The Little Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Being Angry

A fairy-tale for parents to help shape a brighter future

Once upon a time there were two little boys and although they were twins, they were nothing like one another. Victor was mild mannered and happy to help, while Theo was loud and always seemed angry.

This was a mystery to their parents who believed that they had brought them both up by the same principles, the same amount of love, the same boundaries and the same bedtimes. Mum and dad were very proud of their conscious parenting, making sure they listened to their lovely little boys, doing homework with them both, and paying attention to their needs.

They were good parents, there was no doubt about that. But the little angry Theo remained angry and naughty. Mum and dad were so distraught, they wanted to help Theo with his anger.

“It’s ok to be angry, Theo” said mum, who believed that anger was better out than in.

“Yes” said dad, “you must let it all out, then you will feel better.”

But Theo didn’t seem any better, and no matter how much anger he let out more seemed to appear. He pulled up the carrots in the vegetable patch and stamped on eggs the chickens had so carefully laid. He wiped his dirty fingers on the bathroom walls and shouted at his teachers at school.

Then one day a visitor came. She was a kind old lady who often came carrying sweets and special treats. Mum and dad adored this old lady and treated her like she was family. The little boys liked her too; her smell of moth balls and lavender felt strangely comforting to them. Victor loved the stories the old lady told, while they sat on the settee eating the goodies she had brought.

But at this visit Theo stood on the old lady’s toes and punched the book out of her hands. He crawled behind the chair and made loud, strange noises. Mum and dad hurried in worried that something terrible had happened to Theo, but the old lady simply held up her hand in gesture for them to stay where they were. Slowly she rose from her comfortable seat, soothed down the folds of her skirt and walked awkwardly behind the chair to where Theo was. She put one hand on his chest and her mouth close to his ear and whispered. No one but Theo could hear the old lady’s words, but from that day on, like magic, Theo was no longer angry all the time. Only occasionally, as we all can be.

Years passed and Theo turned into a gallant young man, respected and loved by everyone who met him. The little old lady passed away and of all the family, Theo was the one most upset.

On his 18th birthday, when Theo came of age, mum and dad gathered up all the courage they had, fearing that their little angry boy would return, and asked:

“Theo, do you remember the little old lady? What did she whisper in your ear on that day of your worst anger?”

Theo looked at them with a loving glint in his eyes and told them:

“She said to me: there are more emotions to feel than anger. Try to find them all, they are hidden inside you, in your heart. Some are like rain, some feel like thunder, but a lot are like sunshine on a summer’s day, or the adventures in the fields and woods, or like the heroes and the heroines in the stories I tell. They are the ones that you need to seek, and when you do, you will find immense pleasure and happiness.”

In that moment mum and dad realised that they had only taught Theo one emotion; anger. It was the only one he had used until the day the little old lady whispered in his ear.

True stories can be like a fairy-tale and they often are. And to each fairy-tale there is usually a moral, and so too there is to this story: parents who teach their children to recognise their emotions, and where they are found, that they are not to be feared or suppressed, will create future communities of stable and accepting individuals.

Psychosexual and relationship therapist. Author of The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy, Watkins Publishing. Tea, cats and travel.

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