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Stop Pushing Down Your Emotions

Published 7/17/2020

In today's episode of Developer Tea, we're talking about the discomfort of silence and stillness, and how to face the quiet part of ourselves. 

Can you stay still without any distractions today for 1 minute and just listen to your own thoughts? 

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
If you could pause everything right now, stop thinking, stop working, even stop listening to this podcast. What would you feel? And specifically, what would you feel the need to do? That's what we're talking about in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help different developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. You probably already know this, but silence can be uncomfortable. And not just for the reasons of the audible sense that you can hear your heart beating, but also because silence, and when I say silence in this case, I mean, maybe true silence, but also stillness, not doing anything, can make us feel uncomfortable. Because it is usually in this kind of environment, this silent environment, that we have to face your unconscious self, or at least the quiet part. This is a very important part of you to become acquainted to. And as a developer, a lot of the time we keep ourselves busy, this particular persona doesn't tend to come out as often in our work because we have a lot of work to do. We tend to have tickets to turn through. And if we feel like doing something small, there's probably something small to do. But I want you to try, and it may feel very difficult, but I want you to try this stillness exercise of stopping everything that you're doing, and just noticing. Noticing whatever it is that you feel drawn to do next. What feels uncomfortable? And once you can notice what feels uncomfortable, we're not doing this just to feel that pain, but we're doing this instead because it's a different way of thinking. It allows us to process our thoughts in a different mode. So there's a few things to notice when you're doing this exercise, this exercise of stopping everything that you're doing, staying still, and then noting whatever you feel drawn to do, whatever you feel, some sense of urgency to do next. The few things that I want you to notice. Number one, why didn't you feel that before? Think about this for a second. If you are busy and then you stop being busy, right? If you stop whatever it is that you're doing, and now once you've stopped, you feel the urgency to do something totally different than you were doing before, then why weren't you doing that thing before? Most of the time, this is what we call procrastination, by the way. Most of the time, we procrastinate to avoid negative emotions about something. If you're new to Developer Tea and talking about your emotions as a part of your career may feel a little bit new or foreign, but as it turns out, our emotions are totally interwoven with what we do as engineers. So if you are trying to procrastinate, keeping yourself busy to avoid a negative emotion, it makes sense to at least understand what that negative emotion is. Mostly because that negative emotion probably points to something that could be resolved for you. Now, we're not talking about ethereal things that have nothing to do with your work. This may quite literally be a problem in the code that has been nagging at you, and you just haven't found the time to fix it, or maybe you don't have the knowledge to fix it. So the negative emotion that you are avoiding by procrastinating is the feeling that you're not smart enough to work on this code base, because you don't have the necessary skills. And so in order to come back that, you trick yourself into believing that you do have the necessary skills by staying busy. But what may be a better resolution is to build those skills, not to stay in that sense of debilitation or negativity, not to feel the emotion and then wallow in it, but instead to let it guide you. As a general rule, when we feel some kind of urgency, that urgency has an underlying basic need, a basic human need that we should address. And it may be that we don't know how to address it. It may be that we feel that addressing it is selfish or unprofessional. A great example of these basic needs is covered in Lara Hogan's book, Resilient Management. Lara Hogan brings up the Biceps framework, which she actually borrowed from Paloma Medina. Biceps stands for Belonging, Improvement, Choice, Equity, Predictability, and Significance. Each of these plays somewhat and not equally on every single person, but each of these has some level of influence on the way that we feel every day as it relates to our work. And for some of us, we are lacking heavily in belonging. Maybe we don't have a sense of belonging in our personal lives and we seek for that in our work, for example. But here's the critical kind of insight that I want you to take from this episode. And that is to connect to those feelings rather than pushing them away. We can subtly push our feelings away or we can push our thoughts away by staying busy. This helps us stay away from a sense of guilt as well. Of course, we're not doing something wrong by staying busy. We're doing our jobs. This avoids guilt, but it also avoids whatever that emotion is that would lead us towards a healthier version of ourselves and help us become better engineers, more in tune with our intuition and more confident in the work that we do. I encourage you instead of trying to push against your emotions to invite those emotions to lead you. This is very different, by the way, than allowing your emotions to define you. It's that you are not defined by your emotions, but rather your emotions are like signals from yourself to yourself. And sometimes those signals are too loud or maybe they're distorted. Maybe we're feeling an emotion for a completely irrelevant reason, and that's okay. But we shouldn't push our emotions away, especially the ones that feel the most uncomfortable because we will end up filling the void with something that kind of makes us numb to those emotions and this can dampen our own self intuition. Take time to connect with exactly what you're feeling in the moment. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer T and Lou of Visiting One of our wonderful sponsors. I'd love to ask you for a favor. Things and reviews are the best way to help other engineers like you find Developer Tea. So if you can go and leave a review, that will help us out tremendously. And it's not just a marketing push. I actually read every single one of these reviews and I take the feedback seriously. So please let me know what you like and what you don't. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. This episode and every other episode of Developer T can be found at spec.fm. And of course, in whatever podcasting app you're currently using. This episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.