“I Hate You”; Why Teens are Mean pt. 1

Dear Reader,

Think back to a time when your emotions were so strong that you had to act on them- maybe you got frustrated and yelled out in anger, maybe you were feeling afraid and began to cry. Re-read that sentence and really think about it for a moment.

For some of you, this memory may be from when you were very young, still a child. For others, this memory of intense emotion may be from your teenage and young-adult years. For ALL of you reading this, it’s also possible that you experienced this just recently! We are human, after all. Emotion is what enriches our lives and also complicates it.


Teens and Emotions

Teenagers experience a wide range of emotions multiple times a day. Flooded with neurotransmitters, the teenage mind is in a constant state of rapid change. You may remember what that felt like or you may have witnessed it first-hand as it happened to your own child. The fact of the matter is that teenagers have a lot going on in their heads and it affects their behavior and understanding of the world more than they may realize.

There’s been a heavy weight on my mind and my heart recently. I know a couple of teenagers right now who are going through rough transitions into young-adulthood. One in particular is my little brother. I feel the pain he’s in when he acts out. I recognize the patterns of anger, sadness, insecurity, self judgment, and emotional numbing that I went through when I was his age (and still go through when my mind is not balanced). My brother and I share a tendency to bottle up our feelings and have subsequent outbursts of intense emotion. Sometimes we say things we don’t mean, whether intentionally hurtful or not, as an emotional reaction to how we feel on the inside. It’s not a fun place to be. It’s actually pretty fucking scary.

As a third party in the lives of both of the teenagers I know, I realize there is truly only one way in which I can help them through this tough time: understanding them. Trying to tell them what I’ve learned and how I learned it will do them no good. In order to grow, you must learn things in your own way and on your own timeline.

There are many ways in which a person copes with intense emotion. Two natural ways of dealing with emotion are through emotional outbursts and emotional numbing. Outbursts are caused when emotions aren’t fully expressed and bottle up over time. Numbing happens when a person becomes so overwhelmed by their thoughts and feelings that they become desensitized and experience a disconnection with all feelings.


Cause: Bottling Up Emotions

Even though we may not enjoy these emotions -anger, sadness, insecurity, etc- they are all natural emotions that we feel as humans. If we don’t express them, they can bottle up. Sometimes it happens in such a subtle way that we don’t even realize it.

Example: Adults Bottling Emotions Example: Teens Bottling Emotions
  • Your roommate stayed up all night and kept you awake, but instead of knocking on the door and asking her to keep it down, you laid awake in bed thinking about how rude she’s being and reconsidering living with her.
  • A kid at school made fun of you and everyone laughed. Instead of telling the kid to leave you alone and that you don’t care what they say about you, you avoid the kid and all of their friends.
  • You get jealous when your partner spends time with other people. You trust your partner, but you are unable to shake the feeling of jealousy, so instead you hide it. Instead of expressing the feeling, you pretend you aren’t jealous and think negatively about yourself for feeling that way.
  • Your parents are divorced and speak negatively about one another around you. Next time one parent does or says something unfair to you, you remember what the other parent said. Instead of expressing how you feel about the unfairness, you talk to the other parent about it. Your attitude becomes negative around the “unfair” parent and you naturally spend less time with them.
  • Your coworker tells you the boss is writing employees up unfairly and you feel compelled to stand on your coworkers’ side. After all, camaraderie is important. But instead of getting the facts straight, you hold a grudge against your boss and over time you develop a sour taste for your job entirely.
  • You hear from one friend that another friend is mad at you. You feel betrayed and question all of your mutual friends to see if anyone knows why. Overwhelmed with all of the opinions, you decide it’s easiest to be mad at your friend too. Besides, you didn’t do anything wrong. Why should they be mad at you?

Effect: Emotional Outbursts

Over time, we bottle up so many little things that are seemingly harmless, but actually take up a big majority of our energy. Once we reach our max, we have to release all the pressure in the bottle. Some people learn to release the pressure gradually, but many of us have a tendency to explode.

We’ve all seen this happen. Your partner blows up at you for something small and seemingly insignificant. Later on, you realize they have been hiding their feelings out of fear, embarrassment, insecurity, or a number of other reasons. Your boss had a bad weekend and takes it out on you and your coworkers.

The teenage brain, already overloaded with thoughts and feelings, explodes more often and sometimes more violently than an adult. Teenagers can be especially hurtful to others during these intense explosions. Sometimes they cuss, yell, slam doors and say things like “I hate you.” It’s important to understand that these intense outbursts are a reflection of their inner feelings.

How To Help

  • Don’t mirror their behavior! If someone is acting out, the worst thing you can do for them is reinforce their destructive behavior by responding in the same way. Take a deep breath and put yourself in their shoes before you start yelling back.
  • Don’t take what they say personally. Remember how toxic those bottled up emotions can make you feel. Remember the desperation you felt to express those toxic emotions in an attempt to get them out. Every outward reaction we have to one another is just a reflection of how we react inwardly within ourselves. Think of the skin as a window, not a wall.
  • Give them time to cool off. After any intense emotional reaction or interaction, it’s best to back up a few steps and recenter yourself. Emotions can be complex and take time to work through. If you are able to communicate calmly, you’ll get much further in resolving the issue.
  • Be open and calm when you talk again. Try to express how they made you feel without blaming or attacking. Ask questions! Most of us have questions, but for fear of judgment or of “sounding stupid” we keep them in. It might be uncomfortable at first, but if you can ask just one question that requires depth and starts a productive conversation, you’ll be glad you did.

 

In my next blog, I’ll talk more about emotional numbing and why it happens. Emotion can be powerfully overwhelming if you don’t know how to effectively express it. Instead of bottling it up and exploding or letting emotion flow through you naturally, some people cope by cutting off emotion entirely.

Until then, I’m off to do some yoga and ground myself after the momentous rain storm that just hit the entire West Coast at one time. I spy a few cracks of sunlight through the redwood trees.

Always with love,
xoxo
Dee

Homage to an Old Friend

Alright ya’ll, it’s story time. Anyone who has spent any time with me has learned that I’m a dog person, through and through. I’m a dog groomer of 5 years now, and 95% of my virtual conversations with people include dog memes or talking about dogs in one way or another, just to give you an idea. Currently, I’m in the process of starting my own mobile dog grooming business. Whoop whoop, here’s to 2018!

I share a connection with animals, but especially dogs, that grounds me. I have a very dear friend who connects deeply to music through the lyrics. She’s moved by the emotion behind every word and it gives her the freedom to feel her emotions fully. Another special person in my life connects deeply to metal. He listens loud and low, flooding not only his ears, but his senses with vibrational energy. This energy, however you experience it, is the vibration of the universe. It is the greater “thing” that people try desperately to put into words.

If I try to put into words the personal connection I have with the universe, it may diminish or dampen the magic. Because the beauty of finding what grounds you, the special connections you have that bring you peace, is simply unexplainable.

Religion, government, war, cults, secrecy, deceit- these are all products of attempts to explain this vibration to other people by trying to possess and control it. Sheep are cool and all, just watch out for the wolves. That’s all I’m saying.

Getting back on track now.. dogs. They ground me. They remind me of the nature within us all. They remind me that language isn’t important. They remind me that nothing is important, nothing at all!

Being present. That’s all there is…


When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with dogs. I remember watching them from the time I was just a toddler. I would pet my first dog Sassy through the gap in our metal fence from the driveway in the morning and again in the afternoon. She was happy- the kind of happy that most adults chase after their whole lives.

Sassy was an outside dog. I was born in Mobile, Alabama and lived there until I moved to California with my mom when I was nine. Most dogs in Mobile were outside dogs at the time. It’s pretty common there, even now, to build your dog a run or a house and keep them outside. It’s neither bad nor good, it’s just different from how things are in California.

My grandmother had an unspayed dog and sometimes she would have litters. Before the puppies found new homes, I would be fascinated by watching them interact in the backyard. I remember a time when I was only a few years old standing on a retaining wall, hands and face up against the back fence watching the dogs. I was glued and before I knew it, the tights under my dress were full of fire ants because I was standing on a big anthill. (If you haven’t experienced fire ants in the deep South, consider yourself lucky!)

Eventually a little black scruffy terrier named Sydney was added to our little family. When my parents divorced, Sassy stayed at the house with my dad and Sydney came to live in the apartment with my mom and I. Unfortunately, Sydney fell sick and wasn’t around for very long. By the time we moved to California, we had adopted my first cat, a tortie whom I named Precious.


Over the years, we adopted other dogs. My mom remarried a man who always wanted a dog, but never followed through with taking care of it. So we ended up with untrained dogs who didn’t have their needs met- they didn’t receive enough training, one-on-one time, walks, socialization and other important bonding activities that keep a domesticated dog from losing it’s mind.

To my mom, who grew up in Alabama where dogs were always kept outside and some were big, scary, fence-barkers, every dog we adopted was a risk. We had an American Staffie who who would never hurt a fly that tested my mom once and scared her. We had a senior Rottweiler with dominance issues who was unpredictable. We had a maltese that barked too much, a terrier that was snippy, and a couple puppies that pooped too much in the kitchen. It seemed like each dog left as quickly as it came.

Until one dog.
Austin2010

Austin came to me in 2008, when I was 17 years old. I was doing my volunteer hours to graduate from high school with a rescue that adopted out dogs on the weekends in front of local pet stores. Austin was about 4 years old at the time. He was separated from the other dogs, sick with kennel cough and overall pretty grouchy. Despite his unfriendliness, I felt something inside telling me he could use my attention. For two weekends I sat inside a metal doggie fence on the concrete outside of Petsmart with Austin in my lap. When he was sitting in my lap, we were both still. Our heartbeats seemed to match and the same energy flowed through both of us. Remember how I said before that it might ruin it if I try to put it into words? Well, that’s Austin.

I asked my mom if we could just foster him since the rescue had their hands full and he was already a few years old and I would take care of him… yadda yadda yadda. She agreed and he never went back. From then on, I gained a friend whom I would never forget.

Two years ago, Austin’s physical form left me. For seven years he was by my side. He moved all around Los Angeles with me. We lived with roommates, hung out with art school students, had lots of parties, moved to Beverly Hills and went on countless adventures.

In January of 2016 I was on a plane headed to Hawaii for the first time. I was going to visit my uncle whom I’d neither seen nor talked to in 15 years and to surprise his mom, my Mimi, who visits him every winter. I got off the airplane, greeted my family, and loaded up in the car to head to my uncle’s house. As soon as I was situated in my room, I got a call. “Are you sitting down?” were the first words I heard.

Austin had lived the last three years of his life with congestive heart disease. He was on blood pressure medications, diuretics, and vasodilators. He was a tough little dog, but he was dealt a bad hand. Gingivitis spread through his body and infected his heart. For years he had a murmur and I never even knew. His heart grew weaker, and on that fateful day in January, he suffered a painful bodily death.

For months I had nightmares. I felt so guilty that I wasn’t there for him when he passed. Some days I wish I had been there to hold him while he screamed. Other days, I’m thankful I didn’t watch him pee and poop himself, frozen in pain.

Even though I’d had dogs in my family for most of my life, Austin was the first one I lost. He was the only dog I’d had in my life for that long. He was my ground.

I learned a lot about myself that year. Mania took possession of me and I threw myself into any creative outlet I could find. I painted and quilted and gardened. I got my first sewing machine. I wrote, I cooked, I volunteered. I did anything and everything I could that year to keep the nightmares at bay. I eventually quit my job and vowed never to return to dog grooming. Every single dog reminded me of him and the flood of emotion numbed me. I was overwhelmed, so I shut down.

But like I said, I learned a lot about myself. I grew stronger and eventually my heart healed. As I go into the new year and get ready to visit my uncle and Mimi for the third year in a row, I remember Austin. I didn’t understand before what people meant when they said that your loved ones never really leave you, but now I do. He is with me always. He is a part of me, literally. We share the same energy and a connection with the universe that is unbreakable.
dogtattoo

Last April, a very talented and close friend of mine designed this tattoo for me in remembrance of Austin and to symbolize my love for, and connection with, dogs. I love and miss my Aussie boy every day, but I carry his heart with me. I remember the way I felt when he was near, the calm he brought to my nerves, the way he understood me and listened when I needed a friend through tough times. I’ve learned how to ground myself through his memory, and grow into a kinder, gentler human through his love. ❤

Always with love
xoxo
Dee