What is Underneath all of that Tension

I think it is safe to assume that we are all not at our best. Personally, I am not walking around my house as a patient, kind, jolly human being right now. I am having many wonderful moments with my nuclear family and loving seeing my clients virtually, but I am also SPENT. TIRED. FATIGUED. ALL SET.

At any given moment you could come in to our house (well actually you can’t come in) and hear the following: “Stop whining” “Please say that in a regular voice” “Can you say please?” “I’m working!” “Give me one more minute” “I am in the bathroom and I do not want you to come in!” “STOP,” and my personal tagline, “If you do that one more time, there is NO.MORE.IPAD.”

Typically these words are not said in the calmest tone. We are snapping, yelling, grunting, clenching fists, and taking the deepest deep breaths that have ever been breathed. Things that never bothered us before are throwing us over the edge.

In regular days, before Corona (B.C.), the statements above might make someone assume there was a lot of anger in this house. Especially considering the frequency of said statements. The behavior and presentation represents anger. Anger, frustration, annoyance are all accurate. But here is the thing. I am not angry at my family. They are not the root of my frustration or annoyance. That is just what you see at the tip of my iceberg.

Underneath the water, so much is piling up. I am confused about constantly changing guidelines. I am scared about the health concerns, along with what the future holds. I am grieving and bearing witness to others’ grief. I am sad, nervous, and oh yea, very tired.

When all of these emotions intertwine below the surface, we act out. We all do. Adults and children alike. We snap at each other and exhibit limited patience. We all tantrum, some verbally, some physically*, but we all do it.

I know all of this to be true, to be absolutely fact, because I experience it myself, and I watch it in my loved ones, and I observe it in my clients. Clients will say, “I just don’t know why I am so irritable.” But we do know. We have to connect what is under the surface to the behaviors we are showing.

So, all of this is to say, your behaviors are not your fault. AND what we do about these behaviors IS our responsibility. I am not going to stop telling my kids not to whine, but I am going to notice if the whining makes me mad on the first whine or if I can carve out some patience for maybe 5 whines. We have to explore ways to notice and accept the feelings under the surface so they don’t burst out and accidentally hit someone (metaphorically of course!). Some of my go to strategies for allowing space for these complicated emotions can be found here.

Lastly, be kind to yourself and your kids and your spouse when all are showing undesirable behaviors*. We are all doing it and we all have so much floating underneath the surface bursting to get out. Let’s not pile guilt on top of our already heavy load. Apologize, forgive, take space, use a strategy and move on.

*This post is in no way excusing abuse, physical or verbal. Please reach out for support from loved ones or local agencies if you are experiencing abuse.

Robyn Isman is a therapist focusing on befriending our anxieties. Robyn is also a mom of 3, business owner, and tie dye enthusiast.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store