The psychological climate of an NAEA conference is a highly variable one. Given the temporal and spatial restrictions, emotions tend to be intense and feelings concentrated. A good deal of what is felt is predictable – after all, conferences are call conventions. But beneath the surface veneer of officiousness, formality, and collegiality, there are subjective undercurrents. The novices experience loneliness, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy being surrounded by “experts” – people whose publications they have read or with whose names they are familiar. The experts may experience anxiety and insecurity as their egos, careers and reputations are exposed to public scrutiny. On the other hand, given the freedom that can come from being “away from home,” “in neutral territory,” and with like-minded colleagues, inhibitions may be lost and feelings can soar. But they can also plummet. The feelings associated with being on a conference can be like my first experience on a ski hill – a curious mixture of expectation, exaltation, exhilaration…and terror.
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