“Anger isn’t my problem,” I thought. “You’re my problem.”… 'You' being the adults in my life who didn’t know how to talk to me. I felt everyone was pointing the finger at me and saying I was the problem.”
Co-author Jason R. Murphy recalls being sent to a psychologist at age 16 because of his aggression. The psychologist taught him mindfulness meditation, which helped give him some “relief from my thoughts, from my judgments.”
The first step in controlling anger, he explains, is in understanding its causes:
"People don’t usually have problems with what you feel, they have problems with what you do. So many anger management strategies fail because all the attention is on making you change what you do: arguing, fighting, out-of-control behaviors… but to change what is happening on the outside, we need to look deeply at what is happening on the inside."
And what's happening on the inside can be quite different from what parents or teachers might assume:
"We often show a small part of ourselves to the outside world and keep the rest hidden, sometimes even from ourselves. We may act strong or intimidating on the outside, but underneath we might feel afraid of what others think about us, or terrified of failing."
Through a series of questions, worksheets, and meditations, Mindfulness for Teen Anger helps kids to:
- Understand the costs and benefits of current behavior: for example, fighting or acting tough is a way of releasing anger and feeling in control.
- Develop an assertive communication style (as opposed to passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive); and
- Recognize triggers and respond in a thoughtful way instead of reacting impulsively and making the situation worse.
As with the other Instant Help Books, Mindfulness for Teen Anger is designed as a workbook kids can use on their own or with a trusted adult. But I think it’s equally valuable in helping anyone who lives or works with teens to understand the fear and vulnerability that often underlie aggressive behavior.
Mindfulness for Teachers and Teens (interview)
Power Struggles: Case Studies in Mindful Communication (sample activity)
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