I’ve been intrigued watching Hailey lately as she’s more frequently expressing her displeasure toward me and my decisions.

We have entered the temper tantrum stage.

I’ve watched her crumple to the ground, rubbing her face on the floor, yelling.

I’ve watched her scream in full tears (it sounds like she’s telling me off) turning her back toward me as if shunning me. If I try to console her she pushes me away. If I try to gently rub her back she takes a step away from me so she’s out of reach.

During these temper tantrums or these moments of passionately sharing her displeasure and disgust for my decisions my approach has been to let her have her space.

She’s experiencing big and overwhelming emotions. It doesn’t do anyone (her or me) any good if I try to stop her from expressing those emotions or shame her into thinking that it’s not ok to feel what she’s feeling.

I usually tell her that I understand that she’s hurt or upset and I know the feelings are overwhelming. I tell her that she can take all the time she needs and I’m here to help her if she needs it.

Usually she simply needs time to get it all out. When she has, she’ll stand up or turn around and want to be held. And I hold her.

As I’ve been observing this over the last little while I’ve also been observing and the emotions and behaviour of coworkers at my office.

People often come to me for advice at work on how to deal with other people.

What I see in adults (including myself) is that when someone pisses them off they rarely stand up for themselves and are reluctant to take on that person.

Instead, they bottle up their emotions and complain to everyone else. The emotions fester, it causes them stress, in some cases they refuse to deal with that person.

Wouldn’t it be better to confront that person and let them know how they feel with the intention to resolve their issues.

I’ve also observed a sense of disgust directed toward individuals who do get upset, show their emotion, and yell. That person should not be acting that way, it’s unprofessional.

This is our general consensus on appropriate workplace behaviour and how we should generally get along in a civilized society.

But observing the temper tantrum route in Hailey and knowing that the few times I can remember throwing a hissy-fit (in my personal life, not at work) I’m going to argue that the temper tantrum is far more effective at releasing emotions and achieving a speedier resolution.

Having a meltdown, letting yourself feel what you’re feeling without shame or censorship is a fantastic release.

It gives yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. It means accepting yourself as is and recognizing that how you feel is valid.

When we bottle up our emotions we are essentially judging ourselves.

The message to our being is “You shouldn’t be having these emotions. These are not appropriate or valid. You should be better able to control what you’re feeling. You need to resist every instinct you have right now to lash out. If you don’t, you are a failure.”

What would happen if we just blew up?

What would happen if we gave ourselves permission to explode, to let it all out?

In my experience, it has been fantastic. Everything gets out at one. It’s one big release. Once it’s out once, it’s out. I can move on. Nothing festers.

Now what about the people around me? What about the victims of the adult temper tantrum?

I want to be clear that I am in no way advocating for berating anyone, name calling, or putting anyone else down in any way shape or form.

We, as adults, tend to take it very personally when someone lashes out in our presence. We think it’s a direct attack on us, whether that’s true or not. And we are generally uncomfortable and don’t know what to do.

I can say for myself that I’m not exposed to a lot of adults blowing up and I’m going to assume that is likely the case for many others.

Our discomfort may simply be lack of experience.

When Hailey is blowing up, I’m able to separate my emotions in the sense that I know it’s not a personal attack on me. Even if I’m the cause (e.g. I tell her she cannot have another cookie) I know it has nothing to do with me. She’s simply upset that she isn’t getting what she wants and I am perfectly ok with my decision.

She lets out her anger and I allow her the space to do so.

But if we tell another adult they cannot have another cookie (or limit them in another way) and they lash out, all of the sudden it’s a personal attack. We view it as an attack on us and our decision. And it hurts.

Why the difference?

What if we simply allowed people the space to blow up? What if we knew it wasn’t personal and they were simply expressing emotions that may have been triggered by our actions but we understood that it had nothing to do with us?

If everyone is given permission to feel what they are feeling and we learned not to take it personally, would we all be happier?

Photo by C Jill Reed