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Anger in Our Teens & in Ourselves
Karen is a 9th-grader and has been feeling that nothing is worth it anymore. As hard as she tries, she just doesn't seem to fit in. The day before she had tried out for the school play, but when she got on stage, she froze up and just stopped in the middle of her audition. Now, everyone in the school must know about it and Karen is sure they're laughing at her. She'll never let them know how bad she feels. She knows what they're thinking and they're right -- she isn't good enough and she'll never fit in. Karen hates them all.
Chris punched his fist into the bedroom wall. But it wasn't enough. He picked up his soda can and threw it into the hall. The brown sugary liquid dripped down the walls and onto the carpeting. "You can't make me!" he screamed. "I'm not going anywhere with you! I'll do what I want!" Chris ran down the stairs and out the front door. His father ran after him, yelling at him to get back in the house, but he had already gotten into his car and sped away. Chris was so mad at his father. He had better things to do than go visit family. He and his friends had plans, and his father wasn't going to run his life. He knew he'd feel better when he smoked some weed.
What do these young people have in common?
They're battling with anger. They are not getting what they want and things are not the way they think they should be. They are feeling intense displeasure or antagonism toward someone or something that comes with the realization that things are not always in their control.
Anger is a feeling; not a behavior.
Anger takes many forms -- from indignation and resentment to rage and fury -- and it is the expressions of the forms of anger -- the behavior -- that we see. Katie represses her anger and withdraws. Chris is defiant and destroys property. They will continue their behavior, or it may escalate, until they decide to look within themselves to the roots of their anger.
Anger can be harmful or healthy.
Anger is a frightening emotion. Its negative expressions can include physical abuse, verbal violence, prejudice, malicious gossip, antisocial behavior, sarcasm, addictions, withdrawal, and psychosomatic disorders. This can devastate lives -- destroying relationships, harming others, disrupting work, clouding effective thinking, affecting physical health, and ruining futures.
But, there is a positive aspect -- it can show us that a problem exists, as anger is usually a secondary emotion brought on by fear. It can motivate us to resolve those things that are not working in our lives and help us face our issues and deal with the underlying reasons for the anger, such as abuse, grief, and trauma.
Being a parent of an angry teen brings up the anger in ourselves.
Teenagers face a lot of emotional issues during this period of development. They're faced with questions of identity, separation, relationships, and purpose. The relationship between teens and their parents is also changing as teens become more and more independent.
This can bring about frustration and confusion that leads to anger and a pattern of reactive behavior for both parents and teens. Unless we work to change our own behavior, we cannot help teens change theirs. We need to respond rather than react to each other and to situations. The intention is not to deny the anger, but to control that emotion and express it in a proactive way.
What can we do for our teen and for ourselves?
The first step to identifying and managing anger is to look within ourselves. Parents and teens can ask these questions of themselves to bring about self-awareness:
Where does this anger come from?
What situations bring out this feeling of anger?
Do my thoughts begin with absolutes such as "must," "should," "never," "if only?"
Are my expectations unreasonable?
What unresolved conflict am I facing?
Am I reacting to hurt, loss, or fear?
Am I aware of anger's physical signals (e.g., clenching fists, shortness of breath, sweating)?
How do I choose to express my anger?
To whom or what is my anger directed?
Am I using anger as a way to isolate myself, or as a way to intimidate others?
Am I communicating effectively?
Am I focusing on what has been done to me rather than what I can do?
How am I accountable for what I'm feeling?
How am I accountable for how my anger shows up?
Do my emotions control me, or do I control my emotions?
Listen to your teen and focus on feelings. Try to understand the situation from your child's perspective. Blaming and accusing only builds up more walls and ends all communication. Tell how you feel, stick to facts, and deal with the present moment. Practice relaxation and meditation. Show that you care and show your love. Work towards a solution where everyone wins. Remember that anger is the feeling and behavior is the choice.
Seek professional help for your teen, yourself, and your family when the behavior is not just a temporary response to a frustrating situation and when there is abuse, violence, chronic hostility, depression, or a risk of suicide.
Practical Help, Real Answers
for Adoptive & Foster Parents
by Gary D. McKay & Steven A. Maybell
by Sue Parker Hall
Anger, Aggression, and Adolescents ~ High school lesson plan from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute that teaches students skills and decision-making strategies to help them to be competent and assertive, not hostile and aggressive.
Anger and Health ~ Consistent, prolonged levels of anger give a person a five times greater chance of dying before age 50. Anger elevates blood pressure, increases threat of stroke, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety disorders, and, in general, depresses the immune system (angry people have lots of little aches and pains or get a lot of colds and bouts of flu or headaches or upset stomachs). To make matters worse, angry people tend to seek relief from the ill-moods caused by anger through other health-endangering habits, such as smoking and drinking, or through compulsive behavior such as workaholism and perfectionism.
Anger as a Path to Grief ~ The expression of anger seems more natural for men than expressing other feelings. This is quite different from the mechanics of sadness, which require a more open and vulnerable stance. Excerpt from Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing by Tom Golden.
Anger is the weak person's imitation of strength ~ A good reason not to get angry is anger broadcasts our own weakness. When we vent our anger, we are effectively shouting, "I'm scared! I'm frustrated! I'm hurt!" That's another way of saying, "I'm weak!" After all, we are only as big as the things that make us angry.
Forgiveness is challenging, but also necessary ~ Forgiveness does battle with our sense of justice, our sense of right and wrong. If we forgive something awful, are we somehow condoning it? Beyond that, forgiveness involves emotions, anger and resentment. This is the first installment of a three-part series on forgiveness.
Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness ~ When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.
Healthy Anger Management for Teens ~ Anger management helps teens to 1) recognize and identify the negative emotions behind their anger, 2) identify, challenge and replace unrealistic conclusions and expectations, 3) learn physical relaxation skills to maintain composure, and 4) develop problem-solving skills.
Manage Anger Through Family Meetings ~ An excellent way for families to communicate is through regular family meetings. This can enhance moral reasoning and manage anger long before it turns into violence.
Narcissistic Rage and the Sense of Entitlement ~ Rage, as destructive as its external effects may be, sometimes serves a positive psychic function when the alternative is the terror of a kind of psychic death. Likewise, rage may function as a defense against shame that feels unbearable.
On Controlling Anger ~ Restraining harsh words is a necessity in relationships if they are to endure.
The Problem of Anger ~ There is a serious downside to anger. Anger can open a gateway to a spiral of despair. Getting angry on a frequent basis increases our sensitivity to things that make us angry, prevents us from learning other ways to express feelings, and promotes more anger.
The Psychology of Anger: Insult, Revenge, & Forgiveness ~ The truth is, anger may be a “natural” — that is, a commonly occurring — social reaction to hurt and insult, but being natural doesn’t make it good for us. There are far better ways to cope with hurt and insult than with anger, because anger acts like a poison in your own heart that ultimately degrades the quality of your life as much as it hurts the life of another person. Unless you also understand the language of forgiveness, anger will lead you straight into psychopathology.
The Simple Scoop on Boundaries ~ In order to gain control of our feelings, behaviors, choices and the like, we must first realize that they are ours and no one else’s. They reside in our own souls, so the ownership implies the responsibilities.
What Does the Bible Say About Overcoming Anger? ~ Real healing can come when we affirm our purpose of living to do God's will, to exert self-control, and to love one another.
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