Maybe I’m just rebranding empathy. Maybe I just had a hankering for some word play.
Somewhere sandwiched between Siggy Freud’s Id, Superego, and Ego is the Unself, the part of us that lets the other three play in a messy psychological sandbox while we think about everyone else’s sandbox.
For some (actually, for far too many), this part of ourselves is underdeveloped, malnourished, absent. But for educators, the unself becomes the self.
The faraway look of an otherwise present colleague.
The deafening silence of a staff meeting.
The muted smile of a kid with good news she can’t wait to share if only someone would ask.
The unself notices it all, sending tiny pinpricks of awareness to the rest of our brain, urging us to check in, to smile, to ask, “you okay?”
Oftentimes, we end up in a wrestling match with the unself, ping-ponging between the desire to help and the guilt of choosing not to. Because the unself doesn’t tell us how to intervene; it only sends us a signal that we need to intervene.
Moreover, there is no unself conscious manual replete with if-then scenarios and Venn diagrams. There is no unself conscious badge we can flash while exclaiming, “It’s okay, everyone! I’m an empath!” There is no easy unself conscious response to folks who don’t want our help and who not-so-politely ask us to mind our own business while we whisper under our breath, “but you are my business.”
Despite all the messiness, the variables, and the imbalance, ask any unself conscious educator if they would consider toning it down a bit, sitting out a few plays, focusing on the actual self and they’ll all tell you the same thing.
I don’t know how.