Koen Geens

Huldenberg, Belgium

I always had a very strong social engagement, a motivation to contribute to society and make it more righteous. I had the privilege to grow up in a context where I was supported to translate my social anger, first in the boy scout and later in law school and as a university professor and lawyer. In 2013 I got the ultimate opportunity to serve society as a Minister in the Belgian government. 

I strongly believe that knowledge as a common good can change the world for the better. That’s why I always kept on studying myself, I endeavored for active teaching methods at the university, and I always kept my academic seat to pass on my own learnings to the next generation of students. As a politician I’ve also chosen to pass on my seat in favor of rejuvenation and feminization of my party, because I think sometimes it’s wiser to step back as a fighting method than to fight actively or offensively. 

Yet, people who are always calm don't exist. There are only people who always radiate calmness, but their blood also boils now and then. I do everything I can to maintain my calm appearance, especially in the presence of others. But part of my job as a politician is to be accountable for my actions. For every decision I make, I expect to get criticism. It is not always easy to accept that. Sometimes the bucket overflows, and there may be only room for two or three drops more. I'm lucky that I'm a bit older (64 now) because I became calmer with age, and I learned not to yell before I think. Yet something can be accumulating inside, and it has to come out, no matter what. Otherwise, you implode. What do I do then? Do I let my frustrations run wild? Am I bursting into aggression? This is avoidable. My remedy is dead simple and perhaps also somewhat cliché: walking and swimming 500 meters. I realize that I am privileged on almost every walk. I am healthy, I can do this work. These are important findings, which relativize stress to a heap of nothing. And while things don't always go the way I want them to, a pile of nothing isn't something to get so worked up about that it makes you unhappy. The frustration evaporates, and therefore will not erupt tomorrow.

I think that’s why my colleagues describe me as ‘sometimes fierce and sometimes mild’, and as demanding, especially for myself. 

I’ve shared this story in the Facebook group PUBLIEK KOLERIEK, amongst many others who shared their useful ways to deal with their anger: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PubliekKoleriek

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