Have you ever been in a store and seen a 2 year old melt down in the checkout aisle because mom just said "no" to buying them some candy? Did they do things like scream, cry, stomp their feet, kick, hit, or spit? Young kids typically react to a negative emotion like being mad with a meltdown or tantrum.
Now let's say you are in class on a Friday afternoon and your teacher assigns a big project. It's due on Monday, you have big plans for this weekend, and you know is going to take a lot of your time to get it done. How do you feel? Anger and frustration might be the first feelings that come to mind. What if you start to behave like the 2 year old did in the store? You stand up in class, scream at the top of your lungs, begin sobbing, stomp your feet, kick the desk, hit the wall, and spit at the teacher. Is that an acceptable way for you to respond the emotion of anger and frustration?
Young kids are often limited to very few feelings like being sad, mad, or glad. As we mature, we experience a wide range of emotions. In the course of your day you might feel 20 different emotions, some of them at the same time. Everyone has emotional responses to the things that are going on in their life. How a person reacts to those emotions can either help or make the situation worse.
Here is an example:
You find out that the person you have a crush on just asked out one of your friends. You might experience the feelings of jealousy, disappointment, anger, or hurt.
Below are 3 options for how you might deal with the situation:
- Shut down, avoid your friend, quit talking to him/her, isolate yourself
- Retaliate, spread rumors, say mean things to your friend, exclude them from your larger circle of friends, make fun of them
- Shift your focus away from their relationship and focus on you, invite another friend to go see a movie, devote some time to exercise or a hobby, go shopping
Which response would you choose? While the first 2 options might help you quickly channel your feelings, they will also likely create some long term problems. The third option certainly isn't a quick fix, but it's the one solution that can help you learn to deal with problems and disappointments in your life.
To be emotionally aware, you will need to step back and examine what you are feeling. Then try to weigh the
pros and cons of how to respond. Even though you may feel like jumping up and down and screaming in frustration sometimes, acting like a 2 year old isn't going to cut it as a teen or an adult. Learning to react in an appropriate way to your emotions will help set you up for success in life---at school, in a job, and in most certainly in your relationships.