Yesterday, a student of mine who just completed a big multi-period exam was going in and out of my classroom at the end of the day. Each time he came back into the classroom, he slammed my classroom door shut. Mind you this isn’t a typical classroom door. It’s a big wooden door that doesn’t exactly shut with a boom, but rather “clunk!”. By the 3rd time the door went “clunk!” compliments of the same exact student, even the most chill kids in the class were getting pretty ticked off at him.
The fact that this was the end of the day, and the day before Spring Break and everyone in the room was relaxing after the multi-hour test, I realized that the first two times of ignoring his behavior was not doing anything to mitigate this boy’s actions, nor was it adequately addressing what was largely a minor thing, that was perpetually happening. So, what did I do? I told the class that it seemed like he needed a hug, and everyone should get up and give him a big-hug! One of his classmates proceeded to get out of his seat and wrap his arms around him and give him a big hug. The boy appeared largely unmoved, as he literally just stood there like a statue as his friend was hugging him. But, at the same time, I think he appreciated the genuine hug from one of his best friends in the class.
Small moments like these, make me really enjoy teaching, and being around kids. It actually mellows me out when I’m able to facilitate and defuse an otherwise awkward/ mildly tense situation. It reminds me to just chill-out, whenever I’m in a funky mood or I’m reminded of something someone did that really ticked me off, or when I let my Ego get easily bruised and I want to tell everyone to F-Off! Maybe I’m the only one who has ever experienced these intense emotions. Or maybe I’m just the only person I currently know that is wanting to write about them.
Of course I recognize that there is a self-destructive streak in every person. Some, more prominent than others. I sometimes need to pause and remind myself of why I don’t want to sabotage something, and I look back and realize, many different occurrences over the course of my “illustrious” life, where I did. In the end, it turned out to be okay. At the very least it was okay in the sense that, I survived and I was given a new set of choices to play out from the consequences of my prior choices. Oftentimes it wasn’t actually all that grand. But, I also recognize sometimes self-destruction allows one to close the chapter on things, even if it is in spectacularly epic fashion. And I still get to start anew.
I’m using self-destruction, and self-sabotage interchangeably. Maybe this is a touchy subject, I know in some ways I do feel weird writing about it. But, at the same time, I don’t really care if it comes off as weird, because last I checked we are all afflicted by the same exact thing, and that thing is the human-condition. Some of us have just mastered certain skills that are deemed more desirable by polite society. And all of us do have a skill-set that can and often is replicated in some shape or form, whether it is good or bad.
Of course, when contemplating such an absurd yet fascinating question, I went to the place that many humans on the internet go and that is Google of course! “Why people are self-destructive”. Naturally I came across quite a bit of info. Instead of going to wikipedia, which in some ways is actually quite underrated nowadays, as it was so well noted in the powerful documentary “The Social Dilemma”, which I in fact did write a very brief review about! I came across a beautiful nugget of info when trying to understand the “Why” of “Self-Sabotaging Behavior”.
“The ability to process severe emotions, like those associated with trauma or grief, is not innate. It’s a skill that must be learned and practiced to help unwind those emotions so they can be put to rest.” https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/9153/self-destructive-behavior/#coping. I cherry-picked that quote in particular as it resonated with me. Even though the whole article I found to be worthwhile, (or at least the parts I thoroughly read, but even skimming the other parts was valuable).
I, like everyone else, is just going through it sometimes. I know it’s common for us to all say the after-affects of the pandemic has put us all in some kind of mood. But, honestly, I often think the pandemic has accentuated certain skill-sets many of us already had that we just need to lean into more. That, and our society has been sick for some time now. It’s just that when you are sick, yet still functional you largely ignore what’s ailing you. Lately our society has gotten *more sick and increasingly less functional*. Clearly, it’s not good. But at the same time, it’s no longer an open secret that nobody talks about. Instead it’s kind of out in the open nowadays, but we still aren’t very good at talking about it. Of course this too is another skill to develop.
*Disclaimer: Saying our society is less functional is clearly open to interpretation. I suppose I’m just using my platform (right here) to give you my interpretation of what’s going on, and how I’m internalizing life as it is happening.
I’m still pondering why people are self-destructive. There are oh so many tempting rabbit holes to go down when deliberating on such a thing. In the end I realize that is a question I have been trying to unpack for myself. Obviously, I need to take a step back first, and ask “where have I been self-destructive”? That’s a story for another day. But, one student’s somewhat annoying behavior, and the other student’s rather uplifting behavior in the very next moment, in a lot of ways really made my day.
Thanks for reading!
PS – If you enjoyed this piece or other recent pieces of mine, you might enjoy this one, which gives you a little glimpse into why I write! Pun intended LOL https://joshoffthepress.com/2017/02/05/why-i-write/