I hate them, and I’m grateful they are not frequent. But I’m on the fence about whether or not they are necessary. Friends, of course, congratulate me for them and say yes to this dramatic substitute for “Can you hear me now?” I still hate them.

Hissy Fits

Hissy fits around domestic disputes can be infuriating and trivial, difficult and silly, unavoidable and unnecessary, embarrassing and cathartic.

After the last one erupted, I paused in an effort to step back and become curious. What triggered the hissy fit?

Curiously and not surprisingly, the tiff was not about his ill-informed pee-pad-in-the-trash-can comment. I knew there was more to the trigger.

Later, when I noticed he had sawed off the “nose” of a driftwood log my mom had given me decades ago, I expressed my dismay. His self-defense—I didn’t know—led to the eventual eruption, because he should have known. He would have known had he been listening. His defense was a spotlight on the one thing that underpins most of my hissy fits and sometimes leads to meltdowns: he doesn’t listen.

I have gender bias around the are-you-listening topic, but my bias is driven by experience. Women are guilty too, but for me, it’s the men. The most important men in my life use a lot of words and expect a lot of listening, but they don’t reciprocate.

I didn’t want to write about this, but last night I picked up an old journal that’s been on my nightstand for thousands of somethings, and opened it for the first time this millennium. My eyes landed on the 1987 words “As we ‘get to know’ each other, I’m realizing we’ve lost sight of each other” about my soon-to-be husband.

He wasn’t listening well.

A few pages later: “Does he know that my personality is made up of contradictions: homebody X love-to travel; ambitious X a little lazy; generous X selfish… ? I don’t think he could even make sense of the real me.”

Because, he wasn’t listening. 

Step back. Become curious.

Whenever I’m upset with someone for something they did or didn’t do, I try to pause and look at myself.

Am I guilty of the same? What is my responsibility here? What is mine?

Thousands of years ago, Epictetus wrote: “Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”

How many hissy fits have I thrown about things that are outside of my control? This is a bitter pill and also a cure of sorts that brings me round to a tenet I hold dear: model the behavior you want from others.

And if my history of not being heard dates back to the last millennium, I think it’s time to check myself. Am I listening? To others, yes, but more importantly, am I listening to myself?

One of Epictetus’s most quoted quotes is “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

I’m not proud of the hissy fits, and for all their cathartic qualities, I’m not sure they served me well. Or did they? Because there is a rub that makes me suspect a systemic need for hissy fits. Today, he’s listening.

Can You Hear Me Now?

What to do then? Fix the system? But… the system is outside of me. Can I fix me? How can I be better at listening? How can I make myself heard without the hissy fits?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m open to them. I’m curious.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023