When we come alongside young people who struggle controlling their anger, we need to understand what their anger is covering. Is it a loss that happened, the threat of something precious being taken away, a mixture of events and circumstances? As we begin to understand, we can help them understand too. “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
After walking a young person through the concept of anger as a secondary emotion that points to a primary emotion of fear, disappointment, grief, or shame, we can help a young person start to recognize when anger starts to well up inside her.
Healing communication starts with a compassion that reflects God’s care. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). Often, getting to the heart of the matter is slow-going. It requires trust, patience, a listening ear, and a willingness to grieve more than judge. Shame and guilt are often interwoven with trauma, and we’ll deal with both in an upcoming article.
Fruit of the Heart
We all deal with external stressors. The question is, how will we deal with them: with a “thorny” response or a “fruitful” response? Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane explore “How People Change” in their excellent work on discipleship and growth. Give your mentee the joyful hope that comes from seeing truth and being able to focus on his or her core emotions.
Mature adults use lots of skills to cope with their “hot” emotions: such as talking, breathing deeply, taking a walk, praying, asking for a time-out in a difficult discussion, writing out painful memories or deep hopes, and remembering who they are in God.
As you walk with someone, teach self-awareness of rising anger. It’s easier to stall out a growing tantrum than to contain a full-blown meltdown. Stress-relieving skills can keep her from becoming emotionally “topped off” with the full-blown adrenaline rush and accompanying cocktail of brain chemicals.
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