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Adolescence Family Feelings Parenting Prevention Recovery

How Do You and Your Teen Deal with Conflict?

Angry Penguin
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conflict comes up frequently in the adolescent years,

almost as though drama and discord are part of the growing-up process. But how our kids learn to deal with conflict is often a result of watching the way the adults around them deal with it. Parents, teachers, mentors, influential adults: all are their mirrors.

 

Where conflict becomes problematic is in the unskillful ways in which it’s managed. Teens need to develop self-regulation skills so they can A: recognize what has triggered their anger, and B: respond to it skillfully.

 

Try any of these 5 suggestions to help manage conflict:

 

1: Take a time out: In other words, walk away from the conflict fueled situation to collect your thoughts and calm down. You can take a walk or take some deep breaths.

2:  Use “I” phrases when you communicate. “I feel” instead of “You’re being so lame” is a wiser method of communication. It shows the ability to take responsibility for one’s feelings and actions and eliminates the blame and shame game.

3: Mirroring: By mirroring, we “reflect” what the other person says. “I hear that you feel frustrated” is much more helpful than “You are so frustrating,” or “Why are you so ANGRY?” By mirroring, we recognize what the other person is saying, and as a result, we let them know that we “see” and “hear” them. When someone feels seen and heard, it validates their feelings and allows them to be present for someone else’s process. It’s powerful.

4: Own up to it. Take responsibility for your own actions without pointing fingers at the person you’re angry at. If you lied, own it. If you cheated, own it. If you were mean, own it. You will be more respected and revered if you are honest. In the language of the 12 steps: Keep your side of the street clean.

5: Respect. If you are respectful of others, they are more apt to be respectful toward you. If someone treats you disrespectfully, try the counterintutive practice of being respectful toward them anyway.

 

Remember this: adolescents aren’t born equipped with problem solving skills or tools for conflict resolution. They have to learn these things. They learn them from watching their parents, teachers, and mentors. If a teen’s adult representatives are poor communicators, or if they handle frustration with anger or discord, then teens will learn to communicate via anger and discord.

 

Parents, when conflicts within the family arise, how do you handle them? Do you yell? Do you slam doors? Do you get into a shouting match with your teen?

 

If negative reactions to conflict are your go-to, then conflict will continue to flourish. Yelling won’t solve any problems. It will create more problems. Here’s a common scenario: your teenager arrives home 15 minutes past their curfew. You’re angry, frustrated, and worried. Your reaction to your teen when he or she walks in is to start yelling at them. All of your fears and frustrations come to a head. What if, instead of yelling, you calmly asked, “What time is your curfew?” “What time is it now?” and finally, “Can you tell me what the punishment is for being late?” Several things happen in this scenario. Your teen is given an opportunity to take responsibility, and they can even begin to recognize that the punishment isn’t that egregious.

 

Parents and teens alike need to know how to self-regulate. Try to integrate some of these into your life:

  • Take a time out.
  • Count to 10 before you respond.
  • Be fair: allow both parties the opportunity to express their views and experiences.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Have empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand and feel the feelings of another human being. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes. Doing this may allow you to have compassion for the person you are angry at.

 

Resolving conflict requires a cool head and an open heart. Adolescence is a messy time—rather, it’s emotionally messy. Hormones are raging, moods are swinging, in truth, it’s a party you don’t want to go to but one that is a regular part of life. We were all teenagers once. If we can remember that piece, we can develop empathy. If we can remember what it felt like to go through this rapid-fire change, we will hopefully ourselves to be kinder and more loving to each other.

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Feelings Recovery Self-Care Therapy Treatment

Working With Our Addiction to Anger

Angry Talk (Comic Style) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you be addicted to anger? Does the adrenaline rush of being angry dictate your response to the world? Better yet, are you even aware this is happening? Or have you become so used to the rage response, it’s become part of your normative behavior.

We know anger is a natural occurrence, but for some, it becomes so deeply problematic, it devolves into an addiction. When we become our anger (or any emotion, for that matter), we disable our ability to communicate. In those moments when we are lost in the rage and its resulting dissension, our hearts are frozen; our eyes are blinded; our tongues are tied. No good can come from this.  But what can we do? How can we change this innately negative response to our frustration?

Anger management courses and other therapeutic modalities teach and use various methods in which one can learn to recognize the emotional and physical response to anger and rage. By first recognizing what is happening, one is allowed to begin to shift their response. First, we must familiarize ourselves with the addictive anger cycle itself:

1: You find yourself becoming uncomfortable or you aren’t getting something you want or think you need. You may be subconsciously or consciously reminded of feelings from long ago (childhood, for example), which are bringing untouched emotions to the surface.

2: You feel like no one understands you:  “No one gets it. They just don’t get it.” “I’m all alone.” “Whatever. I’m fine.” “No one listens to me.”

3: The frustration is building internally, but talking about it isn’t an option because you always deal with your anger and frustration alone. In fact, talking about it with others feels too difficult.

4: Stress begins to builds until you blow up. Someone or something is usually caught in the crossfire and they get hurt, either emotionally or physically. There is the part of you that doesn’t want this, but you have lost control. The guilt and shame begin to build.

5: You feel better after the explosion, perhaps even a bit relieved, until you look around and see the wreckage of your presence.

6: Now the guilt and shame really sets in. You find yourself ardently apologizing and promising not to repeat the behavior. Unfortunately, those on the receiving end may not accept your apology. What? Once again, “No one listens to me” becomes the inner mantra.

7: You internally justify your anger; it was really their fault anyway, right? (Wrong!)

8: You feel no better than before the explosion. In fact, the discomfort and frustration are still there, gnawing at you from the inside.

 

Processing anger like this is similar to releasing pressure from a pressure cooker while leaving it on the heat. Sure, some of the steam is released, but there is still steam building within. This technique is tantamount to placing a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. It’s just not large enough, or effective enough to alleviate the problem. This circular pattern of frustration à anger à explosion à remorse is ultimately a dead end. What is really needed is a salve for the anger: a calming, healthy way in which to release the pressure.

 

1: Learn to understand and take care of your needs: Holding your emotions in cannot be an option.

2: Find a good therapist who can help teach you how to touch upon the things that trigger your anger and help you devise a healthier way to allow it to dissipate.

3:  Learn ways to let go of your anger which are healthy and non-harmful. Rather than beating a pillow, which only adds coals to the fire, discover how to gently cool the anger: take a walk, take 10 deep breaths, write, drink some water.

3: Ask for help. This may be difficult, but you can do this! You are not broken, you are not a bad person. You are struggling with an overpowering, difficult emotion and it is OK to ask for help.

4: Laugh. Laugh for no reason, just laugh. It not only opens your heart and softens your belly, it helps you see the ridiculousness in many things.

At some point, instead of your anger controlling you, you will learn to control your anger. Developing a practice of self-care will be paramount to paving a new path and changing the face of your addiction to anger.  Discovering ways to recognize the triggers to your anger and how to respond to them skillfully is going to be key. Remember, recognizing there is a problem is the first step to finding the solution. It takes time, and work, but it’s worth it. You can recover.

 

Categories
Feelings Recovery

From Anger to Compassion

“Anger is like a hot stone. When you pick it up to hold or throw at someone, you get burned.”Ancient Proverb

Anger is an emotion most often legitimized by righteousness: anger at our assailant, anger at the hit-and-run driver, anger at our victimization, anger at our addiction. Justifiable anger certainly makes sense in some ways, but when we begin to examine our anger from a neutral position, finally seeing its source, our perceptions begin to change.  Working with anger has been a key part of my own recovery. Anger would consume me when I was a teen, and it continued to do so well into my early sobriety. At that time, the justification felt authentic. I responded to most things by getting angry: Scared? Anger. Stressed? Anger. You can see where I’m going with this. Like drugs and alcohol, the anger stopped working. It was one more thing I was addicted to. I liked my justification.

I’ve learned that anger is fear’s way of not showing its wide-eyed terror; it’s hurt’s way of shielding a broken heart and hurt feelings; it’s loneliness trying to appear courageous. Anger, despite its deeply embedded hooks, is merely a mask. In reality, it is a secondary emotion. Granted, everyone gets angry, however, what we choose to do with our anger will ultimately choose its outcome.  Because anger exhibits itself in our body’s “fight or flight” response, employing some self-awareness can be especially helpful.  For example, pay attention to your body’s physical reactions. You can ask yourself questions like: What’s happening with my breathing—is it faster? Is it shallow?  Is my stomach tight?  Am I afraid?  Stopping when the anger starts allows us to take care of the anger. It allows our anger the space it needs to dissipate, rather than being fed by the fires of our reactions. Buddhism suggests we observe our anger and send it compassion. In fact, they say compassion is the antidote to anger, which is a wonderful way of addressing anger. I rather like what Lama Surya Das has to say:

“I believe that anger is just an emotion. We needn’t be afraid of it or judge it too harshly. Emotions occur quickly; moods linger longer. These temporary states of mind are conditioned, and therefore can be reconditioned. Through self-discipline and practice, negativity can be transformed into positivity and freedom and self-mastery achieved.”

The truth is, feeding the fuel of anger only breeds more anger. Learning how to sit with the uncomfortable sensations that come with rage teaches us that those intense emotions will pass. It provides us with an opportunity to transform an emotion that has the potential of destroying us.

Here’s a story typically attributed to a Native American elder which explains this better than I ever could:

A grandfather imparting a life lesson to his grandson tells him, ‘I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful. The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful, and serene.’ The grandson asks which wolf will win the fight. The grandfather answers, ‘The one I feed.’”

Which emotion will you feed?