We were in the car. I was with my family, and we were going from point A to point B like we had done many times before. This time, however, I was annoyed. I am not really sure what I was annoyed at, but that’s not really the point. My oldest, an empath to his core asked me, “Dad? You OK?” Sharply, I replied, “Yes J. I’m fine.” Only I wasn’t fine. He knew it. I knew it. Everyone in the car knew it. Now the car ride was awkward, silent, and very tense.
The scenario I have described to you is likely one with which you are familiar. I would imagine that we have all been in this situation. While we might pat ourselves on the back for not taking our frustrations out on our families, we need to ask ourselves, “Have we really succeeded? The answer is no. We may not be screaming, throwing things, or being aggressive. However, make no mistake about this: silence is violence.
Some people when they become upset, hurt, or angry, will lash out. They may raise their voices, behave aggressively, or say hurtful things. Others may become physically violent and destructive. It is easy to see those behaviors as damaging so, I am afraid that they become the barometer for acceptable emotion regulation. We may think that since we are not being overtly destructive, then we must be doing something right. Right? Wrong.
While we may not be the ones to explode in anger, some of us become radioactive. We withdraw and become silent. Hear me when I say that this is as damaging as destructive anger. When we stop communicating with the people in our lives, we deny them access to us. Over time, this creates a condition in the relationship where there should be openness. It is dishonest in that our words say, “fine,” but our actions say anything but. Finally, it creates a dynamic in which the people in your life are forced to guess how to behave around you, fearing that the wrong decision may create further disconnection.
Managing Emotions and Resolving Conflict
If we are going to be effective communicators and good stewards of the relationships with which we have been entrusted, then we have a responsibility to be educated and develop skills for managing emotions like frustration and anger. After all, we ALL experience them! Here are some steps to consider:
Acknowledge how you feel: There is never a wrong way to feel. Your reasoning may be flawed (or not), but you feel how you feel. If you refuse to see that, you will likely progress no further.
Own your emotions: Similar to acknowledging, we have to own our emotions. We cannot pass them off to someone else. It is not your family’s responsibility that you are angry. We may say phrases like, “You made me mad,” but in truth, no one but us is in control of our emotions.
Communicate your emotions: No one can know how you feel unless you communicate. Remember, behavior is a language. So, when you are silent, withdrawn, and radioactive, you are manipulating not communicating. Don’t make the people in your life responsible for guessing what is wrong with you. Just tell them. (This is not to say you are not allowed a sensible amount of time to gather your thoughts or decompress before you communicate.)
I will be very honest with you. This was not a skill set I had until well into adulthood. Men are typically not given much practical training for emotion regulation and conflict resolution as they are growing up. Still, it is not too late for you to add this skill set to your toolbox and become better because of it.
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