Recently, someone asked me to teach about managing anger to four teenagers aged between 13–16 years old.
I felt like an imposter when I did my research on this topic. Firstly, I felt like an imposter because I am still processing my emotions, especially my anger. Secondly, I am from a different generation. If I am not careful with the generational and cultural context, the topic of anger can be interpreted as old people’s problem. After all, I grew up with many baby boomers who are unable to process their emotions. Thirdly, Bahasa Malaysia is not my second language. I had to translate my materials and my thoughts. Finally, some of them are unresponsive. I was sitting in a few sessions with these teenagers and some of them were uncomfortable with the teachers. The teachers were treating them like pre-teens as they were making the teenagers give black and white answers that do not fit the teenagers’ context. By doing so, the teenagers do not feel safe to share their perspectives or else to be judged for not complying.
I looked at the material (O.B.) used over this session, and I did not like the approach from this material. The material was very surface level and outdated. It was oversimplifying emotions such as anger by saying that anger is bad. Anger is a signal of deeper emotions, and it will become a sin if we decided to harm other people, property, and ourselves. As a result of categorising anger as bad, the youth are unable to talk about it else people will judge them as bad. There is no safe space for this youth especially the problems they faced are differ from the previous generations, especially with the changing nature of the pandemic.
Based on my observation of the group, I noticed that they are just giving the right answers to please the teachers who were facilitating the sessions. Also, they are unable to name their emotions due to their environment growing up. Furthermore, I know their parents and their parents know little about emotional and mental health. Hence, the parents’ way of managing their children’s mental and emotional health is not great because they are not able to acknowledge their own emotions.
Therefore, my objective in talking about anger was to give tools to the teenagers. For example, I did not want them to view anger as bad, but as a signal that their boundaries and values are violated. Also, I wanted them to be able to name their emotions and the after-effects of anger if their emotions are not acknowledged and processed. My husband suggested that I should talk about the iceberg of anger. The iceberg of anger shows that we often see anger at the tip of the iceberg, but below the iceberg, there are other emotions such as sadness, disappointment, hurt etc which makes a person angry. I also added some materials from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero, gifs from Kim’s Convenience for the Asian context, and gifs from Inside Out to highlight the symbolism used to depict emotions such as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.
How did the session turn out?
Well, one teenager thanked me for talking about this topic. There was a boy who was very distracted and often unresponsive when the other teachers called him, but I asked him open-ended questions, he actually responded. Some of his answers were weird, but at least he responded instead of disappearing from that session.
I do not know if this session made a big impact on them, but I believe that there is much to learn about emotions, especially anger. There are many resources and experts in this field, and all I can only do is pique their interest to explore more about this topic.