So many folks think that being “unjustly” provoked by someone else’s behavior or verbal expressions, justifies yelling, screaming and vociferously expressing rage.
But, guess what? Losing one’s temper is an expression of helplessness, powerlessness, and feeling thwarted. It is not the behavior of someone who feels self-assured, confident, and powerful.
One mother told me that her husband’s frightening rage at their son was understandable because the son’s behavior was displeasing to them. And, when her own behavior results in her husband directing his frightening rage at her, she apologizes and works to behave in ways more acceptable to him. In this household, everyone shrinks from the dad because of his very scary, intense, openly expressed rage.
We expect 2 year olds to have temper tantrums, not adults. Healthy adults who feel self-assured, experience a perception of personal control over most aspects of their lives, and do not blow up. They generate strategies to manage situations that displease them.
However, some people are vulnerable to their emotions because of mental conditions that interfere with emotion self-management:
1. Hereditary brain dysfunction related to anatomy and physiology,
2. Brain damage due to accidents or disease,
3. Learning, or modeling behavior to which they’ve been exposed, or
4. A combination of any of the above.
Emotion self-management requires strong “executive functioning” – behavior generated mostly from the front part of the brain. The four factors listed above weaken executive functioning, which, according to Russell Barkley, PhD includes:
1. Self-awareness : This is self-directed attention.
2. Inhibition : Also known as self-restraint.
3. Non-Verbal Working Memory : The ability to hold things in your mind. Essentially, visual imagery — how well you can picture things mentally.
4. Verbal Working Memory : Self-speech, or internal speech. Most people think of this as their “inner monologue.”
5. Emotional Self-Regulation : The ability to take the previous four executive functions and use them to manipulate your own emotional state. This means learning to use words, images, and your own self-awareness to process and alter how we feel and behave.
6. Self-motivation : How well you can motivate yourself to complete a task when there is no immediate external consequence.
7. Planning and Problem Solving : How we play with information in our minds to come up with new ways of doing something. By taking things apart and recombining them in different ways, we’re planning solutions to our problems.
Problems with emotional regulation lead to inappropriate outbursts.
If emotional explosions occur in your house, let me help you find out why and what to do about it.