Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Adult Temper Tantrums

Do you know why toddlers have temper tantrums? It's fundamentally because they are unable to speak properly and find it hard to tell you what it is they want or need. Most adults know what their toddler wants or needs and are able to provide it for them before the toddler realises they want or need it themselves. However, as the toddler starts to grow and become more aware of the world around them, their wants and needs become different to what the adult assumes what their wants and needs are. 

So when the adult doesn't provide the toddler with the toddler's own set of wants and needs, the toddler who may or may not be able to speak properly, can't verbalise the name of the want or need. Toddlers, are also not emotionally mature enough to understand their thoughts and feelings exactly, they are only able to rely on their instincts for 'survival'. When their wants or needs are not met, their fight system (anger) kicks in and their survival instinct tells them something isn't quite right and so their body gets ready to fight, and throws itself into a temper tantrum. They don't actually know why they're angry or even name it as that.

Adults too can experience a temper tantrum. Although adults can speak properly, most are unable to verbalise their thoughts and feelings accurately, this is primarily because they don't quite know or possibly understand exactly what their wants or needs actually are. This may be due to suppressed feelings based on an incident that happened long ago, or because they never had the opportunity to talk about their thoughts and feelings when they were younger and never actually learned what their own wants and needs are. An adult maybe emotionally mature, but if they're not emotionally intelligent, and their anger has been triggered, a 'tantrum' manifests, causing the adult to behave in an unhealthy or inappropriate manner. 

The diagram above displays how someone can increase their emotional intelligence starting with 'Perceiving Emotions'; becoming aware, conscious, realising what you're feeling. Once perception has been established, the adult will then begin to 'Understand Emotions'; comprehend, familiarise, and grasp the meaning of their emotions. With perception and understanding the adult is able to 'Use' their emotions to achieve their wants and needs. This is only successful if the adult 'Manages' their emotions in a positive and productive manner. It is then that 'Emotional Intelligence' is established. Having emotional intelligence, is having the comprehension of what an individual is thinking and feeling and being able to verbalise them. 

The key to helping an adult with temper tantrums, is to start with asking them to think about what their wants or needs are and how they or others could help to meet those wants and needs. 

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