I start every ‘Conflict Resolution Workshop’ the same way; with a seemingly simple question.
‘What is Conflict?’
One young person I remember fondly replied
‘It’s a mountain in Spain. I think my mum climbed it once.’
A brilliant metaphor maybe, but understandably not quite what I was searching for. Another daring participant remarked
‘WE know what it means – but how do we know that YOU know what it means?’
The vast majority of young people however answer the question in a similar way conjuring up words such as disagreements, arguing or fighting. These suggestions inevitably lead to my next question;
‘How do you feel when you are in conflict with others?’
Of the almost 700 young people I have worked with over the last year I would estimate that over 90% answer this question with a simple word. Angry.
They describe to me what triggers their anger such as relationships with family members and losing at FIFA.
They describe to me what they do when they are most angry which normally includes self-destructive behavior such as breaking their own possessions or punching walls.
They describe to me the consequences, hurting those they care about, being asked to leave school.
Lastly they describe how they feel afterwards, offering words such as guilty, sad, tired and regretful, feelings which leave them low and quicker to anger. And thus the cycle continues.
Most worryingly when asked why they feel they get so angry is when I all too commonly am met with a variation on the following reply;
‘I’m just not a very nice person’
I was an angry teenager. In-fact I can be an angry adult. I understand first hand that anger can lead to feelings of self-doubt, perhaps even self-hatred. It can be an extraordinarily destructive emotion if bottled up and equally destructive when you open the bottle!
Anger is a normal healthy reaction to the world around us, it can protect us and drive us forward but learning how to control our anger from an early age is vital for our personal health and personal relationships.
But frankly I struggle at explaining this to young people in my workshops! I hear from other professionals such as teachers and youth workers that they want to approach anger management but they struggle as well. And that’s why alongside a team of amazingly talented volunteers I created the video ‘Resolving Conflict with Jamie & Mr. Clubber’ a seriously un-serious video about anger. We designed the video to be approachable for teenagers but also accessible to those a wee bit younger (and those a lot bit older!) so that they may understand that being angry doesn’t mean you’re not a nice person.
A great resource for teachers, parents and young people ‘Resolving Conflict with Jamie & Mr. Clubber’ supports us to understand the anger cycle, find tips and tricks for managing our anger and start an open and honest discussion about why some of us get so angry in the first place!