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The Top

Posted on 2013.07.31 at 00:00
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I've heard it said it was lonely at the top. Naturally, I have a different point of view now that I'm here. Its peaceful. Mind you, if I were some super-smart extrovert who had reached enlightenment, I might find it a bit dull here, sure. As it stands, having walked through the fire, I have ritualistically cleansed myself of that which plagues most everyone I've ever interacted with - anger, and I find life rather peaceful without it.

I was chatting up a lady recently, discussing those activities which surround causality when she mentioned to me she understood all too well how being angry could affect behavior. I was nodding in agreement with her understanding when she said in explanation, "Just like all the times my husband makes me angry." I had to stop nodding, but it wasn't until days later I realized what was so inherently wrong with her statement, and wondered how many people honestly believe anger is just a natural part of life, or that not getting angry is the responsibility of someone else. Are people simply not taught this, then later, when they grow up, aren't smart enough to figure it out on their own?

Here at the peaceful top, I have an abundance of patience with my children - an attribute they acknowledge. I am teaching them this, because I'll admit right now, my parents didn't know this shit. I had to figure it out on my own, and I'd like to arm my growing children with the right weapons. They're not just growing physically larger, they're also maturing intellectually and emotionally - experiencing life in ways that are totally new to them, both in sheer number of original, raw data contacts, and in constructing new ways of piecing together that data. I watch them assemble abstract ideas where once they saw everything in concrete comparisons, I hear them ask questions about proper actions and even discuss among themselves how they behaved in challenging situations. Its these same discussions I have with a very small number of emotionally stable adults, the kind of conversations where you don't just acknowledge someone else's opinion, you compare and contrast it to your own and integrate it if applicable - the kind of discussions I never have with my beer-chugging neighbors or even my highly-intelligent but inflexibly minded co-workers, most of whom behave in rigid accordance to their wildly different worldviews. I suppose it could be argued they see me the same way.

But my children aren't the only ones growing - I am growing with them, albeit on a different hierarchical plane. I spend a great deal of time actively pondering the best way to interact with them, constantly reevaluating each current interaction. Not so much second-guessing myself, rather ensuring that my every action and behavior is constant and supportive. I want to be the best father I can, and that won't happen if I think of them, or myself, as static. As their requirements change, I must fluidly evolve to meet their needs. This doesn't happen at fixed points. The more I'm looking for it, the quicker I will be able to adapt. By being consciously aware of my behavior, and what influences it, can I actively pursue this goal. Challenging? Absolutely. But I can't think of a singularly more important thing to expend my energy on right now. Passive parenting is for schmucks.

I'm looking forward to practicing my theories of emotional management to see if I can raise atypical teens - that is, teenagers who can articulate how they feel and express their needs without acting out. They're already showing a penchant for personal responsibility, and that was a calm, but uphill, battle. Its an exciting time. My kids are awesome.


michelle1963 at 2013-07-31 13:02 (UTC) (Link)
Totally freaking awesome!

We all have emotional fluctuations. I recently ran across the description that emotions are but internal weather - and in the context of that conversation should not be relied upon to dictate behavior. I willingly admit that some people tend to have more emotional weather with which to contend than others. Perhaps part of that is biological. However, like you I wonder if also they were never given the tools for emotional management.

My father was a person with a lot of emotional weather. That said, he was freaky smart, and over time realized that he acting upon his weather did not beget the results he was looking for. He struggled to practice emotional management, but was determined to teach his daughter a better way of dealing with life. When I was a child and had interactions with playmates that made me unhappy, he would sit down with me and discuss with me why I thought someone acted as she did. He did not just let me stew over it, he taught me to understand what had occurred and why. "Oh, so your friend got yelled at by her mom. Do you think maybe she was unhappy about that? So she was still upset when she you two were playing? Do you think maybe she just wasn't herself?" By the time these conversations were finished, I usually felt sorry for the friend in question.

This simple questioning technique is something that has served me well and I use to this day. My first step in NEVER to act on emotional weather, but to figure out what transpired and why in order to deal with the situation constructively.

I have always been pretty level emotionally, however, I have wondered how much is temperament and how much it was the lessons my dad taught me - lessons he understood and tried to employ as an adult with varying degrees of success - but had not been taught as a child.

Kudos to you for giving your children the tools that will allow them to rise above the emotional weather - their own and everybody else's.

Edited at 2013-07-31 01:04 pm (UTC)
ehowton at 2013-07-31 15:23 (UTC) (Link)
That's fantastic. Reminds me of that quote you ran across on an online forum recently:

Your post is very "feely" and not very "thinky". While it is good to be aware of the emotions you are feeling they are not, in and of themselves, much more than blinking alarms. When one needs to decide what actions to take they need to base their actions on thought, not emotions.

How do people not know this stuff?

Its like you said about your dad realizing that, "acting upon his weather did not beget the results he was looking for." My assumption is some people just aren't smart enough to put the two together and keep doing the wrong thing over and over and over.

What you said about your childhood friends - I wonder if any of that carried into adulthood for the both of you. That is to say, we've seen examples of adults who still behave according to their feelings, so I wonder if you still feel sorry for them just as you would a child? Doesn't leave room for much of a relationship :/
quicksilvermad at 2013-08-02 05:45 (UTC) (Link)
I only became more aware of my anger issues when I started dialectical behavioral therapy. It helps me recognize when I'm becoming overly emotional and reel that back in to calm down. It's helped a lot when I'm in situations that trigger my anxiety (crowds, mainly). I still have moments where I forget myself and lose my temper, but I can reflect on that and recognize that I'm the one losing control. It's my reaction to the situation that's the problem, not the situation itself.

That reminds me. When I took the intro class to forensic psychology, I mentioned DBT during a discussion and the professor called it a "crock" and demanded that I tell him where I'd heard about it. I told him that I was in therapy. After class was dismissed for a break, he took me aside and apologized for "outing" me like that. Another incident happened in my abnormal behavior class. I was frustrated as the professor tried to explain depression to another student and raised my hand for input. I explained that depression was less like feeling "sad" all the time and more like feeling "nothing at all." Again, I was asked how I knew this. Again, I had to admit my personal history with depression. This time, though, all I got in response was an uncomfortable look. From everyone. Eventually, I decided I couldn't continue in the program. Not if I would be judged at every step because of the mental disorder I have.

It's hard to be aware of and control your emotions. I often allow mine to get the better of me. That's why I got my tattoos—as physical reminders to stop myself. A permanent "stop and think carefully" that's immediately and always available for me to see. They help quite a lot. Especially the one in Greek that reminds me to be patient.
ehowton at 2013-08-18 13:51 (UTC) (Link)
If you suffer from some form of BPD-spectrum related disorder, its immediately apparent in my very limited experience that you are atypical.

Also? You are just as smart as I've always found you to be. This validates my many, exhaustive informal theories on the subject that dumb people never see their own disorder. Its always someone else's problem/fault. THE UNIVERSE IS OUT TO GET THEM.

I have never heard such an explanation for tattoos. What a wonderful, uplifting thing. Thank you so much for sharing that!
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