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May 4, 2022

Think back on an encounter with an adult overreacting to a situation. Were you caught off-guard; did you feel uncomfortable? A psychiatrist friend of mine shared a phrase he often communicated to his staff: "When you see a patient overreact or act out, always remember there's a story behind that behavior."

Adults don't lose self-control in a vacuum – there's a build-up and a story behind their behavior. When caregivers find themselves in the unpleasant predicament of engaging an individual with frenetic or hyper behavior, it's helpful to remember that the behavior is bigger than the moment. Reminding ourselves that “there’s a story” enables us to speak to the deeper issues driving the outburst – which often requires assurance rather than reason. Arguing with a longtime wound is futile. Caring for that wound – and all its symptoms – remains a more effective response. As caregivers, we encounter those panicking about pocket-sized problems. Outbursts at a temporary or minor problem are rooted in a long journey that could stretch back a lifetime. Detaching from the immediate eruption allows us to better understand and address the volcanic turbulence behind the explosion.

However, It starts with us remembering, "If it's hysterical, it's historical."

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.