A story from Morning Edition on NPR yesterday claims that venting anger is counter-productive, and that the best way to express anger, according to years of research, is to dispassionately discuss it.
Just curious: was this research done by robots? Are the psychologists involved using drugs to which I do not have access? Have the researchers involved ever had children? This line from the report makes me a little itchy in my yelling lobe: “The key is to speak out your anger without getting emotional about it. Basically, we’re not supposed to yell at anyone anymore.”
Look, if I were anything other than a shell of the person I once was, I’d enumerate reasons that this research is, aside from being counter-intuitive and repression-inducing, just dehumanizing and degrading. Especially the snide bit where they call out Moms as yellers.
But I don’t have any anger about dispassionate researchers. I reserve my passionate responses for the fight-or-flight flood that follows being kicked and hit and screamed at by a tiny irrational person.
Here’s the link to Spiegel’s article. Would that it were this easy to be gentle and logical and dispassionate all the time.
Our son has found a voice for his rage. Today he experimented with screaming as though he’d been stabbed each time we said something we didn’t like, and bellowing as loudly as an angry moose when we proposed an activity in which he wanted no part. It was quite lovely to watch, really, even if it drove Spouse to new heights of frustration. Okay, time for bath. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGG!” Is your boot stuck? “Yes. YES. YYYYYEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYY!”
The most interesting part of watching our child scream alternately shrilly and soulfully was his own reaction to his voice. A few times he felt quite satisfied for finding the power he always lost when he hit, bit, or went limp while kicking wildly. He even tried the yells again when they felt just right and sounded even better. Other times, though, his anger scared him, and somehow his primal screams scared him even more. And as soon as the yell was over he asked for a cuddle with tears in his eyes. I told him that, of course I would cuddle him. Being angry is okay, and mommy still loves you if you yell. Yelling doesn’t hurt people. It’s scary, but it doesn’t hurt. Did that yell scare you? Yes.
It’s not uncommon for this two-and-a-half-year-old’s anger to overpower and terrify him. That’s the nature of toddlerhood. As is the inability to come out of that anger by themselves without help. Hence tantrums–things spiral out of control and they don’t know how to transition back into normalcy. And I have often tried to tell him that there are acceptable ways, including yelling, of being angry. Being furious is okay. Hitting is not okay. Biting is not okay. Throwing things is not okay. Stomping is okay, yelling is okay, cuddling is great, deep breaths are wonderful.
Is it too late to amend the approval of yelling? Was it just my way of justifying my own angry behavior to include yelling in the acceptable category? Did I completely f— that one up? Is it okay to be a family of yellers? I don’t like it when Spouse yells. I don’t like it when grandparents yell. I don’t like it when Sibling yells. Peanut doesn’t like it when I yell. So shouldn’t I be teaching a better coping mechanism for anger?
Yup. Working on it. But by the time I really get control and model “breathing away the anger” behavior, Peanut’s going to be yelling at his own kids, other drivers, his bandmates, and his staff.
Ugh, I need another parenting do-over.