I think I say this at least a hundred times a day, “It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Use your words.”
Usually, I say it as toys go flying, and a wordless scream of frustration erupts from her lips. Sometimes, I say it as she’s screaming at me in total nuclear melt-down because she doesn’t want to do what I’m insisting on. And, sometimes, it comes through when she’s crying for no discernible reason. Most often, though, it’s directed at myself.
See, I understand. I, too, am possessed of a temper that makes me want to scream, and yell, and throw, things when I can’t make it all work. I have a tendency to want to force things to go my way. I want to force it all into the shape I see in my mind.
All of it. My bills, my house, my husband, and my adorable little girl. And I can’t. Life throws me a curve-balls, I simply lack the time or energy to do everything, and my family doesn’t feel the need to be squished into my ideal world.
So, I tell myself, too. Stop. Breathe. Use your words.
There’s a level of control and honesty that goes with this. You have to be able to see your own emotions clearly. If your first thought is, You’re a horrible person and I hate you. The truth is probably closer to, I can’t control you, and that’s frustrating and scary to me.
How terrifying to be honest with ourselves. How horribly awful to put that honesty out into the world and allow other people to see our vulnerability and frustration. We’re learning to use our words and identify our emotions, though, my girl and I. We’re learning together.
I never learned when I was younger. Oh, I learned that it wasn’t okay to scream at people. It wasn’t okay to hit. It wasn’t okay to throw things. What I didn’t learn was how to identify or express any negative emotion. I learned to bottle those.
In my house growing up, anger wasn’t expressed. Or sadness. Or frustration. Or grief. Or fear. Or pain. I was flat out told to get over it. Life isn’t fair. “If you can’t be happy, then go to your room until you can.”
By the time I hit therapy, at the end of college, I had a deep hidden reservoir of anger, fear, resentment, confusion, frustration, helplessness, and sadness. And, I had learn to find it. I had to learn to express it.
I was so afraid. So afraid that I would drown the whole world in tears if I let out all that sadness. So afraid that I would burn my world to the ground in my anger. Afraid that I would be hurt. Afraid that I would cause pain. Afraid to draw a deep breath.
But, it didn’t. And I learned. I’m still learning. It takes practice. It takes work. It takes will-power not to sock it all down deep into the hidden layers of my heart.
Instead, I have to Stop. Breathe. Use my words.
I have to, because I have to show her how. I never want her to be the girl that I was.