“Get it together” my colleague said to me. “Wipe your eyes and pretend nothing happened. You know you shouldn’t be upset at work.” Although I do not recall the situation, the message from my coworker, over 25 years ago, was memorable and clear. Like a good soldier I sucked it up and continued to bury my emotions, and for many years to follow.
For as long as I can remember I was told, when you go to work leave your emotions at home. It was not a particular class that I took, a policy or formal learning. It was implied.
When you take the time to really think about it, it is not possible. We cannot separate a part of our self. I cannot be anything but a woman, even if I wear trousers and a tie. Just as my gender is part of me, emotions are part of our package.
So why, for so many decades, have we been told to leave our emotions at home? I don’t think anyone really knows. We can only speculate.
What I do know is that my emotions have helped me understand where I am. They have kept me safe, they have warned me before I headed down the wrong path.
There are times when I am in another city, one less familiar to me, and while walking, I get a feeling of unease. I am not sure why, but if the feeling continues, I will change direction until I am comfortable again. As much as I would like to claim that I am in tune with myself, the truth is that in the past I did not honour that feeling, and ended up in a very rowdy part of town. As a single woman walking, it was not something I wanted to experience again.
And then there was the website development project that I was working on that was very frustrating. The more I pushed to complete it, the more I used my head to drive it home and the more it went wrong. I was at my end — spent. I was powerless. The lessons of hindsight taught me that I should have identified my emotional state of frustration and shifted the direction of the project completely.
I now strongly believe, (actually I know), that our emotions are our guidance system. Our emotions, like the GPS in our vehicles, indicate where we are in our self. And once we know that, we need to only shift to be where we want to be. The writings of Abraham-Hicks, author of The Law of Attraction, have crystallized this notion in my head. Abraham-Hicks articulates the importance of using emotions to identify where you are, like pessimism, and reaching for a better feeling thought, like contentment, to get closer to the state of joy.
What a phenomenal tool this is at our disposal! Some of us actively use emotions, such as when you get a “gut feeling” about someone you meet for the first time. When I was working on the website development project, had I used the tool of my guidance system to identify that the project was moving in the wrong direction, I could have shifted my direction to produce a successful outcome.
It was my colleague, Anthony, who gave me the final key: In order to share our emotions at work, we need to be able to trust one another. We need to be respectful. If a colleague is so frustrated that he or she cries, don’t judge him or her. Be worthy of the trust that he or she is placing at your feet. Respect the person and what is being shared with you and only you (this means no gossiping). Soon enough your colleague will shift his or her emotions to where he or she wants to be.
In the past maybe we were taught to leave our emotions at home because there was no possibility of trusting one another. It was a way to protect our self from such deep disappointment. As I already admitted, I don’t know.
What I do know is that we are now capable of trusting and respecting each other at work. The feeling that tells me that trust exists and will continue to expand at work is beyond hope, beyond optimism — it is belief. And that’s what I am passionate about.