Err on the Side of Compassion

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Teachers were reacting
To an article about a former student
Who had been raped
Before she came to us
Who had not told anybody
Until after she left us

Nobody knew

How can we make sure that we know these things?
The teachers were asking

And they began to brainstorm

Student information system
Digital documentation
Communication applications

And I interrupted.

And what will you document?
You won’t know. Most of the time, you won’t know.

Then we need to ask, the teachers were saying. We need to inquire and open up that communication, and…

How?
Do you introduce yourself and ask, “Have you been raped?” Or go down the list of many, many, other possible traumas?

You won’t know. Most of the time, you won’t know.

Because you cannot know.

And did you know… it isn’t your right to know.

It isn’t your place to demand this information. You are not entitled to this.

Yes. Mandatory reporting, is a must
But until you have that trust
You might miss the signs, and the actual danger might be in the past.

Because those signs look different ways for different kids.
Often misinterpreted, or totally misread.

Trauma a year ago feels like trauma yesterday, so the past is now even though there’s nothing to report.

Yes, I know you want to help, and that this information would make it so much easier to do so. I understand this. But you won’t know. Most of the time, you won’t know.

So what can we do?

Err on the side of compassion.

If a student is struggling, assume that there is a good reason for it. Even if you are given what seems to be a weak reason, know that this may not be the only reason, or even the real reason… and err on the side of compassion.

No, this doesn’t mean become a doormat. This doesn’t mean putting up with you or others suffering abuse. I don’t speak of enabling bullying.

I speak of not being the bully.

I speak of creating a safe space. So maybe the student can share with you. If they… so choose.

I speak of empowering student voice. So they can have a say in their education, in their life, and move forward the best way they can. With or without telling you everything.

I speak of holding space. Say, I am here for you, if you need me. No judgment.

No judgment.

Err on the side of compassion.

The student who was a rape victim gained her voice over time. With a stronger voice, she was able to break her silence. And now she is serving as the voice of others.

SHE did this, this healing…. During the time she was with us. She blossomed. Without us ever knowing. We erred on the side of compassion.

So that’s what we continue to do.

For so many other students who come to us this way, this is what we do.

And there’s no app for that. This comes from heart.

 

 

 

Connections

No matter who you were talking to – teachers, parents, students – the connections that you have fostered … are really outstanding.

This is one of the things that most stood out to me during the accreditation renewal process. We’re not just a school. We have been called a “chosen family” of eclectic individuals. United in that we’re different. United in compassion. Connected.

And you don’t even have to technically be part of the school. “It starts even before they get here.” Tina, team lead of AdvancedEd noted. They get to talk to friendly voices on the phone, and they get their questions answered, and they get their fears addressed…”

She’s correct. I’ve lost count of how many people I have spoken with on the phone, or even sat down to tea with, just to connect. Now multiply that by how many team members take those calls, and that’s how many lives we have the privilege of touching. It doesn’t even matter if the school itself is the solution, and sometimes other options are recommended. We’re all connected. That connection is honored.

“That’s a critical component on why students are successful in this school.” Tina concluded. “They really are supported individually by multiple people. And that just makes all the difference.”

Yes. Yes it does.

There’s Nothing “Just” About Jealousy

aloneOh he’s just jealous. He’ll get over it. It’s a growing experience. Act jealous back and see how he likes it. Jealousy is a sin; there’s something wrong with you if you feel jealous. Get over it. 

Sound familiar?

The above statements are very common and usually applied in the context of romantic relationships. Today I saw variations of the above applied to discussing a child whose formative infant years included separation from his mother. Of course he’s jealous.

Whether it is this situation, or romantic jealousy, or other scenarios, the one thing we all need to remember is this:

Jealousy is a symptom – usually of needs being threatened or not met.

  • Insecurity – needing reassurance of one’s own value or that one’s needs will be met.
  • Need for time, attention, nurturing, and both physical and emotional safety.
  • Fear of loss, abandonment, and/or being replaced.
  • Competition jealousy – usually another symptom of any of the above. We want to be uniquely valued.

So how do you deal with jealousy?

If you are helping a child, the first step is to talk about the fears that the child has and ways to address them. That takes patience, spending one-on-one time, reassurance of love, and discussing the fears in a respectful way.

If it is a romantic partner or other relationship, it is much the same. Discuss the fears and where they are coming from. Explore ways to counter the fears. The fears could be real too; the person feeling jealous might have real reasons to fear loss, and this fear can even lead to behaviors that are self-fulfilling. If the fear cannot be eliminated, let’s at least deal with the issues in a respectful manner.

There is that word again: respectful. The worst way of dealing with jealousy is with judgment; compassion and respect are required instead.

Yes, some people have a greater tendency for jealousy. And you might decide that you cannot be in a relationship with someone who is prone to this symptom of their fears. Just understand that it is a symptom, especially if you are the one who experiences jealousy because your solution will be to build your self and your life in a way that allows for greater levels of security.

We also want to help our children avoid or counter jealousy, and this is important. Telling them that it shouldn’t happen or that it is just wrong is going to reinforce the jealousy. They are not “just jealous” – they are just exhibiting a symptom of some underlying issues that need to be dealt with. 

Those of us who learned as children that we could not trust that our parents would be there or protect us have some extra challenges. Some of us just don’t allow people to get close enough to hurt us and can proudly claim we don’t get jealous. Can’t be jealous when you don’t have a source of that fear! For those of us who do take that risk, it’s soul-deep.

Personally, I have the benefit of being aware of all of the above from a young age, so I used to not understand – and was admittedly irritated with – people who would get jealous. I had very little patience for it.  That doesn’t mean that I never had fear or hurt or even anger; it means that I always targeted the source of those emotions. Now that I understand why people experience jealousy, I can be more understanding. I can also help prevent jealousy of loved ones by being mindful of the sources, and having a clue on how to address issues when they do come up.

Because they are never just jealous. There’s no such thing.

 

 

 

Aspies Don’t Lack Empathy – Just the Opposite

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

A common trait that people associate with Asperger’s is the lack of empathy.  This misconception could be due to “normal people” lacking the ability to empathize with Aspies.  Chew on that irony for a moment.

First let me give you two sources who can explain this idea better than I, and then I will give you a glimpse into my own brain.

This has been an emotional topic for me. I am neurodivergent, and my world is rich with sensory perception sensitivity, compounded by forms of synesthesia and living as an empath. Sometimes I feel so much that I have to brace myself. It’s not just my own emotional and physical feelings, but those of others. If I care about the person, it’s intensified, but even a stranger’s emotions can touch me. And I mean touch me — where I am feeling the joy or anger or – sometimes – physical sensations that are supposed to stay put inside of that other individual. Add in synesthesia, and my eyes can strain from the changing lights that surround each person.

If I ground myself against the emotions, or motion with my hands as if to push away the feelings, I can come across as uncaring. Sometimes I have to the leave the room, regroup, and come back prepared for what I am walking into.  And sometimes I even feel anger and hurt at being assaulted by that other person pushing his or her emotions onto me, worse when there’s a demand that I only listen and “take it” instead of letting me try to fix it, to eliminate the source or to heal the person so we can both stop hurting.  However, sometimes it is important that the person go through that whole process, and it also isn’t always my place to “fix” anything.  Luckily there is a way I can meet this need without such harm to myself.

When allowed to be who I am and to use the strategies available to me, I can be my most powerful self – the self who is loving, nurturing, mentoring, healing, and creating.  It just needs to be on my terms, and – with the help of others able to empathize with me – I am learning what those are.  For example, I have honored some requests by parents to advocate for their student in a public school, and this usually involves sitting in a room with emotions running high from the teachers, parents, and especially the student, making sure everyone’s feelings and needs have been heard and understood. I can calmly direct that conversation with a balance of using empathy to guide me but, as far as people in the room can see, a gentle but solid power. They don’t know I’m trembling inside as I take each blow. If I weren’t allowed to put on my armor beforehand, I wouldn’t be successful.

A former boyfriend once described it this way. He sat across a table from me as he expressed anger, and then apologized when he realized he had been mistaken – a fact I knew the whole exasperating time as I tried to “just listen” to him, as he insisted, instead of eliminating the source of his hurt, which I finally did by saying a single sentence.  He described my demeanor during it all as calmly keeping multiple swords sheathed at my belt – a power kept in check. What he didn’t realize was that those were swords I kept collecting from him, sheathing them one by one in an effort to keep us both from being hurt. Either he was going to let me get a word in edge-wise or I was going to (figuratively) whack him over the head with the next one that came my way. Which pretty much describes our breakup.

I’m a messy empath, but I have learned much. The relationship noted above about killed me but served as the catalyst for me to become stronger and a better partner for my current relationships – all of which are a source of loving support and inspire me to be a better person. They are self-aware individuals who value the same traits that befuddle neurotypicals. It finally occurred to me that I had to be picky when it came to dating (and shouldn’t everybody do this for themselves?).  For me, I realized that I can only be that intimate with somebody who is highly capable of empathy, and I was more likely to find that among other neurodivergents. Including Aspies.

 

 

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