August 26, 2013

How to Have a Grown-Up Temper Tantrum.

Photo: Sebastian Schmied

Whether it’s true or some idealized projection, I tend to see myself as a balanced, even-tempered person.

In general, I try to talk my way through conflicts and at least attempt to find some sort of common ground when I am disagreeing with someone. However, there have been a few times when I have thrown full-blown, adult temper tantrums and let someone know what I really thought of them and how I believe they hurt me.

While there have been occasions when I regretted my words, more often than not it felt really good to get it all out. If anything, I regretted things I didn’t say as opposed to what I did say.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on one’s point of view) few of these things are ever planned. Most of the time, they just happen.

With that in mind, here are some tips to keep in mind should you find yourself in that situation. It’s unlikely this list will be on your conscious mind during the time of the event, but maybe some of these will make it to your unconscious and be there while you are having your tantrum.

So, to paraphrase that 80s rock group Tears for Fears, shout, shout, let it all out, but keep a few things in mind:

1. Get it out!

This is important. Say what you mean. Imagine that is going to be your only opportunity to have your say. (It very well may be.)

Once you have said your piece, though, end it. Do not let this drag on for days and weeks. For example, if this is happening face-to-face at your place, do not call, text, or email the other person minutes or hours after they leave and continue this. At some point, you have to let it go.

Of course, there may be fall-out from this or a discussion about what happened, but that is different from continuing to tantrum.

2. Try not to shout (too much).

I’m not going to say don’t shout, period because after having been in these situations, I know how this is often impossible. However, if you are trying to get your point across or want the other person to hear you, try to avoid shouting the entire time. Excessive shouting often just results in the other person shutting down.

Plus, physically speaking, shouting can be exhausting and lead to a sore throat. If you are having a tantrum in the first place, you probably already have to plenty to deal with besides these things.

3. Try to keep it about you and the other person and not so much about other people.

Often times, other people come up. This is especially true if say for instance a tantrum was triggered upon learning that your significant other was cheating on you with someone else. Or, your partner’s parent(s) were unkind to you and you felt they didn’t stick up for you.

In instances like this, it’s fine to mention others. However, try to keep it to how the person you are arguing with let you down.

“You hurt me when your mother insulted my cooking and you said nothing!” vs. “Your mother is a total bitch!”

Again, let it be about the two of you or things can quickly turn into a discussion about another person who isn’t even present.

4. Remember that anything you say (probably) can and will be used against you at a later date.

If you plan on never seeing this person again, then this probably will not apply. However, if you two share a child, mutual friends or you work together, keep in mind that you will be in contact again. Humans, by their very nature, tend to hang on to things that were said even if they were spoken during the heat of the moment.

Things can go too far and words can hurt a lot. So, think at least for a few seconds before you say something that really hits below the belt.

5. Let go of any expectations.

Sometimes having a full-blown tantrum can result in the other person seeing the error of their ways and result in a sincere apology.

Other times, though, all it results in is the other person saying, “You’re crazy!” and showing no more concern than the man in the moon over the things you raised. It’s very frustrating, but it happens.

Keep in mind that is ultimately about you.

Often, the only closure one can get-if they are fortunate to get any all-is to let the other know what they are feeling. While you have control over that, you have no control as to what the other person chooses to do with that information. It could very well be nothing such as what happened to me years ago when I told off a former “best friend” who had been sleeping with my boyfriend behind my back.

If you’re expecting a result from your tantrum, then you are usually always setting yourself up for a disappointment.

Having a tantrum as an adult isn’t something most of us look forward to, but things happen.

However, I believe that like most things tantrums can have a positive side to them.

One final and perhaps most important tip is not to be too hard on yourself if you have one.

After all, you’re only human, and it’s probably better to let things out then keep them festering and eating away inside of you like a tumor.

So, don’t be afraid to let it out sometimes. Sometimes it really is better for you and everyone else if you let it all out.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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