Tantrums: Tolle vs. APA
The American Psychiatric Association recently introduced its first revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 16 years.
The "bible" of the psychiatric field, as it's called, has a wide-ranging impact on mental healthcare and society at large.
It's revision has taken 10 years so far and has a least another two to go before the new disorders it proposes will reach the quivers of healthcare professionals.
The APA is recommending some 41 changes in the area of childhood disorders, ranging from learning disorders to retardation to the relationship of Asperger's Disorder to autism.
Among the proposed new childhood disorders is one called "Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria." This proposed disorder occurs between the years of six and 10 and "is characterized by severe recurrent temper outbursts in response to common stressors." Or, as commonly called, tantrums.
If these tantrums persist for more than a 12-month period, during which time the child is in a persistently bad mood, he or she may be a candidate for this disorder. According to the proposed criteria however, there may be breaks of up to three months between tantrums. So theoretically, a child could have four tantrums over a time period spanning a year and one day, fitting the criteria.
Labeling this behavior a disorder is one thing; what to do about it is another. On this subject, the DSM is mute; it's only a diagnostic tool.
Compare this to Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, who detailed in his book, A New Earth, that such behavior is an example of the "pain-body" (a term he has coined) in children.
"Children's pain-bodies sometimes manifest as . . . weeping fits or temper tantrums. The child screams, may throw him or herself on the floor, or become destructive," Tolle writes.
The diagnosis is similar, but what's a pain-body?
According to Tolle, "Any negative emotion that is not fully faced and seen for what it is in the moment it arises does not completely dissolve. It leaves behind a remnant of pain." Because of this, he writes, "almost everyone carries in his or her energy field an accumulation of old emotional pain." This accumulation is the pain-body and it gives rise to negative behavior in all of us, including children.
Tolle says children tend to defer strong negative emotions of their own. They may also pick them up from their parents. Additionally, he writes that children can inherit a "share of the collective pain-body of humanity."
Offering a prescription, Tolle writes that first, parents should address the pain-body in themselves. Second, parents should recognize when the child's pain-body has become active and don't get drawn into the drama.
Finally, writes Tolle, parents should discuss pain-body incidents with the child after the fact and in a non-critical way. This will help him or her to "dis-identify from the pain-body," which is the first step toward dissolving it.