Are you still in your terrible twos?Feb 23, 2023
My friend’s son had a tantrum at the dinner table the other night. He threw himself from his chair to the floor and broke down. After some minutes, my friend realized that her son had been watching his older sister from across the table buttering her bread, and he wanted the butter for his bread too. Alas, no one could understand what he was going on about because we were too engaged in our own conversation to pick up his cues until he met the floor.
Two year olds aren’t terrible. More accurately, it can be terrible being two. Their wants are growing faster than their ability to communicate them. Frustrated, they tantrum and, of course, interrupt whatever else is going on in the room. Their adults think they’re being difficult, try to distract the child into smiles, shame their behavior, or use their authority for compliance. As these children get older, they continue this adult response with themselves.
We no longer need other adults to tell us to behave (though many will try). We do it all on our own now. Smile, don’t make waves, don’t create conflict, don’t make the other person uncomfortable, don’t ask questions, don’t burden anyone with your wants, no one’s listening anyway.
Left alone, our yearnings stay miles ahead of our ability to communicate them.
While we were born with the full capacity to express our authentic selves, the world taught us it wasn’t okay. So we didn’t get to practice authentic expression (talking) the way we got to practice walking, for which we received massive support and attention each time we tried to walk and fell.
Unlike learning to walk, our learning to talk about our wants, for many of us, was stifled as inconvenient, selfish, inappropriate, overwhelming, not what they want for you, not practical, poorly timed, unconventional, and not as important as our duty to be quiet and behave. We believed them.
There is no blame here, everyone is doing the best that they can, with what they can access from their toolbox, repeating what they were modeled with some self-improvement. In a way, we’re all still two years old, trying to figure out how to express our deep needs, made more challenging by the world’s preoccupation in their own conversation.
Well, it’s time to start stepping out of our terrible twos.
- Start allowing yourself to get in touch with your needs. Journal on your dreams, wants, yearnings, and tantrums daily. Your tantrums - your frustrations - can reveal your wants.
- Accept that your wants are not selfish nor mis-timed. If your body is aching or yearning, and if you can’t sleep, it’s aching or yearning and keeping you up for a reason, and that reason comes from a deep, authentic part of you.
- Accept that you deserve to have your wants met.
- Start putting words to your wants and practice saying them aloud, and then to others.
Your words are powerful. They cast spells. They can destroy, and they can create.
Practice doing both. They may sound and look clumsy at first, and it may be scary. You may have tantrums, sometimes at yourself, and sometimes at others. It’s okay to have them. This shit is hard! Bottling yourself up is excruciating to your body and your relationships. Mistakes made from conscious practice, on the other hand, have the power to reveal next steps, attract loving support, and direct you to a more nurturing and authentic path.
P.S. - Our emotions are often our inner two-year-olds having feelings about something you need, stat. These are your spiritual hungers. Identify one in yourself. Articulate one simple thing - on paper or out loud - that you want to do to feed it. Take that action.