Tis the season to be…angry?
Feeling more ‘Grinch’ than ‘Elf’, I’m working from home today. I have two ‘big’ reports to write and the young people at the heart of each piece of work are in the front of my mind.
Christmas is everywhere, and it is mercifully close to the end of a grindingly long term… but. I’m struggling to focus, and I notice in myself overwhelming feelings of heaviness. Being the reflective practitioner that I am, I’m drawn to stop for a moment and think – “what is this feeling telling me?”
Anger. I’m angry. It doesn’t fit well with the sentiments of the festive season, but it’s there.
The two young people about whom I am writing today have been emotionally challenging ‘cases’ to work on. From completely disparate backgrounds, both their lives have been ‘difficult’ from the start. The basic needs we take for granted such as food, clothing and shelter are not a given in their lives. The availability of emotional warmth and an adult mind to attend to their needs is constricted by the stress and duress under which both families exist. I’m sad and angry.
I took some items down to our local foodbank earlier this morning. Am not sure what I was trying to be or do. Altruistic? Unburden some guilt? Seek some kind of comfort from giving? I felt hollow. See that phrase, “our local foodbank”, like it’s a regular, everyday part of any community? This is not something to be proud of or for MPs to pose for photos alongside. We already know that the biggest barrier to achievement, well-being and future success is socio-economic status.
Austerity continues to strangle and punish the most vulnerable. Its crippling effects run wide, from schools feeding and clothing their pupils to teachers buckling under the pressures of producing results with the Marley-esque spectre of OFSTED’s judgement constantly looming, to EPs just like us wondering how to ensure our work makes a difference, in the context of ongoing, suffocating poverty.
One foot in…
In ELSA training we teach our trainee ELSAs about the adaptive functions of emotions such as anger. How can it help us? Well it can give us the energy and motivation to defend ourselves against threats, and enable us to prevent future threats by communicating our dislike or sense of injustice.
There we have it! I remind myself of the analogy that, if you want to help someone get out of a ditch it’s no good getting in the ditch with them! It’s right to have one foot in the ditch, in the dirt and the pain and discomfort, but the other foot needs to be safely and firmly on the ground. So, drawing on the positive psychology I love so well, I will pull myself together now and channel my feelings into doing what I can as an EP to make that difference. And I’ll get on with my reports!
So. This is Christmas. Relax, repair, enjoy. (But it’s ok to be angry too).