For the seventh time in seven weeks I walked into the small room and sat in the circle of chairs. Seven sets of eyes watched me, a myriad of expressions on their faces. The faces have changed since the week one, from looking that expressed anger and dismay at being forced into this circle, to apathy, to receptiveness.
I looked around the room at my co-facilitator and then the students and posed the question, "What is one thing that you are Have you learned about anger in the past 6 weeks? " Eyes watched me. I learned early on that I could not pose a question to this group and expect a response unless I called them one by one, encouraging participation. Once they start talking, however, the floodgates often open, moving the group from passive observers to active contributors.
I looked at Matt and waited. I knew I could count on him to get the ball rolling. He did not disappoint me. "Anger is a secondary emotion," he replied. "What does that mean?" I returned. "It means that there are other feelings inside that come first, but those feelings turn to anger and it happens so fast!" he said.
Sophisticated and reserved, she could be an unlikely candidate for this group. Appearances mean nothing. The fly on the wall would see little commonality between these participants. They represented a cross-section of peer groups. Students are referred to the program by an administrator, a counselor or are self-referenced. There is a waiting list.
Administration presents the group as an option to out-of-school suspension. If students choose to participate in the Anger Management Group eight-week session, their OSS is suspended until completion and then waived. Theoretically, if students miss sessions, they must serve the OSS. Overall, this works and keeps attendance consistent. As with any program, there are exceptions.
Ellen looked at me thoughtfully. She answered that she had learned that people had choices when they felt angry. People could choose to walk away or change the way they think about a situation. Using the opening she presented, I reviewed the physiological and psychological aspects of anger and anger reaction that we talked about a few weeks earlier.
"Anger is triggered," I said. "If you choose a negative self-talk, you will be able to choose your action and take positive steps to deal with your anger. anger will escalate. " I framed what Ellen contributed in words we have used during the lessons.
Ed speaks out, "Well, if some jerk hits my girlfriend, it makes me think about it. mad. " I look around the room, seeing the light go on in their eyes. They know what is coming. Mike, my co-facilitator asks, "Can someone" make "you mad?" "No," several answers, though reluctantly. The consensus is that anger is triggered.
I ask, "Why is that so important to understand?" They take stabs at what I'm looking for, but none hit on the point I want to re-make and stress. "If someone" makes you mad, who has control over your emotions? What does that language tell you about who's in control? " Steve, passive and quietly responsive answers, "The other person has control". "If something triggers your anger, who has control? Who has the power?" I could see the light dawn in their eyes as I looked around the room. "We do." they answered.
The goal of this program is to help these kids to see that they are not helpless victims of society. They have an opportunity to take control of their lives and emotions and choose healthier responses to anger. Understanding the social, cultural, and personal influences that shape their thinking, using empowering language and owning their behavior are key to the effectiveness of the group sessions
I knew we were making a difference when one student, with a twinkle in his eyes asked me, "How are you feeling?" Knowing what he was looking for, I answered, "Mad!" He said, "Mad is a secondary emotion, and what are you really feeling?"
My co-facilitator and I have seen the effect of the program on student's behavior in the halls administrative office and private session. They have a new frame of reference in which to view their thinking and behavior. They catch themselves in the process of making a choice and clicking and they make a better choice.
Anger management is a critical component in any Peace Education curriculum as anger is a major obstacle to peace.
Anger management is a critical component in any Peace Education curriculum, as anger is a major obstacle to peace. It is one tool in the Peace kit. Before we can consider making it into world peace, we need to start with what's happening at home with our youth and in our hearts. For the teens I work with, that means learning to deal with their anger constructively.
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