if you’re going to be a really good listener, you would acknowledge what they’re saying. You’d validate what they’re saying, and you would even normalize it. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing right now. If you’re feeling worked up, it’s okay. It’s normal, right? And you can’t make yourself bad for feeling bad, right? That’s just going to make it worse.

So acknowledge how you’re feeling, number one, is key. Sit with the emotion, allow yourself to feel it, right? We’re so frightened by emotions that we push them away. We try to suppress them. We’ll distract ourselves with all this other stuff. And what tends to happen is because we’re not listening, the emotion intensifies and it becomes stronger and stronger.

And so when we acknowledge and validate our own emotions, I like to think of our emotions and our feelings like friendly messengers. And if you’re not listening to them, well, then they’re going, “Hey, you’re not listening.” So they get louder and stronger, right? And so if you acknowledge them and listen to them, just the very act of being present and just going, “Oh, I’m feeling this stress in my back,” or “There’s this tightness in my chest.” Just that act alone, bringing that presence and that awareness to that, is amazing, because it tends to reduce the intensity of it, just that. So that would be the first tip.


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