“Did you hear about what happened in a school?”
I brought up the topic over dinner because I wanted to create a space for discussion.
“Oh, the murder.” My 15 year old acknowledged.
“Someone died?” My 11 year old asked.
“In Singapore?” The 7 year old queried.
“Why?” The 9 year old quizzed.
“A 13 year old boy was found dead in a school toilet with multiple stab wounds. The suspect is a 16 year old boy and an axe is the possible murder weapon.”
I kept the account brief and objective because I was aware how my perspective could cloud theirs. I was mindful to create a neutral space of listening for their responses.
“So, how do you feel? What is one or two words to describe how you feel when you hear this news?”
“Nothing,” my eldest nonchalantly answer.
“Shocked. In Singapore?” It was obvious it was the first time the 11 year old was hearing this.
“Angry” was the one-word from the 9 year old.
“Sad,” pouted the 7 year old.
Their answers gave me an insight to the unique perspectives each had.
The eldest saw it as distant. An occurring outside of her immediate world. She was more concerned about completing her homework than processing the current topic. I didn’t make her feel bad because it is normal to let selected things into our world while keeping others out. We do not have to get emotionally involved with everything that is happening all the time. That would be overwhelming.
The second allowed the news into her bubble/world. She identified with how close it was to home. When asked why she was shocked, she said it was in safe Singapore, did not involve a gun and she was a student who used the toliet. She could easily relate with how close it struck to home and was willing to connect emotionally with it being a possible reality for her.
The third child was angry at the boy for inflicting pain on the victim. Why would he do that? She was trying to make sense of it. Understanding that she has a strong inner sense of justice was easy for me to imagine those judging voices in her head, trying to rationalise right and wrong, to comprehend fairness.
The youngest was sad because she felt ‘it’s like killing his own brother.’ While she struggled to express herself more, her response was consistent with her general empathy for others. She would comfort her sibling when they were down or cry while watching a movie.
I wanted to empower each to process their emotions, and reminded the girls of our 5Cs.
Feelings are an easy anchor to get us present in the moment.
I shared how Mummy was sad. Like really, really sad because I can’t imagine what either boy was going through leading up to the event. And the emotional pain families would be processing. I was present to the lost of a life.
Being conscious provides a space to now choose an action that serves.
Its so easy to label one person bad and to blame someone (anyone!) in the face of any loss. That's when we can choose.
“Instead of judging another, I want us to look at how WE have been careless with our OUR words and actions. I don’t think the older boy planned for the entire incident, do you? When we are angry, we say harsh words and lash out in the heat of the moment. How often have you done that to your sibling? Mummy to you? Where does that leave the other person? Let’s remind ourselves to have compassion - for ourselves and others, because, how are we any better?”
We use words to best express what we feel. I asked how each of you felt to gain an insight into where you are at. Of course, as we gain a new pespective or process an emotion, we shift through different spaces. Feelings, nonetheless are always real, valid and true. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's okay to feel indifferent, scared, lonely and jeolous. All the emotions we've been told to hide is not healthy. So, learn to identify your feelings. They are nature's bio-mechanism to guide you through life if you will take time to listen.
Emotions are an internal compass that helps us understand ourselves better. Every feeling is a signpost that clues us in to what’s important for YOU at the moment. So, there are no ‘bad’ emotions, because they all point towards something that needs your attention. I shared the deeper wisdom of their 4 feelings and asked if it made sense.
Apathy is a bubble we encase ourselves within to insulate us from having to deal with something we have decided is of no interest or threat at the moment. Perfectly human.
Shock is when your inner world has expanded to process new information. There is no match with your old mental files and your acceptance of a new reality broadens your mind.
Anger is an inner cry that says ‘What is happening here is unfair!’
What is a specific action you can take to bring fairness to the circumstance? Or is there just a perspective tweak that shifts your lenses?
Sadness is the voice that says “I have lost someone or something important to me.” Identifying the significant person, object or dream creates a space to now newly create something of meaningful value again.
In reminding them our lives are part of a larger whole, I provided a context for them.
“When you go back to school, what could you do to make a difference? Start allowing others into your world? Refuse to be a part of gossip by ending it or providing a different perspective of compassion? Choose to include someone who normally sits alone? Write an encouraging note to someone? Share about the secret language of emotions so your friends can process theirs?”
“Instead of a bystander, we are all a part of what happens in the bigger world, all of it. The positive, painful, sad and devastating events.
Let’s each choose an action we can commit to. Maybe it’s to start empathising more. Or to heal our own hurts instead of adding to the collective pain in the world. It could be to stand for justice or relook at how we can broaden our old perspectives. Or to move forward in creating new treasured memories so we do not live in the past.”
In whichever spaces you are in, different emotions form that unique inner compass to signal possible directions to head towards. Identifying the wisdom of different feelings mean we can now take actions towards what brings us peace and away from what doesn’t serve us.
Numbing our sentiments or denying the negative ones maybe a natural defence mechanism we have learnt to protect ourselves. Why not, instead, allow ourselves to experience a wider range of emotions?
As we allow ourselves to experience the lows of pain, fear and anguish, the opposite highs of elation, love and joys become accessible. Unexplainable. Only experienced.
May our presence illuminate emotional spaces huge enough for people around us to freely experience their emotions with no guilt, shame or condemation. As we expand to accomodate and process our different emotions, we model a richer and fuller expression of humanity for our kids.
Life is an adventure. Living within a narrow range is such a limited way to experience life in its entirety. Embrace the painful, angry emotions. Have the uncomfortable conversations that you have been avoiding, because that's how we grow.
There is no growth in comfort, & definitely no comfort in growth. But the expansion, joys and accomplishments transforms us. Permutation. A beautiful evolution.