As a toddler, I had epic temper tantrums. My parents love to joke about the time that carried me flailing and screaming out of Target when they refused to buy me a cookie monster cookie. Mind you, it was -30 degrees outside and my kicking and flailing meant they carried me to the car without a winter coat.
For toddlers, teenagers, and adults alike, a temper tantrum emerges mostly out of an inability to communicate and express themselves coupled with an inability to control their circumstances. (hmm...isn't that precisely what the Blacks of America have experienced for centuries? see my post Temper Tantrums, Empaths, & Protests)
But, as an empath, I didn't outgrow my temper tantrums when I reached kindergarten. I just got bigger, and so did my temper tantrums. Well into puberty, and even adulthood. As an adult empath, I have developed a large toolbox of skills that I use to keep my temper demon from raging. But every once in awhile, circumstances are too far out of my control and I cannot tame my temper monster with any of her favorite treats.
Once, in my early forties, I had one of those very dark nights. My temper monster got big, and ugly. And I couldn't stop him. Everything in my body got heavy, and swollen, and frantic. I paced. I screamed. I pulled at my hair. And then, I broke things. Lots of things. I started with the glass in my recycling bin, and progressively moved to things I cared about. Most of my glassware dishes. Even a pyrex dish, which is almost impossible to shatter. Every picture frame I owned. There is something very satisfying about shattering glass to the rage monster inside me because the sound and feel of it exactly mimics how I feel inside, and the sharp shards of glass are exactly what poke at every part of me when my temper is tantrum-ming. At the time, I was alone, so I raged until the fires inside me burned down to embers and ash. It was a giant crescendo of emotion. I fell asleep on the kitchen floor amidst the shards of glass for nearly ten hours.
Temper tantrums aren't just for children. Grown ups feel them too. Empaths experience temper tantrums more than most, but we have found ways to practice them safely. Or hide them, stuff, them, pretend they aren't there. . . I've dedicated much of my adult life to figuring how to avoid my temper triggers. I've developed practices in sleep habits, eating habits, diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, spiritual study, deep breathing, mindfulness, and more. And it works. Mostly.
But every once in awhile something happens, like an assault, a sudden job loss, an unexpected death, a global pandemic, a country enraged with protests. . .and the temper monster can no longer be tamed. When that happens, the temper monster is demanding to be heard. There is a bigger lesson to learn, for yourself and for the people who love you.
(if your temper monster is begging to be heard, book an appointment and I can possibly help you translate)
When that happens, he must be respected. The ONLY way to do that is to hold space. Which is far easier said than done.
How to hold space for someone during a temper tantrum.