Navigating Anger Part 4: “The Need for Affirmation”

“Watch me, Mommy!  Watch me, Daddy!” the 5 year old boy screams out to his parents, begging for an audience to watch his epic dive off the diving board.  He stands there fidgeting, gathering the courage to make the jump, and then throws himself off the board and into the water.

“Good boy!  You’re a wonderful diver!,” his parents respond enthusiastically.

The boy swims a dog paddle to the ladder, walks hurriedly to the board, climbs up again and says, “Watch me, Mommy!  Watch me, Daddy!” and the scene repeats itself again and again.

What the little boy experiences within himself is very important in the development of his sense of self and well-being.  Facing his fear of diving, he gathers courage, and jumps in.   Overcoming his fear gives him a sense of joy and triumph.  This is a dynamic new experience of himself and he needs this experience affirmed.   This fills him with such a sense of wholeness, newness, and joy that he wants to experience again and again.

The need for affirmation is universal and fundamental to our sense of self and well-being.   We are born with it and it does not leave us from cradle to grave.  In adults, for example, affirmations include anything from employee of the month awards, to flowers for the our sweetheart, to awarding of the Nobel Prizes.

When we do not receive the affirmation that we need, we can become frustrated and resentful.  Should our frustration not be mollified, we can become angry with ourselves and others.  Parents, teachers, coaches, business managers, and leaders of all sorts, would do well to remember the principle that we all need affirmation and that when it does not come people will not give themselves to their families, their teams, their businesses, and organizations.

Affirming people, even in the small things, such as, “you did that well,” or, “I like that colour on you,” etc., can make the difference between an angry resentful person, and a smiling contented one.

Practice the art of affirmation.  People need it and will appreciate it from you.

Categories Blog Post | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Posted on September 4, 2012

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  1. by Marg

    On September 5, 2012

    So true!

  2. by Celeste

    On September 7, 2012


    A very important message. I liked the example of the young boy that you have used- highlighting the reality that a lack of affirmation in these young years can truly result in a poor sense of self and unhealthy seeking of approval in later years. Let us all take to time to encourage others and “affirm” those we love. For those of us who have childhood wounds and lacked the essential affirmation let us turn to our Lord with confidence knowing that we are loved, we are appreciated, and we are enough!

  3. by Patrick O'Connor

    On September 7, 2012

    We are enough, Celeste, and it can take a lot of struggle to accept this fundamental truth.
    Thanks for posting your comment.

  4. by Ariel

    On December 22, 2012

    Thanks for sharing these insights on anger, and adding to my arsenal of tools, and understandings to approach the problem, and minimize the potential damage. I am certain it will help, as I seek to manage my ‘moments’. Last night I was praying to receive insight into loosening anger’s grip, then followed my link you shared, from facebook to the blog, and here I am. Thanks again

  5. by Patrick O'Connor

    On December 24, 2012

    Thank you Ariel. We all would do well to learn how to pause when we recognize we are in “a moment,” take action (even if it’s doing nothing), and then decide on an appropriate response.

    Some moments, of course, like being attacked, demand automatic responses, of course.

    Glad the blog helps!

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