Recognizing Feelings in Oneself and Others

Recognizing my own feelings: Until I was in my mid-forty’s I tried to hide my feelings of anger and sadness. My face was set in a tight smile, sometimes with my teeth clenched. My voice was well modulated and my words carefully and clearly spoken.  I looked the picture of calm, someone who had the situation under control.  I was afraid to show my feelings, let alone talk about them, because I had experienced frequent outbursts of rage, resentment, and violence seeping up through the cracks of out of our well-ordered home as I was growing up. Until my mid-forty’s my children and husband had to guess what I was feeling, sometimes thinking I was mad at them, when I was not.

As I tried to hold in balance my teaching job, care for our young children, and volunteering in my Meeting, my blood pressure increased and I developed a facial tick.  During a workshop at FGC Conference, I realized that the anger and stress I was carrying inside of me was about to taking its toll on me.  So through meditation and prayer, I began take notice of how I was feeling throughout the day.  When I was angry or upset, I learned to let it out in a constructive way with my colleagues, my family, and my friends.  The hard part about this was taking the quiet time to be aware of who I really was at that time, being “real”.

What feelings are you holding close to your heart, which you are afraid to let your children see?  What keeps you from showing those feelings?  What do you think will happen if you are “real” in the presence of your family, friends, or spouse?

Expressing my feelings: After my mid-life epiphany, the principal of middle school where I taught called to say that my son had been quite disrespectful to a teacher.  I got very upset!  I was embarrassed, because I worried that my colleagues would think I was not a good parent.  So in an unmodulated voice, and using I-messages, I told my son how angry I was about his behavior and why.  He was quite remorseful and apologized to me. Then he explained how the teacher had put him down in front of his classmates and how badly he had felt. My being “real” allowed him to be honest about what he felt.

In my late-forty’s if students in my classroom would make me upset by their talking, inattention, or misbehavior, I would stop the class and explain just how upset I was and why (again using I-statements). There would be dead silence, after which they would tell me what was going on with them, and then get back to work.

What happens when you let your feelings out?  Which parts of your body show how you feel without you saying a word?  Have you found a way to let your anger out in constructive ways?  How did your family or colleagues react?

Recognizing our children’s feelings: Paying attention to the feelings of our children is one way to affirm them.  It also gives our children permission to recognize and express their own feelings. When my children were growing up I was in such a rush to get them to school, to their sports, and through their homework at night, that I barely looked at or listened to them.  My daughter was a B+ student at a school where my husband and I both taught.  Little did we know that she had very high expectations of herself and was putting so much stress upon herself.  She felt that she was a not good enough student, that she wasn’t thin enough, that her clothes weren’t the latest and newest, and she couldn’t have some of the things her classmates had.  We were not aware of her feelings of inferiority until after she had graduated, because she kept herself together, she was well-behaved, a good student, and all-around athlete. I wish I had paid more attention to what our daughter wasn’t saying during those years.

When have you listened deeply or looked closely to the non-verbal cues your children have given you?

How did you acknowledge their feelings?  Or not?

What response did you get from your child, spouse, or colleague?

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