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March 30, 2015

Think You’re Not a Screamer? Think Again!

ScreamFree_Nov_2014_0048When people learn that I work for the ScreamFree Institute and lead trainings in ScreamFree Marriage and ScreamFree Parenting, the reactions I get are…interesting. Some folks readily admit that they scream.

“My kids won’t listen to me if I don’t scream.”

Others are quick to point out that they’re not screamers. I wonder if they think that I, an admitted screamer, am somehow judging them.  At any rate, they REALLY want me to know they wouldn’t dare scream. It’s just not their way.

Hey, Non-Screamers, I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

WE ALL SCREAM.

YOU SCREAM. I SCREAM. WE ALL SCREAM.

(And not just for ice cream.)

In ScreamFree lingo, “screaming” is emotional reactivity. It is our natural response to having our buttons pushed, our toes stepped on, or our feelings hurt. It’s our gut reaction; a natural defense mechanism. Some of us happen to scream out loud, but some of us “scream” in the following ways.

While my natural tendency with my kids is to scream out loud, I rarely raise my voice towards my husband. Instead, I’ve perfected the art of The Silent Treatment, or The Cold War, as someone once called it. No rockets are fired, no weapons discharged, but if looks could kill…. Or, in my case, I won’t even look at him. But there’s little doubt that I’m hurt or angry.

Maybe you don’t scream out loud or silently. Maybe you’re the master of being Passive Aggressive. Your kid has gotten under your skin one too many times, and you think to yourself, “Ok, fine. I’ll just make you late to your soccer practice tonight. See how that feels!”  You don’t directly address the infractions (or pain you might feel); you just indirectly get back at him.

Or maybe you like direct confrontation…in the form of Nagging. Over and over again, the nagger complains and picks. The voice might not be raised, but the recipient of the nagging may wish for a quick (and even loud) interaction that solves it all.

Perhaps one of the more subtle ways to “scream” is Overfunctioning. It looks something like this. (Not that I’ve ever actually done this. Just a hypothetical, ya know.) Let’s say your kids (or husband) leave their shoes, clothes, towels, pretty much everything EVERYWHERE. Rather than having a rational conversation/confrontation about the chaos, you pick up after them…and not in the Joyful-I-Wanna-Be-So-Helpful way. No. More like I-Can’t-Believe-They-Think-I’m-Their-Maid kind of way. Your overfunctioning allows them to underfunction and actually perpetuates their behavior. Why bother cleaning up after yourself when someone else will do it for you?

So what kind of screamer are you? Do you have one “favorite” way to scream, or do you scream differently depending on the topic (money, kids, sex, in-laws)?

Today, examine your patterns and focus on calming yourself down. Summon the strength to push the pause button. And then you can leave the screaming for the ice cream.

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