Experiencing anger is very natural. Anger it seems is a sign that some need is not being met. It can be experienced when external stressors become overwhelming or it can be caused by our internal experience and the messages we tell ourselves. In my work with people, I have seen that personal power has a great deal to do with the emotional experience of anger and how we react or respond to it.
We all know that people react to stress in different ways. These reactions appear to be connected to a complex web of biological, psychological, and social underpinnings. Some people shut down, feel sad, or avoid. Other people get internally flustered and resentful. And some get violent and explosive. Violence is never acceptable as it hurts others who are often the people close to the person behaving violently. This cannot be overstated, as the ripple of effect of violence is destructive in so many ways and responsible for so much pain and suffering.
However, with time and work, destructive anger can be transformed into constructive caring and assertiveness!
Sometimes anger can be seen as a secondary emotion in that underneath anger is sadness, disappointment, and ultimately fear. Other times anger is perceived as a primary emotion. I usually suggest that anger is a natural and protective emotion that becomes unhealthy when it occurs too frequently and without positive ways to understand, accept, and manage it.
Some ways that I help people work with anger are:
Learning relaxation and breathing techniques
Learning to recognize escalation in the body
Learning to recognize and understand triggers
Examining origins of anger and personal beliefs
Correcting emotional and cognitive perceptions
Learning about anger cycles and what happens when anger is stuffed down
Learning assertive communication
Ultimately, the goal is to be able to express your needs and feelings in a safe and respectful manner instead of living with internalized resentment or explosive outbursts.
For help with anger, contact me to schedule an appointment today!!
Adolescents are an interesting group. The young people who come to see me are often seen as angry, immature, hyperactive, oppositional & defiant. On the flip side, I also meet with those who present as sad, isolated, and self-loathing. Both groups have learned to protect themselves from further hurt and disappointment. The symptoms mentioned above are what this protection looks like.
Teenagers are unique in that they are often impulsive, inexperienced and self-conscious to name a few attributes. But, in actuality they are probably closer to adults than we care to admit. They are often sophisticated, intelligent, passionate about their beliefs and willing to stand up for what they believe in.
A big difference between adults & young people is that young people lack “degrees of freedom”. They do not have the freedom that many adults experience and thus cannot cope with life by moving away from their parents or quitting their jobs. They usually have to stick it out. Guess what happens when you have to stay in a less than desirable place and do things you don’t want to do? You get a bad attitude!
So, just like adults, adolescents need help with communication, collaboration, reducing hostility and increasing empathy and understanding. But before they can do this, they need to be given the room to grow and learn from mistakes. They have a need to be understood, validated and ultimately be reminded that freedom comes when you meet your responsibilities to others. So many that I see do not see themselves as viable adults or at least have serious doubts about their future.
I approach teenagers in therapy a lot like I approach adults. I offer respect and authenticity as much as I’m able. I seek to understand their feelings, yet not necessarily condone their life choices. I try to meet them where they are and acknowledge that often they didn't bring themselves to therapy. I ask what if anything they want from our time together. I try not to be judgmental about their thoughts and choices, but do point out when I genuinely feel they are putting themselves in harm’s way.
I also assess and acknowledge the very real likelihood that through genetic predisposition, life experiences and current thoughts and habitual coping mechanisms, some desired changes may need multiple interventions from different sources. Still, I find that just like us, underneath ugly behavior is anxiety, anger and resentment and underneath that is fear. I find that this fear is the fear of not understanding how to be worthy of a place in the world.
So while the young person may be brought to therapy to “reduce defiance” or “decrease arguing” I’m usually engaged in a “hearts & minds campaign”. I’m involved in developing an authentic relationship in which I hope the young person can see themselves in a different light and experience a corrective emotional experience that may lead to positive changes in their life.
Sometimes parents with children who are struggling begin to wonder if the classroom or school placement is working for their child. Parents want their child to be successful. So what is the best way to make sure the student's needs are being met?
A good place to start is by recognizing that your child's school and teachers are professionals with loads of experience. After all, these people spend everyday of the school year teaching, managing difficult behaviors and assisting young people with building self-confidence and emotional resiliency. If you compare the amount of time children spend with teachers to the amount of time spent with counselors or other specialists, it's clear that right behind parents, teachers are in a position to help your son or daughter the most.
Despite this truth, sometimes war breaks out between parents and schools. This is unfortunate, because while parents may feel cathartic relief, children spend their days with the enemy. In the end, things probably get worse and judging, labeling & bullying end up being the examples that young people learn.
That's not to say that you shouldn't assert your rights and teach children to be assertive. If you don't see that things will get better, then work to get them in a better place. But remember that it can be beneficial to try and work through issues before you declare war.
The following is a short list of best practices to improve teacher parent relationships:
Keeping some of these thoughts in mind when you communicate with your child's teacher might help make the school experience better for you and better for your child!