If the lift of the apartment is not working and you have to climb five flights of stairs to reach home, you will feel tired as you enter the home. If your vehicle breaks down and you need to push it off the road to a safe place you will experience fatigue. All forms of physical labour deplete our energy and when the energy levels are down tiredness is the result.
What makes us emotionally tired is the emotional labour that we do. Emotional labour is the term used to describe the amount of conscious effort we need to put in to manage our emotions. We are thinking and feeling in one way but we need to behave in a different way. There are situations when our behaviour cannot reflect our thinking and feelings. It occurs in our daily life in most of our relationships and at the workplace.
The term likely originated with the study of Air Hostess job. No matter what the personal feelings are, an air hostess is expected to keep smiling at the passengers. A passenger may have irritated her to the maximum extent but she still needs to smile and serve. Also, she needs to put aside whatever is happening in her personal life (she may be angry with her children, grieving for someone lost, anxious about rumours of employment cut-back) and still continue to be the charming self. This requires an extraordinary amount of emotional labour and makes the person emotionally exhausted.
While the Air hostess job may be an extreme example, in all our day to day lives we are required to behave differently than what our thoughts and feelings are asking us to do. We may not want to go to a family event but still forced to go, we may not want to call a parent and talk but have no choice, we may not want to give up the well-paid job but still have to. Imagine the amount of emotional load on us as we behave differently than what our feelings are indicating. Behaving differently is needed for social reasons, for maintaining relationships, for the sense of belonging. The more we have to do this emotional labour the more emotionally exhausted we are. Congruence is when our thoughts, feelings and behaviour are aligned. When all the three are in sync we feel at peace. But real life does not offer us congruent situations all the time.
How many 'Air-Hostess' moments do your experience every day? The more you experience, the more emotional labour you are putting in and the more emotionally exhausted you will feel. Once we become aware of the source of our emotional load, we can try to avoid the situation where possible and learn coping techniques where not possible.