anger

Anger Management

 
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Time to get your anger under control?

A closer look at managing your anger

 

Everyone gets angry at one time or another. Anger is a normal human emotion. It’s how a person acts when feeling angry that can be problematic. When anger builds in intensity or gets out of control, people can behave in ways that are destructive. In fact, anger can become so intense that the feeling itself may be better described as rage. When anger gets out of control, it can lead to problems in personal relationships, particularly if anger leads to emotionally or physically abusive behavior or other acts of violence.

The good news is that people can learn to manage their anger. In some cases this means learning to express anger in healthy ways, learning to keep yourself calm and controlling your reactions when faced with something that triggers your anger and avoiding people or situations that make you angry or enraged, or leaving a situation if you feel yourself becoming angry or losing control.

Expressing anger in healthy ways

Communicating assertively—not aggressively—is a good way to express anger in a healthy way, while maintaining effective communication. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means expressing your feelings and needs in a way that is respectful of yourself and others. Generally this works best if used before your anger gets out of control.

For example, let’s suppose you are in a cafeteria line just about to get your tray when someone steps in ahead of you. An aggressive response might be, “Hey, buddy, who do you think you are? Go to the back of the line.” An assertive response might be, “Sorry, but I think I’m next. The line forms over here.”

Keeping calm

A physiological response also happens when a person gets angry. Heart rate increases and muscles become tense. These physiological responses can actually be cues that signal the person that they are becoming angry. Recognizing those cues and learning how to calm internal responses when faced with a person or situation that arouses anger can help angry feelings subside.

Different relaxation strategies might also be helpful:

  • Breathing deeply

  • Repeatedly telling yourself to remain calm or take it easy

  • Counting from 10 backwards

  • Imagining or visualizing an image that helps you relax or feel calm.

These responses can also be used before coming face to face with the person or situation—almost as a way to anticipate or prepare for what is stressful.

Remembering to slow down and stopping to think before reacting can also help you keep your cool. Reacting impulsively to what someone else says or does can fuel anger. By slowing down and stopping to think, you are better able to listen and really hear what the other person is trying to communicate. By stopping to think you can also give yourself time to think of other ways of solving the problem you might be facing.

Controlling your reactions

At times the things we say to ourselves or think when faced with a situation or person who makes us angry, can actually fuel your anger. The scientific term for changing your thinking is “cognitive restructuring” and it’s a technique rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy. Changing the way you think means switching up the irrational kinds of messages you give yourself to those that are more logical. For example, switching your thought patterns from “this is how things HAVE be” to “I’d ‘prefer’ this, but I can survive if it’s not…”.

Avoiding or leaving a stressful situation

In some cases, a person can identify the situations that often trigger their anger. Staying away from the situation isn’t always an option, but in some instances it could be. For example, if you know that it really pisses you off to see your old girlfriend hanging with her new boyfriend, you might want to avoid going to their favorite place to hang out. It doesn’t mean you will never go where they are, but maybe avoiding them initially while you are getting over the break up might help you keep your cool.

Also, if you feel yourself getting angry, another option is to leave the situation before things escalate. Sometimes people feel that leaving isn’t always easy to do because your reputation or need for respect is on the line. Cognitive restructuring might be useful as a way of challenging these thoughts.

It’s important that you give yourself the space you need to become level headed. If you don’t, you may end up saying or doing things you later regret. Tell the other people or person that you need to take a walk, and when everyone is able to talk calmly again, you’ll continue the conversation. It’s okay to have boundaries like this.

How might counseling help?

All of the above mentioned anger management techniques, and others, are skills that a counselor or other mental health professional can help you develop. If you feel that your anger is out of control and it’s affecting your relationships and other important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to better manage your anger. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in helping people manage anger and aggressive and violent behaviors.

Information for this article was provided by:

 

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

 
 

Joining a Gang

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Should I join a gang?

A closer look at why people join gangs and how you can respond to the pressure of joining a gang

Why do people join gangs?

Many communities in the United States have gangs in them. And some of these gangs have been around for a long time and over many generations. It isn’t surprising that many people in these communities find themselves (both male and female) having to make a decision about whether or not to join. There isn’t just one reason for why people join gangs and the more reasons one person has to deal with, the harder it will be for them to resist joining a gang. It is important to know that having all these issues in your life DOES NOT mean you are absolutely going to join a gang. In fact, many people who deal with some incredibly hard issues in their life do not join a gang. Knowing what to expect, what the other possibilities are, and deciding how to handle yourself are part of making this decision.

Pressure to join a gang

When gangs are all around you, it may seem normal or expected to join. You might not think so, but ultimately, your choice is based on variety of factors and all are very hard to deal with. Sometimes a person’s environment and the people in it can make it seem normal or natural to join a gang. For example, if you live in an area full of gangs, or there are many gang members living near you or going to school with you, you might think it’s normal to join a gang because it seems to you that everyone else is joining. This normalizes gang activity to those that live in those neighborhoods.

If you live in a neighborhood where there is a lot of poverty and gang activity, you might think there’s no way to get ahead and live a happy life. Perhaps for that reason alone you might consider joining a gang to survive the chaos of the neighborhood, the economic distress, or simply to protect yourself. It might seem strange to those not in these situations, but protection from a certain group of individuals could cause a person to get into a gang because they think the gang can protect them.

You might also think that the gangster life is glamorous. People admire the power that a gang member seems to possess in that particular community and wish to attain the same stature. Gang life might also seem glamorous because of the drugs, money, violence, and respect acquired through fear and intimidation. This attracts many people to pursue a life in gangs, but there is nothing glamorous about gang life and you aren’t really protected either—you are constantly in fear of confrontations with rival gangs or the police. Being in a gang increases your chances of getting arrested, seriously injured or killed. Having drugs around may also increase the chances of you developing a drug problem or getting busted for drug possession or selling.

It is really hard to avoid these temptations, especially when everything around you seems to point to the gang life. Some alternatives to joining a gang might be:

  • Joining a sports team or group. Find friends and connections through mutual interests. The people you put yourself around will influence your decisions, so try to surround yourself with people that are going to support you and push you to always be better. It can also feel good to be a part of something bigger than yourself, like through volunteering, joining a play, or starting a band.

  • Focusing on school. If you’re getting good grades, this could help you get scholarships and grants to put towards a technical school or college after high school. This can help you fast-track your career.

  • Journal. Try spending some time writing down your thoughts and feelings about your situation. What are all your options and what is the best one? Weight out the pros and cons. This might help you find alternatives and solutions to joining a gang.

  • Tap into your creative side. Learning to play an instrument, dancing, painting and other forms of art can help you express yourself or distract you from what you’re feeling in a healthy way.

  • Get a part time job. This can help you feel like you’re moving towards your goals in a positive way.

Many communities have community based organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and even some of the local colleges and universities have programs for young people in the community. Talk to your school counselor or favorite teacher too. They might have ideas for you.

The gang life isn’t glamorous and can’t offer you real protection when you think of what could happen to you—going to jail, living in constant fear for your life, or actually dying.

When most people around me are in gangs, why shouldn’t I join, too?

Sometimes the people closest to you can be a huge influence on making a decision to join a gang. Having parents or other family members involved in gangs only intensifies the likelihood of joining a gang. If it’s not having family members that cause someone to join gangs, a friend or friends in a gang may be a really strong motivator to join a gang. If your friends are gang members or associated with a gang, they can be an influence to join. Peer pressure and peer acceptance are some of the main reasons why people get involved in gangs. These things are hard to deal with especially when you feel like you don’t want to be left out of what your friends or family members are doing.

An environment with gangs, violence, and poverty can make a person grow up too fast. Sometimes if you don’t have family support or role models to look up to, you go looking for it elsewhere. Not feeling loved or supported can lead to anger and anger can lead to acting out. Check out the Anger and Violence article for more information about how to deal with your anger.

Many think they’ll find what they are looking for in a gang. Unfortunately, chances are that if you have family and friends in a gang, these same family members or friends have been arrested, put in jail, shot, or even killed. Do you want that kind of life? Do you want to run the risk of being killed? Seriously think it through. Our Risk-Taking article may help you in your decision making process. Sometimes finding a trusted adult to talk to, like a teacher or guidance counselor, can help you deal with the pressure or offer suggestions for how to resist joining a gang.

Having no hope for the future

Sometimes we have a tendency to focus on the positive or fun aspects of joining a gang, like hanging out with friends and gaining prestige. It’s important not to forget the negative impact it could have on your life, though. You might think without joining a gang, there’s not real hope for your future. Maybe asking yourself, “Why care about the negative things that can happen to me?”

The bigger issue underneath this attitude is one that is much harder to tackle. When there is no hope for the future, a person feels that it is easier to go on a destructive path without care or worry of who gets caught up along the way. The truth is that joining a gang is a decision that only a person with no hope for the future can make. If you had hope for a future—a good college education; a good job or career; a family—you wouldn’t choose a life of fear of being hurt or jailed. Would you?

Sometimes finding hope comes in the simplest ways, regardless of your neighborhood or environment:

  • Getting an A on an exam or even a C in a really hard subject

  • Making the football team

  • Getting a part time job

  • Going to a restaurant outside of your neighborhood

Just like there are many factors (sometimes working all together) that lead to people joining gangs. There is not one way, but many ways to keep from joining. Question your options. Talk to someone. The decision to adopt a gang lifestyle is one that has the potential for negative and devastating things to happen—where people die, get hurt, or go to jail. More potential for worse off circumstances than another other lifestyle decision you could make.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Thornberry, Krohn, Lizotte, Smith & Tobin’s “Gangs and Delinquency in Development Perspective” (Cambridge Press, 2003).

Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com




Anger & Violence

Anger

A closer look at anger, violence, and how to cope with those feelings

Why do people get angry?

Anger is a normal and healthy emotion experienced by everyone at some point.Sometimes, anger can be a positive emotion, driving us to right wrongs or fix injustices. But sometimes a person’s anger can become uncontrollable and harmful—and it can even lead to violent behavior.

There are many different reasons why people get angry. Some reasons why you might be feeling angry include:

  • Being treated unfairly

  • Having no control over things

  • Being stressed or under a lot of pressure

  • Experiencing body changes, which cause major mood swings

  • Being depressed

  • Having a personality that has a short fuse

All of these things can lead to anger, which is an OK feeling to have. Anger can be a difficult emotion to express and manage, particularly because we have often been taught not to show or express our anger. It is not uncommon to feel guilty or ashamed about being angry, even though it’s a very normal and necessary emotion.

Anger only becomes unhealthy when it’s expressed in a way that hurts others or yourself. Likewise, if you bottle up your anger and don’t express it at all, you might find that it will come out in ways that you didn’t expect. There are many ways of expressing your anger, but becoming violent should never be an option.

Expressing your anger in negative ways

Just as everyone feels angry from time to time, everyone also expresses their anger in different ways. Some ways are more constructive than others, and chances are, you’ve learned how to express your anger and frustration from the people in your life or the situation you grew up in.

Violent behavior, toward oneself and others, can result from anger. It is one way that people express anger and try to control the situations that they find themselves in—but violence is never a positive or constructive way to deal with your emotions.

Certain factors might put you at a greater risk of acting out violently. For example, you might be violent because the people you hang out with use violence or other types of aggression. You might think violence is more acceptable because you’ve seen it on television, in the movies or in video games. You might also act violently because someone—like a bully or even a family member—is being violent toward you. If you grew up in a violent household, you might think that it’s OK to deal with your feelings in a physically aggressive way. Research shows that children who grow up with disruptive home situations might have a harder time controlling anger and are more likely to act out violently. This is often called a “cycle of violence.”

Recognizing the potential for violence

There are certain warning signs that people might have a hard time controlling their violent behavior. Here are a few examples:

  • Regular loss of temper

  • Frequent physical fighting

  • Drug or alcohol abuse

  • Vandalism or property destruction

  • Harming other living things, like animals

  • Making frequent threats toward others

Managing your anger and breaking the cycle of violence

The good news is that any learned behavior—such as violence—can also be unlearned. The key is to first take control of situations that make you angry and manage your reaction to frustration.

Here are some tips to get started:

Use your anger as a signal. When people are angry, they can say or do things that they regret later. If you feel that you are becoming angry, do something to cool down, like counting backwards from 100.

Think about the things that trigger your anger. By identifying common factors in the situations that seem to trigger your anger, you might be able to predict and prepare for future anger-producing circumstances.

Take a “time out”. If you feel that you might lose control, get yourself out of the situation that is provoking you. Tell the person or people you’re arguing with that you need some space to cool down and that you’ll continue this conversation when everyone is calm again. Take a break from the situation to reevaluate what’s happening and think about your next steps and whether any actions could be potentially harmful. Keep telling yourself “I can calm down” and “I’m not going to let this get to me.” Going to a quiet place to chill out will allow you the time to gather your thoughts and feelings to go back into the conversation feeling confident.

Use this time out to think about what really is going on. For example, if you’re feeling angry because your teacher or boss yelled at you, your anger might be stemming from a deeper feeling of inadequacy or disappointment in yourself. Your feelings are often deeper messages. Question why you’re actually feeling this way.

Use your coping skills. Doing something active like kicking a soccer ball, punching a pillow, working out, or going for a run can help you release some angry energy and calm down. Playing video games is another great way to channel anger and violence into a place where it’s more appropriate. If you feel as if you are going to get into a fight, it’s better to do it in a video game than in real life. Music is a great way to release extra energy and get over the intense feelings you have. Strap on the headphones and play your favorite music for a while. It might be helpful to even make a playlist with some jams on it you can listen to when you’re feeling angry.

Talk to the person who is making you angry. When feeling more in control of your emotions, explain your side of things and assert your opinions in a positive way. For example, use “I-statements” such as, “I feel this way because…” Be prepared to keep your cool if the other person doesn’t respond the way you think he or she should.

Respect others’ opinions and reactions. It is important to remember that you can only control your reactions to situations and you can’t control the other person’s. Remember, it’s OK to disagree. If you’d like more information on conflict resolution, check out our Resolving an Argument article.

Don’t let it all hang out! While it’s important to express yourself, it isn’t always best to “let it all out.” In fact, fully acting on your angry feelings without taking others into consideration could actually have negative and harmful consequences. Try to be mindful of the time and place you’re sharing your feelings and be mindful in how you’re doing it.

Avoid using drugs and alcohol. Sometimes it’s easy to turn to substances like drugs and alcohol to help you forget or suppress angry feelings, but the relief you get from drugs and alcohol is only temporary, and the side effects of abuse can make a situation worse.

Talk to someone. Friends and family can be great sources of support if you’re feeling angry and frustrated—as long are you’re talking with them in positive ways and not taking your anger out on them. It can be relieving to vent about your frustrations and get to a place where you can laugh about it. If you don’t have anyone to talk to in person, there are lots of apps and online support groups you can join to find support.

What can I do if I keep getting angry?

If you find that you keep getting angry, or that you are lashing out and regularly becoming violent toward people or things, it may be helpful to speak to a friend or family member, or a healthcare professional like a counselor or your doctor. Speaking to someone may help you identify why you’re getting angry and help you deal with your anger so you don’t need to resort to lashing out.

 

Information for this article was provided by: