"There are two classes of emotions. One class needs to be expressed, talked about. ... The other class of emotions includes anger, strong attachment, and strong desire;
there is no natural end to these."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Pondering my last PT blog, I realized that I never told you why it's essential to get kids to talk when they are sad. Sure, it's good commonsense. But the reality is that it's so much more than that. Being trained in eastern and western psychologies, I have come to "see" things through an eastern viewpoint first - and Tibetan Buddhist psychology believes there are two types of emotions. They are:
Emotions to Express
Sadness happens to be one of those emotions that is alleviated by being expressed. A child's sadness (like adults) once it finds a healthy outlet like speaking is actually reduced thus allowing for relief from the low mood. Plus, a child that begins talking about whatever ails them can be open to new ideas - new perspectives that they have never considered. For example, I know that many kids get "stuck" in a feeling like sadness and feel like it will never leave. But when they learn that the sadness will leave and get taught new ways to help them release sad feelings they feel relief quickly.
Emotions to Control
Anger is a perfect example of an emotion that gets worse when expressed. Instead of anger dissipating - when you or your child expresses anger this emotion only increases. For example, you get so upset over your daughter coloring all over the dining room wall, you scream. The problem is that by screaming your anger isn't reduced (although you may feel temporary relief) you are still enraged. The anger actually is like a fire that gets a gust of wind and gets larger versus being reduced.
So the key is finding ways to help you or your child "let go" of anger in a healthy manner so that it isn't acted out and no one is harmed. This is what is meant by controlling emotions (not suppressing).
Which Emotion Do I Have?
Understanding what emotions are helped by being expressed (like teaching kids how to healthfully let-go of sadness) and what emotions need to be controlled is smart parenting. It is where your own skills of emotional awareness (identifying and regulating emotions) come into play and you can guide your children to experience real happiness. Isn't that the goal?
By Maureen Healy
Maureen Healy is the founder of Growing Happy Kids, and author of the forthcoming book of the same name! (Spring 2012, HCI). You can learn more about Maureen and her upcoming programs at: www.growinghappykids.com or mdhealy (twitter).
Reprinting permission given upon individual request.