Tantrums and Those Who Enable Them

For many years now I have worked with children.  Most of them have had autism, speech problems, cognitive delays, or some kind of behavioural problem.  It has been an immense privilege to work so closely with so many children and their families over the years.  No two families are the same in how their household is run in my experience, every family is its own unique culture.  However, I have never encountered a family without the most classic and pervasive power struggle dynamic of them all: the tantrum thrower and the enabler.  In every family I have encountered there has always been two people taking on these roles in some way.  Child to child, child to adult, and adult to adult: the methods of throwing a tantrum may vary in age groups, but tantrums are ubiquitous.  Understanding the nature of tantrums is a good strategy for unravelling the origins of dysfunction in any unhealthy relationship.

First, since we’re all about philosophy here, we need to make sure that we define our terms.  A tantrum is a display of hyper emotionality usually resulting from being informed of some bad news.  They can be overt through the use of shouting, crying and other verbal cues.  They can be violent with the throwing and breaking of things.  They can be subtle with silent treatment, passive aggressive words and deeds.  They can be sophisticated with rationales, lies, excuses, and guilt trips.  A tantrum never involves negotiation or an honest account of one’s situation.  Continue reading

Anger Inside and Outside

Hello readers,

In the interests of keeping my site fresh with new content, I’ve decided to start blogging about the various therapy related ideas that come into my head.  These are generally just my thoughts about a particular topic, article, or book that I have read recently.

Have you ever seen that animation of the ballerina silhouette pirouetting?  Where one cannot tell if she is turning clockwise or counter clockwise?  If you observe her long enough you can actually control which direction you would like her to spin. It’s a fascinating example of how our minds can shape our perception with the prejudices we bring to them subconsciously.  Especially when one considers that one can decide whether or not to see the ballerina turning towards oneself, or away.

Anger is an emotion that works just like this animation.  One can decide if the anger is directed away from you or towards you.  For example, Bert has a habit of leaving his car lights on and one morning he attempts to start his car only to find it won’t start.  Bert initially thinks about how he only just recently had his car serviced.  He flares up in anger at the mechanic, cursing his supposed incompetence.  Then just as he was about to call the mechanic to give him a piece of his mind; Bert notices that his car lights were left on.
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