Emotional Mindfulness

Emotional mindfulness. It’s not something that comes up in the context of work too often, unless we’re talking about work-life balance. That sort of balance is not what I’m writing about here.

Here’s the catalyst to get me thinking about emotions, actions, mindfulness, and the need to be mindful of my workplace emotional self.

It was supposed to be a pretty routine meeting with a colleague about preparing material for campus presentation on international students and academic integrity. In our search for some specifics we we found out the campus-only conference was cancelled. But it took us 2 phone calls of us reaching out to campus office to learn about it.

Then the discussion moved to a different topic – a project that had been transferred from the initial sole responsibility of the subject librarian to the department I work in (which is basically the teaching and learning department at the library). Somewhere in this discussion there came to be some huge misunderstandings of words and phrases that were not intended by the speaker but the listener certainly felt they heard it.

These feelings fed into the misunderstanding because we were each unable to communicate clearly and objectively without taking on a stance of defensiveness. It took real work to power through and figure things out together. And by the end, through my own emotional investment and an overwhelming sense of empathy (and sympathy), I had to leave through a haze of hurt feelings, a few tears, and lump in my throat. Not exactly normal – especially since I feel I do rather well to maintain a pretty level approach to most everything while at work.

These feelings, though, hung around for a couple of days, intermittently, while at work. There’s so much about mindfulness, reflective practice, and daily life at work that is focused on the cognitive and intellectual aspects of ourselves. Being mindful of my emotions took a much greater amount of work on my part. Letting go of an idea – while sometimes difficult – proved to be much easier than letting go of emotions.

My process for all of this has been: to stop dwelling on the conversation and the words and phrases that triggered my emotional response (which is to say that I’m trying not to be judgmental of both myself and the other person); to let the meeting exist in its own place in time; to accept that it is up to me to control my (re)actions – to feel slighted by a conversation with someone else is fine, to hold on to those feelings and base my actions on those feelings and perceptions is on me.

So much of our working lives (at least in the academic / instruction librarian section) focus on both our own and our students intellectual and cognitive engagement that our emotional selves can be lost or pushed out of the way.


Extra note: I would like to give a hat tip to the blogs Rule Number One and Librarian Burnout. They both provide perspectives about engagement, cognition, emotions, and the ‘self’ in ways that get me thinking about my own environment.