“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” - Maya Angelou
We all go through tough times. Ever so often, emotions get the better of you and you... just lose it. Embarrassingly ironic, It is always the easiest to lose our temper at those closest to us. What more for youths who are just starting to discover themselves in their budding new season?
It is the season where you wondered if the world made sense in your eyes. Things that block you frustrate you, especially when people cannot see the world the way you do. You forget that you should act and not react.
What’s after YOLO?
The mentality of Carpe Diem is exciting, inspirational and life-giving. But just like any double-edged sword, a moment of misinterpretation affects decision-making, priorities and self-worth. Rationality is often, perhaps, the assumption most flawed in the world today. An act fuelled by anger can lead to consequences beyond fleeting moments.
From here, Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health shared that “most violence is a learned response and it can be unlearned in most cases.”. As we learn aggressive behavior by observation, imitation, and reinforcement, it is theoretically possible to unlearn these aggressive behaviors in an attempt to lessen or prevent them.
So how do we unlearn aggressiveness?
You can be AFK (away from keyboard), but not AFL (away from life).
In real life, there is no “BRB” sign that you can put on and tell others when you will be right back.
How can we deal with aggression then, and even pull youths away from temperamental impulsiveness?
Anger is a strong, negative psycho-biological state that may result in aggression, and aggressive behavior is the application of anger for the purpose of harming others.
Our situation IRL
The causes for aggression can be attributed to a few. Examining a 2007 study done in Singapore, the Kaki Bukit Center Prison School analysed the case files of 54 juvenile offenders and researched on factors that provoked these young offenders to commit the offenses.
In sum, there factors are (1) peer influence and peer pressure, (2) provocation and anger, (3) boredom and thrill, (4) alcohol and drugs, and (5) money were the principal reasons to why these youths committed the offenses. An alarming 85% of the offenders reported peer-related influences as the determining factor.
Families play a huge role as well. In a more recent study based in Texas, adolescents who engage in fights receive mixed messages about the acceptability of fighting from their families. They have low competencies for using alternative conflict-resolution strategies. However, adolescents uninvolved in fighting effectively use a variety o f nonviolent strategies learned from parents.
So when does an individual’s anger become a community problem?
And more importantly, when should and do the social service sector come in?
The social sector has to put on her work gloves when youths fail to control or handle their emotions in a socially acceptable manner. This may come as a surprise, but according to the Singapore Counselling Centre, there are not one, but two facets to anger- implosive and explosive.
And both require attention.
Explosive anger can either be a sudden increase of voice levels like yelling or screaming, and self-harm such as cutting yourself with a blade. On the other hand, implosive anger is observed in destructive behaviors such as overeating and alcohol abuse.
No matter the facet and cause of anger, many of these youths often lack an older mentor-figure whom they can look up to.
Moving forward for the social sector today, how can we be this mentor figure to youths without coming off as a detached, naggy Aunt Agony?
Even as we are not fully skilled in the art of letting go and forgiveness, how can we lift up youths and provide a safe space where they can just come as they are?
Here are 5 areas which we can potentially look into:
- Telling them it’s alright to say no
Beneath the strong fort of individualism, many youths still find it difficult to say no. Facing the people around them, there is also a lack in knowledge to deal with or solve problems in a non-confrontational fashion.
Our young people need to know that “no” is an empowering word for them to take up the driving seat of their own lives. One way to doing this is to consciously is to use “I don’t” as opposed to “I can’t, as it is more effective in getting the point across. The other party is also more willing to accept their refusal.
- Bringing a community of wise counsel
Context is king, for circumstances and environments often carries a drastic influence on a person. As aforementioned by the case studies, peer-support networks prove to be a ready and abundant resource. Research shows that students alone can positively affect the behaviors of their peers. Having a community for youths to share their struggles and support one another is a great way to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behaviour.
- Stepping into the shoes of another
Studies have shown that role play is effective in helping youths understand and empathise from perspectives different from their own. When done right, it is a useful treatment to teach anger control as youths become more capable of managing conflict.
Empathy-building has been one of the ways in which educational institutions have been encouraging. Thinking from another person’s point of view can help to foster understanding and strengthen relationships. One probable option is going for service projects to help the community.
- Looking into the mirror
Having youths take some time off to clear their minds and reflect on their current season in life is another alternative to managing anger. When the youth is able to observe the immediate factors surrounding his or her outburst, a pattern of behaviour changes can be noted, including the environment and other potential triggers. This in turn helps to understand, reduce and possibly, avoid similar happenings.
Meditative journals and diaries can help young people to take a step back from the hustle and think beyond everyday affairs. If they are not comfortable sharing innermost thoughts online, old school notebooks are an attractive alternative.
- Seeing Forgiveness as the best course of action
The act of forgiveness is arguably one of the most liberating actions alive. Forgiveness, in its genuine form, creates an integrated sense of wellness. A calm heart is the first step to resolving conflicts and meeting problems with solutions.
Forming the habit overtime, growth can enable the youth to transit from aggression to empathy. Reversely, it allows them not to be overly-critical of their own actions as well.
No one has it easy. We learn along the way, to act and not react. To see beyond the current state of things and into a higher purpose to the things they do. Perhaps, a simple question for us is to ask ourselves if we will still be affected by the matter at hand 3 or even 5 years down the road. Chances are that they wouldn’t, and framing this perspective helps us to shrink our problems down to their proportionate sizes.
Useful links and references
Anger Management - Counselling Services by Singapore Counselling Centre. (2017). Counselling Services by Singapore Counselling Centre. Retrieved 15 June 2017, from http://scc.sg/e/index.php/2016/11/03/anger-management/
Kort & Felicitas, (2016). Anger management. In Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.
Shetgiri, R., Lee, S., Tillitski, J., Wilson, C., & Flores, G. (2015). Why Adolescents Fight: A Qualitative Study of Youth Perspectives on Fighting and Its Prevention. Academic Pediatrics, 15(1), 103-110. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2014.06.020
Tam, K., Heng, M., & Bullock, L. (2007). What Provokes Young People to Get Into Trouble: Singapore Stories. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education For Children And Youth, 51(2), 13-17. http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/psfl.51.2.13-17
Teaching Empathy to Young Adolescents | Origins Online. (2017). Originsonline.org. Retrieved 29 September 2017,
Wong, K. (2017). Why You Should Learn to Say ‘No’ More Often. Nytimes.com.
Retrieved 29 September 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/smarter-living/why-you-should-learn-to-say-no-more-often.html?mcubz=0