An aspect of adolescence
Published 4:58 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
I’m a firm believer in “being able to manage difficult feelings is a good skill to have.” Unfortunately, from some perspectives, the only way (near as I can tell) to gain such an ability is by experience.
Unfortunately, from my perspective, we have spent much time attempting to shield ourselves from our feelings, through various means, rather than learning how to tolerate them and figuring out a way to address them that has a better chance of success in a shared world.
As I have said too many times, “They didn’t teach us this in high school.” And how can we teach something we have yet to learn ourselves?
One of the challenges about feelings is that most of us figure out a way to deal with difficult feelings before the age of 5, and our available tools at the time are scant. We tend to become attached to the way we figured out/came upon and carry those methods through adolescence and into adulthood.
It seems that in our late 20s/early 30s those ways of managing feelings begin to work less well. Being human, the first thing many of us think is, “It’s always worked before; I must not be doing it right.” So, we try a little harder. The old ways continue to falter as they were geared to a 5-year-old.
The incredibly good news is that because we learned ways to deal with our feelings early on, we are capable of learning in this area. Thus, we are able to learn new ways of dealing with difficult feelings, bringing many more skills to bear.
From my perspective, an importance of having a good working relationship with one’s feelings is that it can bypass the acting out of those feelings in the shared world. It can allow us to have and work through our feelings to better outcomes.
When I see teenagers perpetrating and being charged with school shootings, I lament that they felt the need to act out their emotions in this horrific way. I am further distressed by the fact that while much of society wants to hold them “fully accountable as adults,” our brains continue to develop into our mid-20s.
More specifically, that part of the brain that can say, “This feels terrible; how can I deal with it successfully?” is the part of the brain to come online last.