Not having slept well, I woke up with a groan in the morning. No option to sleep in for a little longer, I kicked off the covers and came down to get breakfast and lunch packing going. The respiratory allergies were making me irritable and the knee was a permanent annoyance. Yet, I feel blessed? No, I did not. Not in that moment. I was cranky, irritable and tad angry. In 10 minutes, I was feeling better, even had a smile on my face.
The son just had a showdown with me as I threatened to pull the plug on his video game. As we had a heated exchange, he slammed the door and went out. A few minutes later, he stepped in gingerly, more composed, telling his brother that they needed to make less noise.
These are just two slices of life from my own life. Why am I narrating them? Because, I feel that in our effort to be positive and grateful, we somehow shy away from experiencing or ‘feeling’ the negative emotions and dealing with them appropriately. We judge these emotions and try to suppress them. Some of us brush them under the carpet. We don’t live them, don’t provide an outlet for them and let them simmer under the surface. Sure, we can act normal but we are denying ourselves an opportunity to feel fully and a gamut of emotions. More importantly, is it healthy?
One thing I’ve realised that in themselves emotions are not bad. They just are.
Anger, frustration, grief, pain, sadness and jealousy are all feelings, not bad, just a state of how we feel when we face various situations in life. They become bad when we try to either vent them out without control or don’t let ourselves feel them out of embarrassment and shame. They can be a cause of great angst and pain if kept bottled inside.
I’ve heard of people who file away grief at a loss or a disappointment and never give themselves the opportunity to fully heal. Have you ever felt that way?
I came across this interesting term emotional basement in an article I was reading. I could really connect with it. We must aim for an empty emotional basement. What it means is that at the end of the day, we must endeavour not to take any backlog of emotions with us to bed.
Do we do that? Not really.
Venting your feelings and showing your kids that it is alright to do so is a very important step in having an empty emotional basement. Venting does not imply yelling at your kids, spouse or random people. It means either talking out the frustration or guilt with someone close to you who will only listen without feeling compelled to offer advice or judgement or actually letting yourself take it out physically on a pillow or crying it out. It helps. You feel empty and significantly better. And it does not make you weak.
Not letting yourself experience or show the negative emotions or worse judging yourself for feeling them will let you carry the baggage till you explode.
I used to be very uncomfortable around tears. I feel inept when someone cries or tears up around me. I don’t know why. But I just stay quiet and try to be with them in that moment. I think it is cathartic to cry. I do it sometimes in the shower or in the privacy of my loneliness. It helps me feel better and more capable to deal with my emotions. I hope my kids can do the same. Cry if it makes them feel better or to handle their frustration. What is not okay is them yelling at me or calling me names. So it is important for us to tell each other to feel what we feel. It’s alright to feel jealousy and anger too. We are human after all. But how you act upon those emotions is what will make you an emotionally secure person. Not acknowledging the emotions or feeling ashamed for feeling them will make you inept in the face of them. And you pass on the same to your children who learn their coping mechanisms in life by imbibing from their parents.
Each child is different
My older son is generally even keeled but tends to lose it with the younger son. I guess it is because he keeps a few of the grievances locked inside till he explodes. He has to learn to safely let out these feelings. Talking it out with me or a friend, going for some physical activity should help him feel closure to the emotions. The younger son can get angry pretty quick. I’ve read that younger kids often struggle to be in control of their emotions. I ask him to move away from the situation at that moment. Talking it out when he is calm helps sometimes. Also addressing the reason for the hurt with the person who caused it is important for closure. I encourage the children to come speak with the parents if they felt aggrieved with our actions or words. There is no sure shot solution but addressing the hurt or anger should take away the bite from it.
Find safe ways to vent the anger
Have you been around people who are difficult to be around? The explode at every minor thing, almost like walking human bombs? It is because they have a lot of unresolved feelings inside that make them so explosive. Also people around them somehow tend to justify their bad temper or behaviour with explanation. That is completely not addressing the problem. Sensible ways like the ones mentioned above can help us all find safe ways to vent the anger or frustration that we feel on a daily basis. I would suggest the following to help children deal with anger and frustration without going nasty:
- Sometimes it helps to feel the emotion deeply and then talk out in your mind what exactly is bothering you. Was it the tone, did you feel what was said was cruel or unjust, did it make you feel inadequate or belittled?
- Crying really helps. But you can’t cry at the drop of a hat. That can get taxing and annoying. Sometimes kids cry out of frustration or because they feel overwhelmed. It’s okay for them to do that. But as they grow older, we have to teach them to use tears more effectively.
- Talking helps, a lot: I have had great perspective from heart-to-heart talks. Talk to your kids when they have calmed down sufficiently after a showdown. Communication helps us mend bridges and soothe heated nerves. It also helps us understand what to avoid the next time.
- Convey your emotion: As a mum, there are many times when I am upset with how the children have behaved. They will come back in 10 minutes and try to offer a sorry or a hug and I am not in a mood. Yes, I feel hurt and I need to process it. We don’t have emotional switches that turn off and on. The same works for children. So, we need to give each other time and space to express how we are feeling. When I have processed the feeling and feel lighter, I approach them and tell them what made me so mad. A good way for them to know what not to do in the future. It is important to communicate what we are feeling and that it does not come with timelines. That is why I am against saying sorry for the sake of it.
- Do something physical: Yes, it helps. Punch a pillow like really hard. Go for a hard run. Do weights. Cry with large sobs. Close the door and yell. Even 10 minutes and you will feel a world of difference. It is better than bottling it inside and then taking it out on someone you love. I have tried it and it really works. I tell my kids to go do it as well.
It is important in today’s high stress and emotionally fraught world that we teach our kids to be emotionally mature. Teach your child ways to deal with anger and frustration. It will go a long way in making them better people. And while at it, it does not hurt to look within at some of your own hurt or anger issues. Adults often struggle with ego which makes their emotional issues worse. Give it a thought.
Do share with me how you deal with negative emotions? Any tactics that I missed? Also how do you help your children deal with anger and frustration? I would love to hear.
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