Temper: Tantrum or Tantra?

Rembrandt's Child in a Tantrum

Rembrandt’s Child in a Tantrum

My sister pitched temper tantrums when she was little.

Martha would throw herself on the floor, pound her fists and wail like a banshee.

Timing seemed to make no difference: we could be at home, at the beach or out for a meal.

My mother would ignore my sister.

No amount of screaming or fist-pounding would deter her. My mum would blithely carry on with her tasks while Martha wailed.

So we followed suit—we three older sisters ignored the youngster, who finally grew out of the tantrum phase.

Martha must hear a different drum-beat than the rest of us muggles.

She is intense, bright and fearless.

A natural athlete, Martha excels at any sport she tries, from competitive swimming to archery.

She rose earlier than anyone else when she was a kid and would run outdoors to play. She begged our pop to build her a skateboard with a hunk of wood and some steel roller skates.

Martha earned the moniker of tomboy.

In school she skipped a grade, aced her college entrance exams and, rather than be stuck in class, decided to play with boys.

She worked as an emergency medical technician, laid insulation, and became the first female miller at the Jiffy Mix plant in Michigan.

When I heard this week the latest version of the DSM—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—had a new label for temper tantrums, I thought about Martha.

Pundits have seized the opportunity to critique the DSM-5 and bloggers and reporters have filled the news ether with stories about the necessity to legitimize mental states.

As for temper tantrums, this week’s Economist (May 18) argues that many conditions may not be desirable, but “the man on the street would think [they are] normal.”

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder is the term for temper tantrum, according to the revised DSM.

Temper tantrums have now been named, labeled and packaged, ready for legitimacy.

While we’re on topic, perhaps we should reconsider the word tantrum.

The colloquialism of unknown origin means a “fit of bad temper in a young child,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

I prefer tantra.

The Sanskrit word refers to loom, stretch and weave, according to Oxford.

Tantra means a principle, system or doctrine. It means enlightenment about one’s self in the physical and mystical world.


Just like Martha.

[Public domain image from a sketch called Child in a Tantrum by Rembrandt van Rijn, about 1635, from http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/rembrandt/child-in-a-tantrum%5D


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in framing, journalism, Native Science, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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