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

The Neuroscience of Motivation

DopamineLack of motivation is a common complaint in the 21st century. Many people talk about feeling a lack of motivation. There are many factors that control how motivated a person feels: incentives, deterrents, personal interest, cognitive dissonance, past childhood traumas, and dopamine levels all rate highly. Each of these topics deserves an article in its own right, but for this topic, however, this article will concern itself merely with self-esteem and dopamine levels. Furthermore, it will act simply as an introduction to the topic of dopamine and its relationship to motivation. If you are interested in this topic, you are urged to do your own further research, as this article will not be an in-depth academic piece. There are a few links at the bottom to get you started.

Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain that appears to be strongly connected with motivation. People who lack dopamine have difficulty getting up to do anything. In fact, Parkinson’s disease, a condition that gradually paralyses its victims over time, does so by killing off the neurons responsible for producing dopamine.   Without dopamine, we are simply brains trapped in jars. This raises some interesting questions about the nature of depression: is depression actually about sadness at all or just about motivation? If we pull happiness and motivation apart from each other, we can arrive at four distinct states:

  1. Happy and motivated.
  2. Miserable and unmotivated.
  3. Miserable, but motivated.
  4. Happy, but unmotivated.

Continue reading