Published on:

26th Feb 2023

Calm Your Emotions, Chapter by Chapter

Though I wasn’t the best student in school, I was able to develop a close friendship with my high school English teacher, Mr. Locke.

I’m not sure why he took an interest in me, but I suppose a convenient narrative is that he’s the reason I ended up as a writer, and I have him to thank for all of it. Unfortunately, that would be false to say, as it’s not remotely what we talked about most of the time.

Throughout the whole year, it was enlightening to ask him about the books we were reading for class and what he actually thought about them. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? Overrated. The Great Gatsby? His favorite of all time. Of Mice and Men? He preferred the movie.

However, things got really interesting when the end of the year drew close and he started to open up about the people in my class—my peers. Of course, this was a dream come true for me: an adult willing to gossip with me about my fellow students. Looking back, it was wildly inappropriate for Mr. Locke to engage in such topics with me, but it’s not like the teachers weren’t doing it amongst themselves, anyway.

He let me in on a little secret of his: Whenever he had to give negative feedback, he would always make sure to try to build up the individual student a couple days before. He would do this to make sure their self-esteem, at least in the realm of his class, was sufficiently high, such that his negative feedback wouldn’t have as big of an impact. He wanted students to not take things so personally and to be able to separate his comments on their work from them as a person. Too many students in the past had received his feedback in less than ideal ways. He wanted them to hear, “This paper could use work,” not “You need work.”

My teenage mind was blown away, and I told him that he was so clever to use “Jedi mind tricks” on his students. He told me there were a few students he would do this on more than others because he felt they had low self-esteem or he knew they were being bullied outside of his class. My adult mind still admires him and thinks that he had tremendous insight into how people worked—especially future adults who were still figuring themselves out and had fragile egos. It wasn’t until much later that I realized he was helping students gain emotional resilience through raising their self-esteem.

Self-esteem is an essential component of emotional resilience and is often deemed the immune system of emotions. When it’s high, you can handle what’s thrown your way, and when it’s low, you are more likely to collapse under scrutiny. Mr. Locke had somehow dialed into that and instilled that into his students.

Emotional resilience is a trait that is like the background music in a movie. When it’s there, you don’t notice it and it seems that scenes just fit together without a hitch. However, if it’s missing, suddenly words are taken the wrong way, everything feels wrong, and the scene falls apart. In other words, you notice it when you need it, but not when you don’t.

Therein lies the conundrum of resilience, emotional stability, and strength in the face of tragedy and despair—how do you get it before you need it, and how do you know if you don’t have it? The ugly truth is that none of us are naturally born with it.

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About the Podcast

Voice over Work - An Audiobook Sampler
Audiobook synopsises for the masses
You know that guy that reads all the time, and always has a book recommendation for you?

Well, I read and/or produce hundreds of audiobooks a year, and when I read one that has good material, I feature it here. This is my Recommended Listening list. These choices are not influenced by authors or sponsors, just books worthy of your consideration.

About your host

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Russell Newton