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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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It’s My Opinion: Tantrums

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The recent loss by the Knicks in game two of their playoff series with the Miami Heat resulted in more than the loss of a basketball game. In an explosive postgame meltdown, Knicks star Amare Stoudemire lost control and punched the glass case of a fire extinguisher. His outburst led to 15 stitches in his hand. Stoudemire left Miami bandaged up and wearing an arm sling.

Tantrums, unfortunately, are not just the behavior of frustrated toddlers. Many adults give themselves permission to act out their anger. An explosive tantrum is always a terrible way to deal with a vexing situation.

During a tantrum the thinking part of the brain simply shuts down and the primitive reactionary component kicks in. Psychologists agree that neither promises of incredible gifts nor threats of dire punishments are effective once a child is in the throes of a frenzy. This shutdown occurs in tantrum throwers of all ages. The trick to averting this occurrence is, of course, not to allow one’s anger to rage out of control. Anger management skills are essential.

Jewish tradition treats the results of acting on anger in a very serious way. Rambam warns of the consequences of this phenomenon in a letter of counsel to his son. He writes of the importance of controlling rage. Our sages admonish, “If one becomes angry, if he is a prophet, his spirit of prophecy will be removed from him.” It is common sense to understand that if an individual’s mind is not letting him see the present clearly, it would be impossible for him to have the clarity to see the future.

Amare Stoudemire wound up with a bloody hand and as a derided target for tabloid headline writers. He said, “I am so mad at myself right now. I want to apologize to the fans and my team….”

It’s normal for human beings of all ages to experience a full range of emotions. Anger is one of them. People are “wired” differently and can respond differently to the same provocation. Our job is to harness our reactions and attain mastery of our own behavior.

About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.


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