Lea Isabell – Let’s Talk
“Weeeeeeellllllll.. we are back!” – As Chris Roberts often says when he starts the show. We want to welcome you to a very important column by one of our support columns and we are learning with you here. Lea Isabell, has studied the emotional effects of lockdown and has taken it upon herself to teach us all a bit about how to be better, more in tune with ourselves, and generally more happy. So intead of talking more, LET’S READ. Enjoy.
Illustrations by Lea Isabell
Text by Lea Isabell
Intro by Roland Hoogwater
Have you ever wondered what is going on inside your homie’s head? I mean: besides skateboarding? I realized in the last years as a skateboarder that nobody actually talks about their feelings or in fact, any life stuff that is going on in their day-to-day. I mean, I understand, you don’t really go to a skatepark to talk to your friends about that kind of stuff. You are there to skate. But besides that, the conversations are still mostly focused on skateboarding. It seems like to some degree the skateboarding scene is always focused on the fun that skateboarding brings to our lives. But why is it so hard to admit or to articulate that we are more than just skaters, we are three-dimensional people?
Here are two ideas I had:
- The skateboard as an instrument to displace negative emotions: You woke up in a bad mood, you’re stressed about school, work, relationships. Let’s not think about it, or maybe later. Let’s go skate and not think about this shit! Skateboarding offers a good stress relief that allows you to change your mindset positively. The process of learning, practicing, failing, and succeeding in skateboarding is the main reason endorphins* get released into the body, causing you to feel different. (*hormones that cause you to feel happy).
- Many people have problems articulating their emotions and feelings. Because of that, it’s not easy for others to become aware of people’s needs. Especially when it comes to asking for help in general or in the form of a conversation (deep talk). Not in the least because in large sections of society it’s still understood as a sign of weakness, even when the need is a simple talk.
In some sense, it is nice to be able to just forget about things that bother you. But other times, it can also be quite dangerous when you do not give yourself the time and space to be sad or angry. We need to recognize our feelings because, sometimes we are carrying feelings around without us knowing why we feel them in the first place. Maybe skating will help us in the short term, but from a long-term perspective, it is not solving our problems. So instead of going to the skatepark, I will provide you with some theoretical knowledge to help you understand yourself and others in a more efficient way.
Often we get confronted with a specific situation and mistakenly think this situation is the reason for our feelings, behaviors, and reactions. Some of us also tend to use these situations as an excuse, in case we didn’t behave/ react well.
“This guy stood in front of the ledge in the park, so, I pushed him out of the way and told him he’s a jerk.”
The problem we have with this explanation is, that not everyone would react the same way. It is possible that the same person would react differently, on a different day.
“This guy stood in front of the ledge, so, I asked him nicely if he could stand somewhere else.”
So if you are a person, that carries a lot of negativity, anger, and stress, you get provoked more easily and are more likely to act aggressively or rudely. The same goes for people who are trapped in negative thought patterns. If you think the whole world is against you, you tend to think everyone is pissing you off, to piss you off.
“This guy is standing in front of the ledge just to piss me off, I will let him know he should not start a war he cannot win!’’
But, if you are a person that has a peaceful mind and you have healthy thought patterns, you tend to act in a nicer way. If someone is pissing you off, you find a realistic and efficient solution to deal with the problem.
“This guy is standing in front of the ledge, maybe he didn’t see that I wanted to skate it!’’
Every situation we experience in our daily life leads us to think about these types of actions. Sometimes we do not even recognize there was a situation. But even when it is the case, it is based on our individual thoughts and experiences. Our feelings, behaviors, and reactions are the result of those individual thought patterns, which are constructed by experiences, emotions, norms, and values. While reading this, you may stumble over two words that are quite similar, but they are not so similar in meaning at all: Emotions and feelings. It’s important to understand the difference, so you can understand your inner workings and patterns:
Emotions are physical, instinctual, and coded in our genes. They are generally universally, similar across all humans and also other species (you smile, and your dog wags its tail). Because they’re physical, they can be objectively measured by blood flow, brain activity, facial expressions, and body language.
Feelings are a mental portrayal of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion. They are sparked by feelings and influenced by thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked to that particular emotion for you and it even works the other way around too. If you think about something that triggers you, you can provoke specific emotions.
While basic emotions are instinctual and common to us all, the feelings they prompt are individually based on our past and present. Feelings are shaped by a person’s temperament and experience and very different from situation to situation and person to person.
Your emotions and feelings play a powerful role in how you experience and interact with the world because they are the driving force behind many behaviors, helpful and unhelpful.
Reflecting on what we have learned so far, we can sum up the following points:
- Treat people with kindness. No one is leaving the house with the intention to make someone else’s life miserable.
- If someone is acting rude, don’t take it too personally. Most people have a big fight with themselves and just don’t know how to manage things differently.
- If there is a specific situation that stresses you out, take your time to think about how you want to react and what points you want to make clear. Just ask for a moment, a day, or even longer. Most people will understand.
- It is okay to react in the wrong way. We are humans and everyone makes mistakes. But it’s not okay to not apologize for them.
- Another really important point is: Be nice to people! You never know what they are struggling with and it is always more satisfying to make someone else smile, instead of bringing them to tears.
After this little digression, we are now able to understand how complex our thought-patterns are. In the following section, I want to explain why we need to articulate our feelings, so we can understand and healthily deal with them.
I will, again, provide you with some theoretical input. Maybe at first, the input will sound a little abstract to you. But in the end, it will make a lot of sense – I promise! I want to introduce you to Ernst Cassirer.
Ernst Cassirer was a German-philosopher that lived between 1874 and 1945 and became well known for his main work on cultural-philosophy “The philosophy of symbolic forms’’. I will only present you with the philosophical content, that is relevant to our topic. Cassirer said that the human mind is the unity of consciousness and symbolic forms. The symbolic world of form results from the combination of sense and sensuality. Thus, for Cassirer, the mind cannot seize itself but is dependent on mediation through sensual content. To put that in normal terms: The human is only able to understand itself through symbolic forms which we build into our culture. One important symbolic form is language. Language is not only there to describe reality but is also a transmitter of values. Everything we built up in our mind is constructed through it. Have you ever thought about a situation without using words in your mind? That’s the factor I wanted to point out.
To understand our feelings and emotions, we have to articulate them through words and that’s not always that easy! So here are some questions that could help you to transmit your feelings into words, so, you can understand them and your past behavior:
What happened? (who, where, when? -keep it objective.)
What do I think about it? (how did I feel in this situation and how do I feel now? You can also google a list of words that describe feelings with their definition, in case you can’t find the right words.)
Why do I think that way? (what is the reason for my feelings, what kind of experiences have lead me to behave/ feel like that?)
How could the situation be interpreted in another way? (try to change your perspective)
How do I want to react in the future? (what could I change? – always keep in mind that it has to be something you can change. You will not be able to change the weather or a person, but you can change how you deal with it)
Back to the example:
I was at the skatepark, a guy stood in front of the ledge. So, I was not able to skate it. I pushed him away and called him a jerk.
What do I think about it?
I was angry about the situation, I couldn’t skate the ledge, I thought the guy was being ignorant or wanted to piss me off.
Why do I think that way?
On this particular day, I was in a bad mood. I often think the whole world is against me when I feel that way.
How could the situation be interpreted differently?
The guy didn’t see that I wanted to skate the ledge. The person was daydreaming, in his thoughts, etc.
How do I want to react in the future?
Next time I will ask him nicely to get out of the way. I don’t want to let my old thought patterns turn me into an unfriendly person.
In addition, I will introduce some communication models, some of which I found helpful. Nonviolent-communication and supportive-communication. Nonviolent-communication is a good way to mention problems you experienced with friends and family. It’s a good way to explain yourself and a good way to work out a solution. Supportive communication is something that helps you to talk to someone who is going through a hard time. Lots of people experience fear when someone tells them that they are not fine because they don’t want to make it worse while saying something wrong.
Nonviolent communication has some similarities to the questions I already put together for you. This is the next step after you answered the questions for yourself. The difference is that now, you already thought about your feelings, your needs, and your wishes. You also brought the results of those thoughts to a conversation with someone else. Another difference is, that you describe what you expect from a person or what your needs are in a friendship or in a relationship.
“Last week you pushed me and called me a jerk because I stood in front of the ledge. I felt disrespected, attacked and it triggered a lot of fear in me. I need a respectful surrounding. Are you willing to warn me next time in a respectful way?”
Supportive communication has an easy guiding principle: The feelings of a person should always be respected and never equalized. Every person has his or her truth, so act with kindness and the way you would like other people to treat you.
Always keep in mind:
Your emotions and feelings are real and have the right to exist, but don’t let them turn you into a jerk. Talk about them! Put your feelings in little packages (words) and let them out of your mouth. When you don’t want to talk to someone, because it is too intimidating for you. Try practicing it in front of the mirror! It can help a lot! And if you have feelings for a person, no matter if it is anger, love, or something else, try to get rid of them through conversation. It is a truly liberating step. Also, remind yourself, you don’t have to do it at the skatepark. Just ask your friends if they have five minutes after the session, I believe most people will take time for you and if it’s not after the session, I bet they will put some time aside for you in the next few days!