What do you mean? When you nod your head yes, but you wanna say no…
“Not every day can be a diamond” ~ Barbara Fraser (my mum)
I am one of the fortunate people in this world who finds their job energising, fulfilling and full of optimally complex and challenging problems to keep the mind engaged! But there are times where the struggle is real and I have to preserve some uncomfortable experiences.
I recently experienced a day characterised by strong, negative emotions. The kind of day where my internal dialogue was spilling out criticism and blame!
I had walked in to what I anticipated would be a very straight forward meeting, which soon took an unexpected turn – there were tears, a feeling of disappointment and missed opportunities to discuss real issues. My natural response was to over-diagnose – desperately trying to find a solution and quash the discomfort I was experiencing.
Why did I choose to share this experience with you? Well I actually learnt quite a bit about myself over this short period of time.
1) Finding distractions to avoid discomfort is exhausting…
Attempts to distract myself with television, reading, phone calls and a glass of wine to avoid discomfort throughout the day chewed an intense amount of energy and attention. Yet the discomfort was still there. What my mind needed was space and time to process my feelings rather than more data to distract!!
2) Acceptance is healing…
When I finally made the decision to stop, be present and focus purely on the emotions I was experiencing I was surprised at how quickly I gained perspective. I did this by writing out the emotions and acknowledging the trigger. I was able to assess the feelings – guilt, disappointment, regret, concern – and accept these were simply a reaction to the emotions of others around me and a sense that I was not in control of the outcome. I accepted I was likely to continue feeling negative emotions for some time after the event, until such time a viable solution was presented (but this would take time).
3) Choosing to learn, rather than wallow is empowering…
I have chosen a career as a psychologist because I value human connection. This also means I must be open to client interactions that require me to manage the emotional environment and communicate information people find confronting or uncomfortable to hear. From this particular scenario, I learned more about the client’s situation and the broader context, which will enable me to further tailor the coaching program. I also identified some personal areas for development in managing this type of team dynamic. And, I learnt I am capable of working through the negative emotion and self-doubt.
If I had chosen one extreme end of the scale DISTRACTION, or the other extreme OVER-DIAGNOSIS, I would not have the emotional capacity, attention or energy available to devise a solution or attend to the needs of my other clients.
Feeling strong emotions at work is perfectly normal. You are a human being after all, and emotions serve an important purpose. They indicate we need to change our course of action, remove ourselves from a situation or pay close attention to a lesson we may need to “survive” similar situations in future.
My take away from this less than perfect day at work is to be mindful of how you respond to the situation – be present, accept and learn!
“Forget the mistake. Remember the lesson.” ~ Lisa Messenger
Jessica Fraser, Senior Consultant Psychologist