“When I Lose My Shit” … A Dad’s Perspective

By Evan Field

As men, we have our imaginary pedestals we are expected to stand on with strength and control. Our wives, girlfriends, parents, in-laws, children, and family expect us to be that unwavering “constant” for our households.  Even if you are not the higher breadwinner, if you have an injury, or are emotionally affected by something … there still is a natural hope for the man to be the rock and the strength that is the backbone of his “inner circle”.

And yet … It really does seem that women these days are the ones who control the decisions of what is best. They are right all the time (let it be), our harshest critics, our audience, our lovers (supposedly), our confidants (hopefully), and the ones who judge EVERY move we make.

We are the hottest topic while venting to their friends and family, we are the easiest to blame, the easiest excuse, THE reason given for most failed situations, and we are never as busy as they are (ahhhem).

Fortunately, we are, at times, praised for major successes we have executed … even though our domestic partners can and might take some of the credit for directing from the back of the theater. The vast majority of guys know these unspoken rules all too well and do as we must to keep the peace. Anything else would label us as “assholes”, “controlling”, “stubborn”, or maybe even “selfish”.

The point is that as husbands, fathers, stepdads, boyfriends, whatever … we are not easily free to disagree or better the method of everyday routine which has been strategically set by our partners. This almost always creates internal strife that is hard to vent on the spot or at any time at all. We are left to manage what needs to be done if our partners can’t, for whatever reason. On top of those frustrations which we have little control to change, there is the added stress of our own professional world which has to be juggled in with everything else.

I have a deadline that needs to be met by tomorrow, our bottom line hasn’t met expectations in two months, my wife needs me to stop at Costco on the way home, my daughter’s therapist wants to chat after the $175 session which usually takes an extra 15 freaking minutes …

My son wants to quit tennis lessons, the kids’ dentist just hiked his cleaning fee, we might not be able to afford a vacation this year, we haven’t had sex in weeks, why does my leg hurt, and damn it, I just remembered my Mom called two days ago … Holy fucking shit!!!

If I was in front of my wife, there is no way in hell that I can/would vent all of this to her because a) she has already begun her venting about her world … b) she has begun to list all of my Honey-Do instructions that I must make room for in my brain because writing them down does not give her the eye contact she complains we lack … and c) if I vent all of my frustrations, I might seem as though I am not the presumed strong backbone of our partnership and might not be worthy for that coveted golden stance on the pedestal.

So here we are.

I have all of my stuff and all of her stuff too and, WOW, my brain hurts!  What do we do when things are painful … we hold our breath.

It’s a natural action to hold your breath when you brace for a blow to the body or are managing pain. We do it before and during a flu shot, before catching a football, before hitting the water after jumping off the diving board, and when we receive unpleasant news. Unfortunately, this action stops oxygen from getting to the brain. Sounds like a counterproductive downward spiral, right?  This is why I used to lose my temper, dream of escaping, walk away to look what’s in the fridge, and be unsuccessful at handling any combination of tough things when I needed to face them. I wanted to figure out a better way. I knew I needed to figure out how to be strong more often.

I thought of all the men who I considered “strong” — like my multi-millionaire uncle, my statistics professor from 20 years ago, and that CEO being interviewed on CNBC.  The ONE common factor amongst them all was that they seemed and acted calm, and that they breathed before speaking or doing.

So … now I breathe. Seriously, it has become a weird mantra to me to say to myself:  “Just Breathe”.  Because when I breathe (I mean a really good calm deep breath followed by normal breathing), I am letting myself back into the realm of “It’s Okay” — self-soothing my way back onto the pedestal I deserve to stand on when I prove my strength.

I am not saying that breathing will make any of the bull-shit go away. The Act alone will not solve anything, but it does raise your level of brain capacity so that you can calmly face what is on your full plate.

Holding your breath thinking that the pain will stop is natural.

But the opposite (letting oxygen in) is the way that helps me step up to the plate before I swing for the softball on Sunday mornings in the summer men’s league.  This is why yoga is so popular (if you ever questioned the hype), because part of the method re-educates people on the importance and timing of breathing. Breathing is a tool that is used to center yourself in order to immediately self-soothe, which in turn I can then have the strength to do what I need to do.

I do not do yoga on a regular basis, but I did try it for a consistent period of time (twice a week for 2 months).  That concept of learning how to self-soothe by breathing was, to me, the best thing about it … (other than 8 weeks of  being around women with porn star bodies smiling and stretching their perfections 2 feet away.)

When I am home alone with my kids and they are at each others’ throats and it won’t stop … I used to yell at them because my body would verbally explode from holding my breath. Now, I leave the room for 5 seconds or turn my body away and I take a breath. I have found that I am more successful by offering creativity to defusing their fight, which requires calm. When you are stopped by a cop for speeding, breathe first before opening the window to talk to the cop. Chances are your calm demeanor will give you an advantage for defusing the situation. The cop will be happier to interact with a calm man rather than with a pissed-off idiot.

Being calm and collected after breathing has absolutely helped me reclaim my place on that pedestal.  I am definitely not a gleaming light to be looked upon when I lose my shit.

Being calm shows my wife why I am still the one she chooses to lean on.

Being that constant for your inner circle is a sign of strength and, believe me, I know … it’s impossible to always be that constant. But reminding myself to breathe and then doing so puts me in a place where I can think clearly.

No drug can have a better effect.

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