For many people anger and disruptive behavior are the result of internalized tension and resentment. In short, anger represents mental and emotional fill points or bucket of emotion, that have hit there limit and literally burst. So what is an emotional “fill point” and how does it affect us? An emotional “fill point” is an imaginary line used to represent how much stress and anger a person can accumulate before these negative emotions start to “spill” out in an angry outburst.
Some people have a low fill line, while others have a high one. Children, on the other hand, tend to have much lower fill lines than adults, and as such care must be taken when interacting and setting and example for them. When a child reaches their fill line, they tend to let all their negative emotions spill out onto others in un- healthy ways. Disruptive behavior, acting out, anger, irritability, and bullying are the most common unhealthy ways that a child uses to try and relieve stress by playing out emotions that they may not be able to verbally express. This is not only devastating for the child, but also for the unintended victim of the angry lashing out, be it family, a friend, classmates etc. The most important thing to remember is that a child, unlike and adult, does not know their fill line; and as such, is unable to actively choose to reduce their stress and negative emotions before they spill over onto others.
When a child’s emotional bucket is full, it is up to the caregivers in their lives to help them learn and begin to use healthy appropriate alternatives to angry out bursts or they disruptive behaviors. Some effective tools to help children cope with tension and stress dump are engaging activities including sports, Boys & Girls Club, summer camp, etc, redirection such as color grounding (have them choose a color in a room, then prompt them to point out how many places they see the color), creating a coping box filled with manipulatives, guided activities, music, slow deep breathing, taking space, etc. Adults, on the other hand, are able to dump their emotional buckets and make healthy choices to reduce their tension and anger without prompting; however, the same principles apply. Appropriate ways for adults to reduce their emotional fill lines include going to the gym, enrolling in Yoga, slow deep breathing, talking with a friend, guided imagery, etc.
Whether a child or an adult, healthy coping may take some practice, but recognizing and appropriately relieving the anger, stress, and tension built up in an emotional bucket will ultimately lead to a happier, calmer life.
For more information about healthy alternatives to managing anger, please visit www.nvamc.com, or call 1-888-992-6479 for a free consultation.