Toilets are an interesting thing…

A porcelain case of emotion.

Bathrooms/restrooms/toilets/washrooms, whatever name they go by in your workplace they are often the hub of emotion in an adults working life. For me, escaping to the safety of a toilet cubicle started at high school with the circulation of mean things written about me and passed around the classroom (pre-mobile phones when someone had to literally steal the paper away from the tormentors and hand it to you to read).  Chris passed me the note at lunch time and I promptly ran to the female bathroom to lock myself in a cubicle and began to read and cry with shame and embarrassment.

Is it due to the personal and completely individual nature of the activities that occur in a toilet stall that makes them feel like a safe haven for emotional expression? Or is it the lack of other private spaces available where you can’t be seen? A place to process, to create the space needed to work through feelings?

Meeting many needs

Through the progression from high school into adult life, the desire to run to the bathroom when these types of feelings arise hasn’t shifted. I can also quite confidently say I’m not alone in this processing experience. I’ve had lengthy conversations with friends who have run to the bathroom for a variety of reasons. Whilst on the verge of tears over confidence and body issues since returning from maternity leave; when feeling so completely at the end of their mental tether with workplace bullying that the only safe place is within the flimsy walls of a bathroom stall; when feeling so overwhelmed with all aspects of life that crying whilst sitting on the closed toilet was the only available release. There are also the personal phone calls we duck in to the bathroom to take as to no disturb those around us (yay open plan offices), whilst feigning a sense of privacy. Or the stolen moments of being ‘on the clock’ and playing games on your phone/reading the newspaper/scrolling through IG and Facebook, sending texts, etc whilst hidden from view. Whether this be for personal respite or reclaiming some time back for yourself, the toilet cubicle is an unofficial safe space in many regards.

The defining of boundaries and personal space

This ‘safe space’ can also be place where you feel threatened. Whilst processing my tumultuous teen moment of note passing torment, Kayci crawled under the stall door to reclaim the offending evidence. Safe space invaded, emotions escalated. These are the actions of teenage girls, and yet echos of this type of behaviour occur in bathrooms stalls in workplaces, schools, and public places world wide. With time away from desks monitored, the number of trips to the toilet tracked. We humans experience a vast range of emotions and it seems that those emotions, and the amenities that are provided for a very human experience, are entangled in such a subtle manner that we don’t recognise the importance of the link.

We gravitate to the loo for privacy, shelter, relief and sometimes even comfort. It can be a place of refuge, or injury; a place to reclaim your control over your own time and emotions. Taking a moment to reflect on how you approach your restroom use might seem a little naff, and yet it may also provide insights into your emotional processing in a way you’ve never considered before.

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