Kind Mind
We All Suffer

We All Suffer

Human suffering has a way of reminding us how we are all connected. How we are all the same in this way. What if instead of teaching children to avoid their most difficult emotions, or minimize their big emotional expression because they are ridiculously over the top, we teach them to lean toward what feels hard so they can build emotional awareness, navigate healthy emotional expression, and build resilience? While at the same time, we practice finding acceptance for big emotions. This is where compassion comes alive.


We All Suffer


Many of us adults lack emotional awareness and that’s because it wasn’t a priority when we were growing up. Many of us did not have emotional nurturing or understanding. The parenting and education systems were more focused on controlling behaviors.  But now we know that behaviors are directly related to emotional states. And we also know that emotional suppression is leading us down a dangerous path, emotionally, mentally, and economically. 


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation conducted a longitudinal study that showed a direct correlation between strong social-emotional skills in Kindergarten and long-term success in life. Success was measured by mental health diagnosis, education, employment, secure housing, addiction, and incarceration. All of these outcomes impact not only the individual but the economy as a whole. This is motivation to prioritize SEL for everyone. 

We know this is important for kids, but how about adults who are trying to teach it? Because we didn’t learn this stuff as kids, we need to learn it now. 


When was a kid and I expressed anger, I was sent to my room or punished. So I learned early on that that my anger was not an okay feeling to have, and that I needed to suppress my anger so that I would feel loved and accepted. I was protecting myself from feeling abandoned by the adults who cared for me, but in doing that I was abandoning myself and my own emotional needs and never learned how to navigate my emotions in a healthy way. 


Gabor Mate, who is a trauma expert and author, talks about how emotional suppression, especially anger, leads to anxiety and depression, which is certainly how it manifested in my life.


In order to help our children and students build emotional awareness, we need to do this work alongside them. The more we practice facing what feels uncomfortable, the more resilient we feel because we realize that we are strong enough to face hard emotions. And that more often, the alternative strategies that we were raised to embody (suppression and avoidance) lead to more pain in the long term.


So how do we do this? 


In my program, every day starts with 2 minutes of centering and checking in. Creating a ritual around this short practice helps to build emotional awareness, which is the first step toward resilience. We can’t be resilient when we ignore the hard stuff. We also have visual cues that are around the classroom, to help build inner emotional awareness and to normalize that all feelings are healthy. 


This week, make time for a daily ritual where you connect with yourself and check in with how you feel. 

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