An editor of a local paper wrote to me and asked me, in good humor, whether I train adults to have temper tantrums. I took it as an opportunity to let her (and the public hopefully) know more about my work. Here's my response..
"Actually, it's a really good question. I do teach people how to have an emotional meltdown in a way that is not destructive to the relationships in their life. As in all things, there is a time and a place. How to have an appropriate temper tantrum, you might ask? Well, it starts with having an agreement with someone to share time in this way. Time to fall apart, with a trusted ally.
We can learn to notice when we're getting wound up, feeling upset, or getting that tight in the belly feeling. It's then that we want to reach out to our ally and ASK for some time. I emphasize ASK because its very different that just dumping on someone. It's an agreement we make in advance to share time in this way. And I say 'share time' because at the end of it, the roles reverse, and we get to be the ally for them.
You might say that we do this with our friends all the time. But there's some important differences. One is learning how to give undivided attention to someone, because when we're out to lunch or something, it's more of a banter back and forth. "Oh yeah, that happened to me, blah blah.... " And the attention is off you and on to them. And appropriately so, it doesn't really get that in-depth when you're out to lunch, or in a public place.
In this ally to ally relationship, the person really gets a chance to have some uninterrupted time. And the focus is on getting the feelings out of our system! So feeling the feelings is encouraged, cheered on, even. It's held as the natural healing process in action. Because the theory is that we all need a place to feel deep feelings, just like our kids do. It's how we come into this world-screaming our heads off. It's our birthright!
And we have learned that we can actually heal ourselves from upsets when we have a trusted ally--someone who does not judge us or criticize us, give advice, or try to stop us from feeling what we feel. I teach people how to accomplish this in a way that is, not only NOT destructive, but is incredibly supportive and life affirming. What happens afterwards, is that the person feels a whole lot better, can think better, can see things more clearly, and can move on towards what's actually going well in their life.
So yes, I teach temper tantrum training . And I've had more people interested in learning it for themselves than for their kids! What I love is teaching people how to become real allies for each other. Parents, in particular, need this kind of support. As we all know, our kids outbursts can trigger deep unresolved feelings of our own. Most of us never had the chance to express our deepest feelings in a supportive environment. So why should our kids get to? And so it goes, that no one's getting to really have the chance to heal themselves in the way they could if they only had someone to listen to them without judgement or blame. This is what I teach people. And in the process, it turns good parents into great parents.
A Circle for Parents class is starting soon in Sebastopol. If folks are interested, please have them call me to see if this group is a good match for them. Classes are an hour & a half long and a series runs for six weeks. Cost is $40/week. I can be reached at 707 634 4824 for more info.