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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

In Other Words: We Didn’t Know How to Name or Use Our Emotions.

Dan Burton: Unsplash

My brother and I seldom got along. We are Irish twins - eleven months fifteen days separate us. Even though that is not much time the gulf of division is much wider. 

We caused a lot of trouble for our parents because as children we never thought of others. We each considered that we were the center of the universe. We were focused on ourselves, our power, our dominance. And even though our parents repeatedly pointed out the flaws to us, we had to learn the hard way. 

We were maybe six or seven years old. He took my Fizzies - a tablet that you could drop in water to turn it into an effervescent sweetened drink  - and that tripped my childish trigger. They were fun to watch and fun to drink. And they were mine. 

Anyway, we ended up in a fist fight as I tried to reclaim my property and I settled it by punching out his two front teeth. Yes, there was blood, yelling, a trip to the dentist, and punishments. I lost my Fizzies but he lost two teeth. I considered that a win. Neither of us would give in. That stubbornness would help in the future but at this point in time and on this issue, well, it became a mutually destructive element. We didn’t know how to name or use our emotions. 

We both carry the physical scars of those fights. My seven year old self didn’t know Carl Jung and even if I did I don’t think I would admit he was right when he wrote, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Now that’s something a parent would say as instruction or correction to a child and it bears repeating every now and then.

I see a lot of that Fizzies-like behavior these days. I have to check my frustration, anger, or disappointment to examine the root of my emotional response. Now I don’t want to overreact and say or do something that I will regret or will be hurtful to another. 

Just because we disagree doesn’t mean that we need to knock out teeth. There really isn’t much sense in fighting. Disagreeing? Yes. Debating. Yes? Even though we may fight or argue, we are still brothers and we will always be there to help the other. 

I have friends who are like my brother. We disagree about some things but we are always there to help each other. Family and friends can transcend. We may disagree on economics, religion, race, education, and politics, but we always agree that we are each valuable to the other. Love transcends.

But sometimes we can overcome differences and sometimes we can’t. Sometimes the friendship stays and sometimes it doesn’t.  It’s like what Al Neuharth wrote, “The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” If you can’t understand another’s perspective then you are doomed to fight over Fizzies. 

Years later I was excited to find Fizzies in a store. They were horrible.

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