We’ve all seen it, the horribly annoying toddler or youngin in the grocery store screaming bloody murder for what the mom or dad refuses to buy it. Uggghhh… So awful. Not only for my super-sensitive ears, but also for that poor parent who has to undergo the shaming their monstrous child brings upon them. (Props to you mom and dads out there for what you go through. Mad props.)
Because of this shame, because of this unconscionable behavior from these selfish little beings (Now, I fully admit, I was this terrible turd of a child, as well), we learn at an early age that throwing fits is absolutely unacceptable. Our parents (rightfully) discipline us in order to correct this public behavior for our greatest good with consideration to the future-others that will be in our life. However, somewhere along the lines we end up trying to dismiss the internal behavioral response either before it becomes an outward expression, or after we have already had an outward expression of it. Therefore, I propose a reconsideration to this idea that One Shant Throw a Fit…
Although I absolutely loathe those fit-throwing little terrorists, I also see the benefit in thrashing their arms and legs around, sounding the siren to all within earshot that they are a victim of unlove. They are expressing – onlookers be damned – their very soul’s deepest desire and the absolute sheer hatred they feel they are receiving at the hands of their cruel, uncaring parent. Sure that immature desire is typically beholden to a plastic object holding the very key (that week) to the greatest fun they will ever experience – we didn’t say that their choices were wise. But the act of allowing yourself to have these selfish outbursts, at least internally, can be the very thing we need as adults to help us dissect and uncover pieces of ourselves and our underlying motivations – so long as we address it.
I know I am not alone when I feel these toddler tantrum fit throwing responses well up inside of me. However, as an adult, I have linked this type of behavior to a threat of being outcasted. If I blow my top, that is socially unacceptable, and therefore, I run the risk of becoming a social pariah, an untouchable – therefore, an unlovable. As a result, we learn to dismiss ourselves at this “fit” moment, emotionally. And that is where I feel the danger may lie.
Anytime we dismiss ourselves emotionally, we run the risk of denying to ourselves key parts of us, therefore clouding our judgement and accurate perception of who we are, what we value, and why.
Now, I am not suggesting we all go out and start acting a fool. Not at all. What I am proposing here, is that because we have previously linked our emotional response to something very dark and threatening, we tend to avoid it at all costs. But this darkness is the very thing we need to confront and begin our investigation. Sometimes, oftentimes, this work will need to be conducted after we may have already acted a fool… so it is applicable even before or after a toddler-inspired episode.
Recently I wrote a post on Self-Love being required. And here is one of those moments, where we can attempt to put that shit into action.
Let’s start with the first emotional response we experience. For me, I’ll use my own life experience to draw from, as I haven’t received permission to use anyone else’s.
I have this really embarrassing moment I experienced a few years back. It’s one for me, that still to this day, stings in embarrassment. Sheer, utter, embarrassment…
I was at a bar in North Dallas with two friends of mine, a married couple. At the time, I was also attending the same church with this couple, and I was in a process of immersing myself in a shit ton of research covering theology and the various doctrines to my then-claimed faith. However, I was also in a wrestle with my faith, and found myself trying to justify to myself that it was good to embrace “the worldly” with appreciation. For this particular example, Jazz music was a big enjoyment of mine, and since Jazz isn’t particularly “christian,” I took pride in my appreciation for such respectable, worldly music.
We were approached by two other guys at this bar and they sat down at our table. After exchanging some introductory formalities, a conversation ensued which led to the topic of Jazz. Because I had downed about 4 michelob ultra’s (with lime), I was feeling quite fluid. However, one of these guys (that I had never met before) challenged me directly. “Oh, you love Jazz so much, then what instrument does John Coltrane play???” It wasn’t a simple innocent question, it was a direct, confrontational challenge…
Now, if you know, me, once I am challenged in this manner, I freeze up. I listened to John Coltrane a shit ton, but at this moment I went blank.
“A piano!” I touted with arrogance, hoping to god I had chosen the correct instrument out of the 3 most popular used by the greats….
The guys began laughing hysterically. I had answered the wrong answer and they instantly corrected me (rightfully so). Because of this response, and the complete humiliation I felt, my inner toddler rose up, and I roared back, “Well, I bet you don’t know about the doctrine of hell as it pertains to historical christianity!”
They looked at each other with confusion and more laughter… “Okay???” they replied in mockery. And they got up and left our table.
I was dismissed, and left looking a fool. What the actual fuck, Ash? Did I really just say that? Like, really… WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
Okay, so complete toddler moment. And I felt all kinds of mucked up inside. I am now embarrassed in front of my friends, I am embarrassed in front of these complete strangers, and all I want to do is run away. After the duel, my loving friends were kind, and although witnessing this atrocity, we bashed those cruel guys after they left. They rallied behind me, trying to preserve any shred of dignity left in me…
Okay, Okay, so alcohol was involved, but my instinct was to immediately recover my error by showing off some great knowledge that I DID possess, in the presence where I clearly lacked it. I tried a hail mary to save face… And bombed gloriously. And I responded with fucking theology?! I responded with something that has, quite literally, nothing to do with what we are talking about?! Christ on a fucking cracker, Ash.
I know that at that moment I didn’t do the toddler confrontation that was needed. I do know I woke up the next morning and felt the pangs embarrassment of the moment wash over me all over again. (Looking back, I know now that when something is still bothering me, that inner 3 year old is asking to be helped. It’s needing resolve.) And instead, for a while, I brushed it away – because, it’s socially unacceptable. It’s something we dismiss.
However, that little toddler moment kept taunting me. Everytime I thought about it, an adrenaline hit to the center of my chest would occur. The sting. The mortification. And over the next week or so, it wouldn’t leave me alone; or I couldn’t shake it off, rather.
I did eventually sit it down and look at it. I put myself back in the center of that terrible moment and began to investigate. As I allowed myself to sit with this horrific discomfort, I realized all the things.
I analyzed why I answered an answer when I didn’t know it. Ahhh, Ego. I don’t do well when confronted in that manner and I lash out. I don’t like direct competition at ALL. Man, I could have seen that for what it was and ended our discussion then. I could have avoided the confrontation.
I asked myself why I threw out a hail mary response and why that felt so wrong – and realized, man, I hate being dishonest. Why? because I value honesty. And in that moment, I really didn’t know the answer and yet falsely acted like I knew. That is why that action and response felt so horrible… I talked to myself kindly, Ah, Ash, you fucked up. And that’s okay. Let’s just try not to be dishonest again. Let’s remember this feeling when you’re tempted to do it again, and let’s try and choose honesty instead, even when it feels humiliating. Once I found grace to accept this, I thought of ways I could have honored my desire to be honest, and how I could have better responded – “Oh, you would ask me that – Dammit, I am drawing a complete blank right now.” Something like that.
Lastly, I hated the feeling I got when my friends backed me up and we were trashing that guy and his friend after they left. It was there, I had realized, Man, not only do I not like speaking ill of others, I wish I would have just acknowledged to them, my friends, that I don’t know why I responded like that, but, that my response was embarrassing. I wish I would have had the courage to show vulnerability to them. Huh, I value vunarability… (I can’t recall if I did address it with them later, but I know now, if the topic ever came up again with them, I would definitely be able to use it as a moment to laugh at myself, and address with them that I do know how horrifically I acted.)
Confronting this toddler proved wildly helpful for me. It was AWFUL putting myself back in that place to get started, don’t get me wrong… My ego raged against me, trying to fight and claw its way from the situation. But as I worked through it, realizing and learning my error from it, it allowed me the freedom to show myself love, learn myself and my values to a greater degree, and how to better equip me in the face of future pitfalls to live out those values I uncovered.
Desmond Tutu, a South African Anglican cleric, recipient of the 1984 Nobel Prize for Peace for his work in opposing the apartheid in South Africa once stated, “If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
So next time it happens (and it will happen…) Welcome to you – you dark-sided, fit throwing, little bastard enemy, you… Sit down. Let’s chat.