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Exploring Both Sides of Anger

a teen boy struglging with understanding anger holds his head and screams

Understanding anger takes a lot of time, effort, and emotional connection. During adolescence, your son might have a hard time being patient enough to work through his anger and resort to lashing out or getting into trouble. An adolescent anger management program can help him track his inner emotions so he can find and maintain true healing as he moves away from his childhood and into adulthood.

In large and small groups, Family First clients can explore complex topics in a safe and non-judgmental environment. They’re able to share as openly and honestly as they wish while they get support from their peers and compassionate feedback from our clinical team. Call 888.904.5947 now to get help in our Palm Beach Gardens, FL, treatment center.

Anger Isn’t a “Bad Emotion”

When anger is accessed, processed, and expressed in a healthy way, it is a beautiful emotion that displays inner strength, authenticity, courage, resiliency, growth, and creativity.

However, when a child has a dysfunctional relationship with anger, it causes disconnection from himself, his environment, and his loved ones. This disconnection creates challenges and uncomfortable consequences. He may have difficulty standing up for himself, setting boundaries for himself, and striding confidently towards what he most wants and needs for his life.

Relying on Anger

On one side, there is the child who regularly lashes out angrily and might appear to have a strong connection with his anger. He may:

  • Find outbursts comforting – Violent or aggressive communication may be the only way he feels in control when he encounters an emotion he’s uncomfortable with.
  • Be unable to cope with vulnerability – He might use anger to mask feelings of helplessness, fear, or sadness because he’s felt rejected when he’s opened up before.
  • Use anger to connect – A child who wasn’t taught healthy emotional intimacy learning may feel like the only way he can create a meaningful connection is through negative communication.

The teen who relies on his emotions in this way has a hard time understanding anger and how it affects those around him.

Avoiding Anger

On the other side, there is the child who appears to be totally unbothered at times when you think he should have been angry and who is, instead, quiet, sad, or withdrawn. He may:

  • Be more agreeable – Agreeing with others, even when he feels threatened, may help him escape the discomfort of a negative response and any potential conflict.
  • Blame himself – If he feels responsible for his parents’ marriage or divorce, for example, he may view anger as a hopeless emotion that only causes problems.
  • Feel unsafe – Children who have had a traumatic experience may avoid anger because it can trigger memories or feelings of being unsafe or out of control.

This teen likely feels the anger inside, but it is so intolerable, threatening, and frightening that he dares not let it rise to the surface.

When, Where, and How Anger in Teens Appears

When, where, and how an emotion shows up (or doesn’t) is what we think of as a red flag for a child in crisis. If it’s an emotion he relies on or avoids, this relationship is the root of his mental health challenges.

It’s easy to confuse anger with the behaviors that come out of anger, especially when those include violent outbursts, destruction, screaming, arguing, and defiance. However, anger can manifest very quietly in some teenagers as depression, anxiety, shame, and self-hatred. Both of these extremes demonstrate that a child has a dysfunctional relationship with their anger.

While the negative behaviors associated with anger can cause issues, the feeling of anger isn’t the problem. The solution for a child in crisis isn’t to “turn off” or “turn on” his anger but to explore and eventually gain an understanding of anger and how it affects him and the people around him.

Family First’s Anger Management for Teens

Our clinical focus weeks help our adolescent clients explore their relationship with an emotion or concept, like anger. An individual’s relationship with an emotion determines essential things—how he understands his own identity, how he understands the world around him, and how he sees himself as part of (or apart from) his environment.

Our Curriculum

The Anger Week curriculum is stacked with a variety of exercises, both psycho-educational and experiential, that help our clients explore the concept of anger and what feels safe or threatening about accessing and expressing it. In group settings, they get to learn about anger in the context of self-love and non-judgmental acceptance, empathy, and compassion.

The Anger Exchange

One of the exercises we do is somatic mindfulness; we call it “The Anger Exchange.” In pairs, the boys take turns expressing anger. One boy begins with “I feel angry when…” and completes the sentence with something that feels true for him. When he’s finished speaking, his partner, without judgment or comment, thanks him for sharing and expresses his own experience of anger. The boys go back and forth, expressing anger and receiving acceptance, then listening to an experience of anger and offering acceptance.

Throughout this exercise, our clients are guided to consider the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations they’re experiencing while sharing with their partner. We invite them to think about their experience without judging themselves or trying to change or moderate any part of what they’re feeling—only to notice and be curious about these things.

Understanding Individuality

Once all the boys feel they’ve shared enough, the therapist draws the outline of a body on a whiteboard. Each pair is invited to talk about the different experiences they had during the exercise. Using a colored marker, they illustrate on the body outline where they noticed different emotions and physical sensations during the exchange with their partner.

The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate that there is no right or wrong way to experience anger—and to promote a greater connection with how they relate to their anger and all that comes with it.

Moving Toward a New Experience of Emotion

Teenagers use shame, self-criticism, and self-judgment to disconnect from themselves and their environment. By holding onto a belief about an emotion such as anger—that it is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, right or wrong—teens organize their identity around dysfunction. They see themselves as bad, wrong, or unhealthy.

Call Family First to Help Your Son Process Anger

By connecting with adolescent clients through the Anger Week curriculum, Family First staff members teach them how to know themselves through presence and empathy, how to shelve judgment in favor of curiosity, and how to accept that they are emotional beings by seeing all the ways their hearts, minds, and bodies react. We empower our young clients to take ownership of their own healing.

Is your child acting out at home or school? Are they lashing out angrily or withdrawing into themselves? We can help your child explore his thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe and non-judgmental space where he can learn how to access and express himself in a more grounded and self-supportive way.

Call us at 888.904.5947 or contact us online now to help your son discover a better relationship with his emotions and form healthier outlets for his anger.