Societies across the world invest billions in formal education. Unfortunately very little of that money is spent on teaching children to perceive, identify, and meet their need (PIM) while expressing their emotions. The fallout is that there are masses of emotionally illiterate individuals who, when confronted with their own emotions, resort to anger as opposed to meeting the real need that anger may be masking.
For at least the first several months of life babies have one form of verbal communication—crying. However, that cry has to be interpreted by the caregiver as a need for sleep, food, nurturing or diaper change. That’s because babies lack the ability to reflectively perceive, interpret and precisely communicate their own needs. When they cry they are engaging in a primal activity that is largely instinctive. This crying is the only mode of verbal communication that the baby has but because it lacks specificity it is up to those around the baby to interpret what this crying means. The guesswork involved and the possibility of doing so wrongly makes it all a game. It is a crying game.
In interacting with many individuals who struggle with anger it struck me the other day that it too is all a crying game. Let me explain. The baby cries and the caregiver has to guess the need. Many adults are still crying. They lack the emotional awareness and the emotional vocabulary to effectively, and with precision, communicate their needs hence the crying game never really stops. The problem is that as we get older our needs become more complex and differentiated and therefore there is need for a greater degree of language sophistication so that our emotional needs are clearly understood and have a greater chance of being met. Without these language skills anger is the instinctive response.
The person who needs anger management classes have something to say but the mode of angry communication is almost never effective in meeting the individual’s needs. At the root of the anger problem is a lack of awareness of and the ability to clearly communicate their emotional needs. The result is a primal response that is so unclear that it can only be described as adult crying.
The goal therefore is breathtakingly simple but not easy: learn how to communicate emotional needs with clarity and precision. In the same way that a baby’s cry is secondary to the real need—that is, food or nurturing, anger too is secondary to the real emotion. Therefore until the individual is able to perceive, identify and meet the need (PIM) associated with the emotion the preverbal crying, aka anger, will continue.
I intend to raise awareness on this issue and hopefully make a difference. Follow me on this journey if you like.