Recently I’ve been enjoying the television series The Crown, and find my thoughts returning to a scene where Queen Mary explains to her granddaughter the young Queen Elizabeth, the importance of remaining impartial:
“To do nothing is the hardest job of all. And it will take every ounce of energy that you have. To be impartial is not natural, not human. People will always want you to smile or agree or frown and the minute you do, you will have declared a position, a point of view…and that is the one thing as Sovereign that you are not entitled to do.” “Well that’s fine for the Sovereign… but where does that leave me?” Queen Elizabeth responds sadly.
It strikes me this conversation is not limited to royalty. Many of us are in service related professions where we routinely perform duties that may not be in line with personal beliefs or preferences. Putting on a “game face” is part of the job, and a display of emotion can compromise our ability to do so effectively.
Soldiers are asked to go onto the battlefield, defending a cause they may not believe in. They do not have the privilege of evaluating whether they want to advance when ordered to do so.
Police are asked to place themselves in the midst of violent situations, working to protect those who, a moment earlier, may have been threatening them.
Paramedics repeatedly respond to calls at the same house for drug overdoses.
To be of service means, by definition, to put our needs aside and tend to those of others. There comes a time, though, when we need to put ourselves first. Recognizing what we are experiencing, and finding a safe place to work through the emotional residue.
Only then do we truly care for ourselves. Separate and distinct from the work we do.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong