3. Our Community is "Teched Off"


Listen:

Hey everybody, it’s Monday September 28th of the glorious year 2020, the year that just keeps on giving. Today is Yom Kippur. That is the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar. It is the day of Atonement. 


It is also Hispanic Heritage month. Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.


The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. And with that, it is now time for a moment of SEL.


Did you know that the concepts of joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust and all other emotions were just one day made up by someone? Okay maybe not like in one day, they took time to develop into our social reality, but it’s true, they don’t really exist outside of the fact that we believe they do.  


Mr. Manzo has a friend. Mr. Manzo’s friend thinks that what really allows planes to fly is our collectively belief that they can. If we all suddenly thought they couldn’t, they wouldn’t. That’s terrifying, why are you sharing this?


I guess it illustrates a point. Words (or some variety of expressive language) are the things we use to help us understand and communicate concepts. Concepts like flight, soccer, school, rain, remote learning, and even emotions. When we use words to describe something we are helping share in the concept of that thing. So, when you say you are feeling sad, the word sad lets my brain predict across all the cultural instances of things it understands as sad, until it is able to find the most appropriate one. This allows us to connect with one another in healthy community ways. 


Here’s an example. If your friend told you they were walking down a street and somebody started chasing them and they felt scared and they ran away your brain would start predicting your own instances with feeling scared until it found one that matched in a similar cultural context. That would be an instance of scared where you felt you were in danger and needed to escape. 


But if your brain made a predication of an instance of fear that also had some joy in it like walking through a Haunted House with your friends at a Halloween carnival, you might not be able to connect with your friend in the way that would bring you closer. In fact, if you shared your instance of scared with a hint of delight it might be a miscue for your friend. Or it might open a new category of danger/thrill, who knows. 


Well that’s the point. Who knows? No one. No one knows until the concept is created and shared and used. And that’s another part of what community does. Communities create and share and use concepts together, particularly emotion concepts. 


Here’s something you can do for your community. You can make up new emotion concepts for things that happen in your community. Then you can share what those emotion concepts are with others and if they work maybe they’ll use them too. The more specific the better. 


Here’s an example. Have you ever been in a remote learning class and right as someone starts to share the audio totally cuts out and their face freezes usually in some way that looks like they’ve been called toward some great light? We call this getting Tech Blocked.

Jackson: When this happens, you may notice a surge of unpleasantness combined with a surge of energy. Now we could just call this anger or frustration, but that’s not specific enough for us. 


The specific feeling we may have when our stupid internet freezes right with our stupid faces looking particularly dopey, right when we are about to share is in fact called being Teched Off. When you experience an instant of being Teched Off you can now say, “I’m teched off” and we can start to recognize some of the accompanying thoughts of being Teched Off.


Maybe it’s thoughts like, “Am I going to punch a hole in this screen?” or, “Is this computer about to take flight out this room?” or “Why have I been foresaken?” 

Kai: We can start to recognize how the body feels when it is Teched Off. Maybe there is tension in the hands and arms. Maybe there is a scowl on the face or maybe there is energy in the legs to walk around. 


Maybe when you are Teched Off you want to express yourself by yelling at someone. Maybe you want to shake whoever it is that purchased Microsoft Teams for Business for our schools by the shoulders and demand to know what is wrong with them. Or maybe you want to just close your laptop and be done with school for the year. 


All of those could be in your desire for expression. However, we would not be building community with others if we were to indulge in those desires. Instead we can think about pro-social ways to express ourselves when we are Teched Off. 


Here’s a good way to start. Smile, shake your head, take a deep breath, exhale it with some volume, stretch your arms. Try to find that we are living in absurd times. Instead of saying “why am I being Teched Off?” you would want to find the humor in this and say, “My turn for being Teched Off”


With all that is going on in the world, why should any of us be so special as to not be a part of it? Demand for more Teched Off time! Then calmly, when you can add to the Infinity Chat that comes with Microsoft Teams for Business the words, “Hey, I just got Teched Off!” And then everyone else can say, “I know how that feels” and just like that, we’ve got community!


Yes it is okay to invent new feeling words for specific instances of emotion experience. That’s actually a thing called emotion granularity. Specific words for specific feelings that can come from specific events. 


If you are interested in sending in your own new emotion language for emotion experiences than by all means do it. Send Mr. Manzo an email. In the email write the specific event that is happening and then write the specific feelings in your body and your thoughts. You can use current folk taxonomy words like anger, joy, sadness but do give us the new word that describes the specific feeling. 


We’ll do our best to share your new words here. Until then, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.


And if one of those feelings is Teched Off, great! Join the club!

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