Some of last year’s students were a real struggle for me (see Dealing with a Bipolar Student… and Burnout Blues) , and I have been thinking a lot about how to move on from those negative experiences and not carry those wounds with me into a new school year and a whole new crop of excited, nervous, vulnerable college freshmen.  One of the most useful insights came from a totally unexpected source.  A dear friend of mine, a Quaker and an MBA, is also a Tarot card reader.  She offered me a free reading for my birthday, so for my very first Tarot card reading ever we looked at my writing and my teaching.  The “spread” on writing turned up a lot of cards having to do with work and stamina and fortitude (sigh.)

The spread on teaching, however, turned up lots of messages about change, and the most important card, the “sky of the situation” card covering it all, was the King of Cups, which represents control and balance of emotions.  The interpretation was that I could become very good at teaching if I could gain control of my emotions. The corollary implication was that lack of that control is holding me back as a teacher.  Hmmm.  Temper.  Hurt feelings.  Disappointment.  Impatience.  Those kinds of emotions??  Gotta say that seems right on target as the issue that is keeping me struggling as a teacher.

So, having this information tucked away in my psyche, I went to an “empathic life coach” for another issue of being stuck in my life.  The life coach took this issue of emotions much further, explaining that I was (this feels embarrassing to write – it sounds so self-important) also an empath, and my challenge was to not absorb the emotions of everyone else.  Aha!  I was picking up and carrying students’ emotions.  Aha!!!!  That was such a liberating realization – that maybe all that irritability wasn’t just coming from me, but was more a reflection of students’ emotional struggles.  My emotions felt so childish and out of control and I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from – they didn’t feel like me, and I didn’t recognize myself in them.  Seeing them as a reflection of others’ feelings makes so much sense to me.

I have a colleague who has a very even temperament, and I watch him in awe.  I couldn’t imagine moving through life with such equanimity, but I truly envied his constant composure.  Maybe that demeanor is actually a possibility for me now that I am learning to protect myself from others’ emotions while still remaining open to life.  I’ll let you know how it goes.