Day four was all about screaming out happy and positive things for all the world to hear, who cares what anyone thinks. Day five was about the amazingness of screaming into pillows where nobody really hears you at all.
WHAT I’VE HAD ROLLIN’ THROUGH MY MIND…
I have been listening to a pretty dang amazing book called Rewire (get it here). I’d give you a short synopsis, but the subtitle basically says it all: “Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, and Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior.”
I have wondered for a long time why I do so many things that I know I’ll regret later. I wonder why I go places that won’t make me happy. I wonder why I keep people in my life who bring nothing but grief. I wonder why I often set myself up for dating failure by dating people who are generally unavailable. I wonder why I don’t sometimes take the supplements I know will help me. I wonder why I put things in my body that I know will hurt it.
And it isn’t just me. All humans do such self-destructive things, and it’s not really our faults. Our subconscious minds control everything we do, say, and feel. We think we can control what we think, but we can’t. We can, however, rewire our minds to change our subconscious thinking. It’s much easier said than done, and I really love this book. My current status: rewiring my mind. So that’s on my mind. For sure.
I had the section about anger on my mind more than anything, since it was the last part of the book I listened to. The author went into detail about all the ways we humans (parents, especially) mess each other up, treating anger like it’s something to be buried, mastered, or avoided. He discusses anger in an eye-opening way, and encourages his readers to change the way they look at it.
Anger is a part of life. It’s part of the human existence. It was built into us. Yet I must admit, in my attempts to be a good Dad, I usually immediately try to help my son ditch his anger the moment I see him start feeling it. I’ve done that his whole life, but this book made me realize just how much negative actually can come from that.
So… Not knowing how I’d deal with it the next time I saw it, I decided to just deal with it differently.
My child really is a sweet-natured child. He’s overly kind and thoughtful. He doesn’t get angry very often at all, but is that actually true? Of have I done too good a job helping him learn how to hide it from me? Have I actually given him the very tools that will hurt him greatly in the long run? I don’t know, but it’s possible.
On day 5 of our #365DaysToLive, Noah was working on a puzzle game while I was busy on a work project. After an hour or so, I heard him make a quiet grunt in frustration. I didn’t say anything, just let it escalate. He attempted solving the puzzle again, but couldn’t do it. He got visibly agitated, and his frustration increased. Again, I was quiet. He tried again, and this time his anger and frustration were more than apparent.
The me from two days earlier would have tried to teach him tools that would help him not be angry. The new me decided to take a different approach.
After his show of anger, I asked him to tell me what was so upsetting. He gave me a half-hearted answer, attempting to cut off his anger the way he knows I’ve taught him to do. “Tell me what’s really frustrating,” I said. “And don’t worry about being angry. Tell me 100% just how bad it is.”
He started spilling his guts on how much injustice there was in the game. He decided that the person who made the puzzle obviously just wanted to torture him and make something impossible. He told me to look and wanted me to see that he had put in serious effort, and it wasn’t his fault. It went on for a while and I felt the bad energy start to finally leave him once he let it all out.
He looked a little sheepish that he had gotten so worked up over it.
I told him to grab a pillow.
I told him that whether it was this game right now, or somebody saying something to him at school, or when the time comes that as his dad I drive him absolutely crazy, he was going to get angry. And that it was okay to get angry.
He looked at me as if I had taken crazy pills. “Want to know a good trick?” I asked him. “A way you can let all that anger out at once and stop feeling most of it?”
He nodded, and I instructed him to grab a pillow nearby him on the couch. He grabbed it and grunted. “Fine. Now what?”
“Bury your face in it and scream as loud as you possibly can,” I said.
He wouldn’t do it.
I promised it’d make him feel better.
He didn’t want to do it.
I told him it would actually clear his head a little and he’d be able to focus on the puzzle better.
He still declined, not wanting to look absurd. “You do it first, Dad.”
SCREAMING INTO PILLOWS:
I grabbed a pillow, buried my face in it, and screamed as loud as I could. I hit a fist against it. I dropped some curse words. And I just let loose on the thing.
Of course, the very nature of pillow screaming is that everything is muffled. “Did you hear those grown-up words I used?” I asked, once I came up for air.
He was too busy laughing at the ridiculousness of it. “No. Wait. You said grown-up words?”
I told him to try it. Grown-up words optional. I told him what he screamed into the pillow was none of my business, and he was always welcome to scream into any pillow, any words he wanted, when we were together. No questions asked.
Noah liked that idea.
He flopped onto his belly and screamed into the nearest pillow. I didn’t ask what words he said when he also came up for air. I wouldn’t have had the chance because he began laughing hysterically, then went down for a second scream. And a third. He punched the pillow, hollered as loud as he could into it, and just… Let. It. All. Out.
Wouldn’t you know it… When all was said and done, he was actually pretty happy and was able to solve his puzzle within the first couple minutes. Experiencing the whole thing was a serious paradigm shift for me.
If I die in 365 days, which is how I’m trying to live my life, I don’t want my son looking back and remembering how his dad did everything he could to keep him from feeling or expressing such a basic human emotion. I would want him to look back and remember his dad as the one guy who let him be himself, no matter what his current self was feeling.
Noah and I have both spontaneously grabbed pillows several times since yesterday and screamed into them for no reason other than that screaming feels good and screaming into pillows while someone else is watching is pretty funny. It definitely is releasing. It gets rid of pent up stress and anxiety. Strangely enough, even though pillow screaming is a stifling and private action in general, it makes me feel like that part of me I have been holding in in was actually heard.
I highly recommend all parents try pillow screaming with their kids. What started with anger ended with genuine laughs, and I have a feeling that will probably be the norm.
Dan Pearce | The Single Dad Laughing Blog