Are you having extreme emotional reactions right now, or behaving in ways that mystify you? You may be “In the Grip” of your inner two year old.
Show Notes: For those who prefer to read rather than watch
Today we’re going to be looking at some behavioural impacts of the pandemic because a lot of my colleagues and clients are telling me that they’re finding themselves emotionally acting out in unusual ways and they have no idea why. Or they catch themselves doing random stuff and have no idea what the hell is going on.
So why are you behaving this way? It’s because your inner two years old is coming out to play.
Many years ago, when I was leading a human resources and organisational psychology team, one of the tools we used was the Myers Briggs type indicator.
These days the Myers-Briggs or MBTI is seen as a bit horoscopy and a bit passé. There are much better options out there to help you understand your personality in the workplace.
You don’t just have one piece of personality, and that’s it. You’ve got different aspects or different components of your personality, and at different times they come out to play.
Myers- Briggs is where the terms extrovert and introvert came into being. Myers-Briggs suggests extroverted people primarily get their energy from other people. If they’re tired at the end of the day, they’ll meet up with someone, or they’ll go to an event just to chat with people to get their energy.
If we’re talking introverts, they’re somebody that needs to curl inwards to get their energy back. And so, with introverted people, if they’ve come back from a busy day, they’ll curl inwards and read a book or take some quiet time to go back into balance.
Everybody has a preferred personality type just like you’ve got right and left hands. If you’re right-handed, you feel more comfortable writing and doing things with your right hand. If you take a pen in your left hand you will be able to write, but it feels a little bit clunky, and you have to really think hard and concentrate hard.
However, one of the things that I did love about Myers-Briggs was the model called “In the Grip”. In the Grip looks at how different personality types operate when they were under stress.
What happens when you are In the Grip is that when you’re under stress, you flip to a less developed part of your personality. It’s like you flip from your right hand to your left hand.
So, what happens in scary, stressful times is that we all flip to our alternate.
Right now, it’s as if the entire world has suddenly swapped hands with our writing. Imagine if all the right-handed people in the whole world no longer wrote with their right hand and suddenly started using their left hand. Imagine how hard it would be for each person and how clunky would all of the writing be.
That’s the same with our personality right now. All of the world is flipping to the less developed parts of our personality, and suddenly we’re all channelling our inner two-year-old.
What that looks like is that some people are becoming very angry and highly emotional. We’re seeing some people becoming very domineering and very cold and standoffish.
Others might see themselves and catch themselves being very cynical, negative, pessimistic: “The world’s going to end, and we’re all going to die”. Others might withdraw and become very depressed and very isolated.
We might see people flipping between action and action or flipping between action and passive aggression. You can see that a lot in households quite often with you asking people to clean something, and they’ll just look at you, but it never gets done.
We also often see people getting the feeling of being incompetent, so why bother. They feel as there’s no point in doing things anymore as no one is listening anyway.
We may also see some people being very inefficient and scattered in what they’re doing.
We also see some people turn super busy doing stuff: they may constantly clean or eat everything that’s not nailed down.
Some people turn to exercise, and end up exercising like tomorrow’s their personal Olympics.
We’re also hearing some people saying they’re suffering from sleeplessness. They mentally run over every possible decision that they’ve made in their life and how wrong it was and how that they could/ should have made better decisions.
We’re also hearing and seeing a lot of people flipping into working much harder. They’re doing more, and they’re pushing out more content, but the trouble is that they’re inefficient in how they’re doing it.
There’s also a lot of people saying this is their most creative time ever. They’ve got thousands and thousands of ideas, and they’re throwing them all out there. The trouble is that they’re not testing or validating their ideas to see whether that’s going to land with their audience. Or they might have thousands of ideas and they’re not following through. That’s because the inner two-year-old is at play.
If ever you catch yourself doing any of this stuff and you have no idea why you’re doing it or what’s going on for you, it’s because your inner two-year-old is out.
Right now, when everyone is under stress, everybody’s inner two-year-old is out to play. So, if you look around the world, the world is now like a day-care centre where all the two-year-olds are suddenly out and operating.
So, people are bitey. We’re finding people are cynical, and some people are just withdrawing and becoming depressed. Others are sleepless, and others are overdoing everything.
If you’re finding extreme reactions with yourself, it’s because your inner two year old is out to play.
The thing to know is there’s nothing wrong with you! You’re not broken. You’re not going mad. It’s just that your inner two-year-old is coming out to play and it’s OK.
Everybody’s two-year-old are coming out to play, and that’s OK right now. You’d expect a stress response with all that is happening.
The important thing to know is you’re OK. You’re not broken, and you will come back into balance in time.
However, to speed things up you may have to bring yourself back into balance consciously. Just like a two-year-old has challenges when they try to self-regulate their behaviour, you may have the same. You need to figure out how to self-regulate yourself and bring yourself back into balance.
On a huge plus, at the end of this, you’ll have a greater awareness of yourself and some more ideas about who you are and how you’re going to operate in the world – you just need to get through this next little bit and be as gentle on yourself as any parent of a two-year-old can be.