Let It Go
If you have young children or, as in my case grand children, recently you may well have been terrorised by the title song from Disney’s blockbuster film Frozen. It was the most requested karaoke song in 2014 and is a tune loved by children all over the world. What made Frozen the number one animated film of all time and why do kids love its pivotal song ‘Let It Go’ so much? Two psychologists decided to find out. Their verdict: the song recognises our desire to be happy and free.
But why are the words ‘let it go’ so important if we want to be happy and free? The fact is, if you look at the opposite of the positive emotions like happiness and freedom you arrive at feelings like anger, sorrow, hatred and fear. While ever you hold onto these types of emotions you are locked into a negative spiral that keeps you their prisoner.
For all of us a great portion of our happiness is tied up in our relations with others. We love being with those we care for, our friends and family and while these relationships are running smoothly, life will be OK.
So how is it with the students you teach. Unlike family and friends the relationship is not so easily formed and is often one sided especially for those kids with abusive backgrounds. These damaged kids find it very difficult to establish the kind of relationships that leave them happy and content. More importantly for teachers, often their behaviours are so repulsive they sabotage any attempt you may have of forming a positive relationship.
In a recent research paper from the Monash University it was found that teachers, particularly those who handle the discipline side of our work are eight times more likely to be abused, psychologically and six times more likely to be physically attacked then the general public. It is part of our professional duty to deliver consequences for dysfunctional behaviours and we have to learn to deal with the abuse that often follows.
It is not unusual for these most difficult kids to abuse their teacher, most often verbally but in too many cases they physically attack the teacher. We understand that these severe behaviours have their origin in their past and even though it is an extremely difficult thing to do, we must separate the behaviour from the child.
The alternative is to not ‘forgive’ the child and let the incident dominate the future relationships. This is holding a grudge and a grudge is the feeling of anger and resentment and drives the desire to ‘get even’.
We are human so think about the last time you were wronged, did you hold a grudge and if so was it a feeling of carrying extra weight? We often talk about ‘carrying’ a grudge like we’ve got a heavy load.
In an experiment the psychologist asked participants to remember when they’d experienced conflict. One group were asked to recall a situation that ended in forgiveness, while the other group were asked to remember a situation where they did not forgive the offender. All participants were then asked to jump five times as high as they could.
Participants in the ‘forgiving’ group jumped the highest, while the ‘grudge holding’ group jumped almost one-third lower (on average) than the forgivers. So there it is; carrying a grudge really does weigh you down. Forgiveness can lighten the burden so let revenge go.
It is most important that teachers let go of this extra burden in their life. Letting go is not easy, it may well be the most difficult thing you can do but it is imperative if you want to retain your mental health. There are some things that you can do. These include:
- Debriefing – After any situation that you are ‘attacked’ you need to go over the circumstances around the issue. It is best to do this with a trusted and informed colleague who understands your work. The use of your family should only be as a last resort as it will cloud the boundaries of your home and your place of work.
- Boundaries – We have spoken about boundaries elsewhere but briefly they protect you from abuse you don’t deserve, inform you of your contribution to any incident and let you plan how you will deal with the problem if it happens again. The fundamental questions are:
- What is really happening?
- Who’s responsible?
- If it’s me then I have to take action
- If it’s the student I have to take action – this doesn’t seem fair but you are the professional and you must understand your health is your responsibility. Don’t hold a grudge!
- Decide what you want in the future and take action to make that happen.
The final step is to let go. Generally it just requires you to forgive the student and start each new day afresh but in some cases no matter what efforts you put in nothing changes and you continue to be abused. If things are like this ‘letting go’ may mean someone leaves the relationship!