Have you ever seen a child cry during a once seemingly calm moment? Whether it’s while you are serving them a meal, putting their socks on, or encouraging them to go outside instead of watching TV – somehow you find yourself in the midst of a tantrum. You don’t know where you went wrong or what’s causing distress, so you piece the pieces together. What changed in between the moment of calmness before there was rage? What variable was introduced into the equation? They are still developing the language to express their young perils, so as they learn to speak and express their needs you are learning to read them.
In a similar sense, I’ve learned that when a person, young or old, lashes out or expels angry energy – sometimes it’s because they don’t have the words to express their dismay. In other ways it can (also) be because they need to lash out as a way to cool down regardless of whether or not they realize it’s harmful. This isn’t to say it’s okay.
We formulate the language to express what we need by the experiences that have shaped us.
When I was younger I would have these horrible dramatic meltdowns. I once saw what I thought was my family’s living room furniture, at my aunt’s house. I remember sobbing and having an angry outburst. I was mad because I thought they had stolen it.
My family had moved out of our old house and lived with my aunt after my parents separated, so I didn’t know where a lot of the furniture went. I was so angry that part of my family’s old home was sitting in my aunt’s house without my knowledge. I became possessive because I lacked control over my environment, so anything I could control gave me a sense of security and anything that threatened this sense of security became an insecurity to me.
I later found out that both of our families actually bought the same furniture set, but at the time I didn’t know anything other than that I was extremely upset and overwhelmed.
I couldn’t explain why and when I finally realized why – the moment had passed. The embarrassment I felt regarding the situation occupied my mind more than the urge to clarify.
We are all still learning how to express our woes or our victories no matter how small or big. Sometimes without realizing it we gravitate towards the things we are curious about or feel uncertain about. Our minds can operate with a different gravitational pull than the laws of physics our bodies are grounded by. When we are disappointed, it is a reminder that what happened is not how we envisioned, so we often debate amongst three choices:
- Continue to push for what we want to happen until we no longer have the capability to
- Accept that we did the best we could with all we had
- Follow other curiosities with the same excitement
In a different perspective, these can actually be seen as steps.
Receiving support starts with language. People read body language. When we are struggling, our bodies take a hit. These hits might not always be visible, but our bodies remember pain.
Other people listen to words. If we ask for support or articulate that what we have isn’t what we need to be stable, we present the choice to others on whether or not they feel they are able to support us.
Some tune into other contexts that are provided by others. If a close friend notices how your work is making you stressed, or a sibling talks about how different and off-putting you seem, someone will hopefully put together the pieces that you are struggling.
Some people (if they are able) will listen to all three of these forms of language.
We, as humans, are constantly collecting data. Decoding language. Formulating action.
When you have the courage to speak, what will you say?
When you have the opportunity to listen, how will you be present in the space?
When you have the choice to act, what will you do with what you have?
Will you be there?