Two months ago, I was at an outdoor wedding during a heatwave and I threw a tantrum. Shouting to absolutely nobody about how hot I was, I stomped my feet, angrily flapped my hands and ran from the group to throw myself on a nearby hay bale. There was no other name for it — I was having a full-blown toddler tantrum.
It wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve thrown tantrums at banks who’ve overcharged me, online stores who messed up my bridesmaid dress order, bosses who’ve given me less-than-fair pay raises, transport companies on Twitter, and — recently — my GP, who had no appointments for three weeks, when I was doubled over in pain.
But this is not an essay on solemn self-reflection. This is a rallying cry to those who struggle for Zen. In the face of the hellish reality we call modern life, we should all embrace more tantrums because — ridiculous as it was to lose my mind at the heat of a star 149.6 million miles away — minutes after, I felt immeasurably better and consequently enjoyed a fantastic day.
Science backs me up. A recent study of 2,324 university students across eight countries found that experiencing doses of anger and hatred can actually make you happier. And parenting expert Kate Orson says that, in her experience, ‘s*** fits’ are not just for kids: “Tantrums are a good thing — they’re nature’s way of releasing stress and tension. In our society, we’re encouraged to hold in our emotions and get on with things, but this can lead to further difficulties if our anger spills out in verbal attacks on a loved-one.” Of course, Kate stresses that, ideally, tantrums shouldn’t be directed at anyone; instead vented around a supportive person we can process our feelings with.
I can’t say I’ve always followed her advice, and a sense of the huge shame if someone unwittingly finds themselves in my path is the main downside to my unchecked tantrums. But in the same way that I might accept grating personality traits in those closest to me — being late, moaning, indecisiveness — hopefully, they understand that my very brief bark is much worse than anything resembling a bite.
My boyfriend — who is far more placid — can’t relate to my explosions, but now understands they’re a coping mechanism, not a personal attack, and it’s worth riding the brief, cleansing wave.
Then again, some of my closest friends have never even seen me cross because they don’t see me in high-stress situations.
And that’s the thing with tantrums: They have to remain an infrequent occurrence to retain their power and effect.
Of course, I’m not advocating stomping your feet every time you don’t get your own way, but sometimes I get a rage that I can physically feel rising up through my chest — a feeling that, if not released, festers and becomes a sprawling frustration that takes a long time to quell. A tantrum lets the lid off that pan.
In this age of mindfulness and yoga, anger is a legitimate human emotion that multiple studies have demonstrated is good for you — so let’s remove the shame. Because if sometimes the way you choose to deal with things isn’t all green juice, lotus poses and chanting ommm, that’s okay. Maybe just steer clear of me when the sun is out.
This post was written by Rhiannon Evans.