The ‘equ…’ what?
Yes, the word is not a buzzword like being ‘mindful’ or doing ‘meditation’ but equanimity should be a word every interpreter should look into.
What is equanimity all about?
Equanimous (adjective) means calm and composed. Some may even say serene, collected, or even peaceful.
Equanimity (noun) means having a calm mind under stress or having the emotional stability to be undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, trauma, pain, or other experiences that may cause us to lose the balance of our minds.
Being undisturbed is different from being indifferent. Undisturbed is having the rational ability to avoid events entering our sacred space.
No, we do not need to follow Buddhism, or practice yoga, nor follow any other religion. What we need is to understand how our minds and emotions work to alert us to when we are losing that poetic balance needed for serenity.
Translate all this to interpreting and you can see that being equanimous is a desirable asset.
How do we get there?
As the saying goes, ‘there are no shortcuts to any place worth going’. Everywhere worth going needs learning and practice. This takes time. Just because we are interpreters that does not define us. We are human beings with different morals, cultures, education, and aspirations. What habits we acquired from childhood and/or from peers and family will reflect in our future personal or professional relationships.
In the same way, we followed a long journey to be where we are today, we need to continually question ourselves if we are being true to ourselves in our private lives and if we are leading the lives we chose for ourselves.
Interpreting, as the profession we choose, will surely have an impact on our personal lives, we may arrive late home, be tired to spend time with our loved ones, overlook private events in favour of extra assignments. The work we do will surely creep into our households and minds if we do not demarcate both and live them separately, while concomitantly.
In the same way, our personal life experiences, dramas or traumas can sneak into interpreting if we do not have them well defined and separate.
Remember, reacting is very different from responding.
When we face any stress by reacting, we are choosing one of the following trauma responses: fight, flight, freeze or fawn.
If we are afraid of confrontation we may choose flight.
If we are angry we become aggressive and we fight.
Many freeze in shock but more people than expected actually shower others with exaggerated flattery or affection in an attempt to tell others (by their gestures, not words) ‘be nice to me, I am praising you, therefore, I am your friend.’ This is fawning, more commonly known as people pleasing.
Why is it important to know this?
How we perceive threats is a good way to start learning about equanimity. If we can avoid panicking, we can achieve a few seconds before reacting, and those seconds allow us to create a suitable solution for the problem and respond instead.
If we are equanimous we have a mind that can compound all these options in a serene way which in turn allows us to respond according to each situation.
By becoming equanimous in our personal lives we create patterns that will serve us when we see injustices in the workplace. How we deal with challenges or conflict is as important as how we deal with rage, trauma, or victimization of others.
Investing in personal introspection and development can help some of us avoid vicarious trauma and retraumatization of others.
Are you ready to become an equanimous interpreter?
by Helena El Masri
Next… Vicarious Trauma (promoting detachment