What We Can't Talk About, Will Cost Us
Photo by David Robertson via Flickr
Rage. Anger. Envy. Terror. Fear. Grief. Sadness. Depression. Stress.
Is it normal to:
- Feel these things? Yes.
- Encounter them in others? Of course.
- Discuss them openly at a staff meeting? That would be no.
- Devote an entire workplace training curriculum to managing them? Not normally.
- Require that students pass an emotional fitness test before graduating? Unheard of!
- At any given moment, 1 out of any 10 people are clinically depressed.
- In elementary school, 9 out of 10 children have been bullied by their peers.
- At work, more than 1 out of 3 Americans have been bullied.
- "Work-related stress accounts for 1/3 of all new incidents of illnesses."
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (from abuse, assault, war, illness, and more) is suffered from by 4% of the general population, 12-13% of Iraq war veterans, and in one study, up to 25% of former foster children and is associated with a host of mental and physical problems
- Bereavement, grief and loss leads to "physical ailments" that are often "cascading illnesses" and is a primary cause of suicide
- Chronic stress is associated with a host of illnesses, including heart problems, pain, diabetes, infertility, headaches, and possibly even susceptibility to and recovery from cancer
- Why do we not, as a society, take feelings seriously?
- Why do we not incorporate feelings - the good, the bad, and the ugly - into everyday conversation?
- Why do we not make it safe to talk about conflicts before they mushroom into catastrophes?
More questions, unanswered:
- Why don't we invest more time and money in preventing conflicts from exploding?
- Do we somehow think it is better to wait until after the fact - after the outburst, after the shooting, after the military conflict - to shake our heads and say "Isn't that terrible?"
- On the macro level it means institutionalizing social systems that support healthy emotional functioning: support for parents, education for young people regarding emotional health and conflict management, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to deal with problems before they become civil actions, and so on. And of course, ensuring that medical insurance covers behavioral health, with an emphasis on preventive health.
- On the organizational level that means factoring conflict in to workplace training and human resources policies. The emotional well-being of staff is critical to their ability to be productive - heck, to show up to work in the first place!
- On the personal level it means accepting yourself as human, and simply doing the best you can. Talking about your feelings, and trying to work with others when problems arise.