Does anyone ever talk about how to prevent parental…well, uh, for lack of a more flattering term…emotional dysregulation?
We hear terms like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, maternal rage (I’m sure there’s such thing as paternal rage, too), and post-partum depression/psychosis (et cetera), and we think that these sorts of things only manifest in people who already have some screws loose or in those who aren’t intelligent enough (or well-off enough) to think (or pay) their way out of their particular problem.
The truth is that anyone—regardless of mental stability, intellectual capabilities, or social class—could end up struggling with any variety of mental issues, for any reason, whether triggered or not.
So if we can get past the idea that only other people have problems that they need to work on (and seek help with), an idea that fuels denial to the nth degree, then we can open ourselves up to some really helpful coping tactics when we encounter uncomfortable emotions (like anger, among others) that we might not have very much experience dealing with (due to any number of reasons, including adverse childhood experiences like parentification).
Breaking the cycle (generationally speaking as well as personal-developmentally speaking) is one of the most powerful things we can do as the humans we are with the short time that we have as we occupy this earth.
So a laser-effective tactic that works right now if we find ourselves dealing with some unpleasant feelings and even more unpleasant reactionary tendencies (yelling helps no one) is this: When we feel anger, we can make it melt out of us by moving slowly (and gently) and speaking softly (and tenderly).
This will require a deliberate effort, but it is worth the discomfort it may cause us in the moment. (We will feel a physical sensation—a sort of tingling, or like water draining out of us—as we release the anger and embrace calm thoughts and actions.)
The more we re-train our brain to go a better route, the easier it becomes for us to choose that route automatically (as it is with any not-preferred habit we are trying to break, whether it’s emotional reactivity or eating too much non-nutritious food or biting one’s nails or procrastinating or messiness or what have you).
I mean, even Daniel Tiger employs a similar coping mechanism: “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”