Emotions & Resilience

Lessons from Anger Management: The Strength of Commitment

anger tired dragon buddhist death life rebirth
The tiger and dragon are symbols of the journey through spiritual life, death and rebirth.

I began supporting young adults in Anger Management courses back in 2011. The groups ran for 6 sessions, mixing lifestyle choices, peer-support and neuroscience in the education aspects. Practically speaking, we led mindfulness exercises, drew on flip charts, and used boxing gloves.

This was the job where I truly learned the power of mixing education and theory with practise and guided support. During one session, a phrase about commitment came up, which I have carried with me over the past seven years:

“I’m more committed to being happy than to being ‘right’. That’s all you’ve got to do; be more committed to making your life work than being right. It’s your choice.”

That comment, made by a teenager who had chosen to attend these voluntary sessions, followed me, and my own anger around for a solid year after. At first, I found its truth annoying: I’d almost go as far as to say it haunted me.

Anger thrives on a sense of control, a sense of ‘righteousness.’ It’s a strong, natural response to a sense of threat, and yet, in the modern day, not every ‘threat’ requires the physical response.

Conditioning from Childhood Experiences

The house I grew up in had a very specific atmosphere. Being different was being wrong, which was also “ridiculous”, “stupid”, and often, “was something everybody knew was stupid/ridiculous” (except me). A lot of my “I must be right” was a form of OCD-like perfectionism drilled into me from a young age, propelled by fear. 

I didn’t know any different, following the path, where people who were right, people who could see those wrong things were obviously stupid could be aggressive and feel justified in that act of oppressing others.

Each of us has some experience of conditioning, and the first step towards balancing that experience is reflection. By recognising that this was a very one-sided view. I co-facilitated that programme for two years, and each time, I found myself delving deeper into those core beliefs, the background assumptions and the threats which arose for my brain.

But through running that group programme, I was also making a choice. 

Each week, I showed up to teach theory and practical exercises, hear anecdotes and support 16-25 year old’s with their anger and anxiety. I worked with over 35 young people, from homeless bullies, to those in care, misusing drugs or supported by the youth offending service. 

If these young people with minimal education, disabilities, were bullies or were on probation could learn to manage their anger then I, a Master’s student, had to have faith in myself.

I made a choice to help these people, to learn from them, but also to face my own anger in an open and safe space.

This was my first taste of redefinition: of the chance to make active choices to map out a potential I sought. 

Making a commitment is strong. With each new group of participants, we made a group agreement, stating boundaries around physical violence, swear words and treating other members of the room. It was an open commitment we all made.

But the commitment about being happy was a real motivator for my journey towards reaching for my potential.

The tools of awareness, of realising we can change – is a key foundation of the process of redefinition.

The secret of finding awareness is the present moment. Each moment is another chance for that reminder –

“We are committed to this relationship working.”
“I can choose my response to this action.”
“I have a commitment to being a kind and compassionate person.”

Whatever the goal, there’s a choice, a decision made and a commitment to keep.

Making The Decision

Even as an adult, I find myself redefining myself. When I left home at eighteen as an angry, verbally aggressive, being I took everything personally and was terrified of being wrong.

I still struggle with emotions sometimes: I am, after all, still human. Sometimes, I do still struggle with being wrong, and I can be strong-minded about certain views. The difference is that those views are now relatively well-researched from both sides. What time has done is give me a large perspective, a softer viewpoint. A safer space.

Happiness in nature: log pile
Empowerment & Seeking

Happiness: The Truth about Self-help Tools

I began studying the psychology of my own experiences in 2004 with a book on Psycholinguistics and one on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Since then, I’ve studied a bunch of qualifications, and have worked in social care, education, mental health and youth work fields.

Yet, there are some ‘lessons’ you don’t fully comprehend until you’ve lived them.

A few years ago, Christine Kane wrote an article about smiling after challenge, and a particular comment she made really stood out for me:

“That’s because when it comes right down to it, happiness is a lot about training.”

I sat and stared at that sentence. Happiness is about Training your Mind. That kind of rings true… and of course, it’s the whole point of my work, in a way. I want to share all that I know about training the mind to be healthy, happy and effective at learning, feeling and being.

Beyond all my talk about empowerment and inner strength, all my motivation for being a mentor to help people feel equipped for their personal quest: happiness is probably the most common desire in all of us.

The Personal Training Effect

Across the last 15 years or so, I’ve focused on any practise that may allow me to reach that potential, to complete my own personal quest.

I have all this knowledge about meditation, gratitude, visualisation, learning, associations, triggers, challenging our thoughts, and re-defining. But in reality, they’re all tools for experiencing happiness in the moment.

We’re all seeking happiness as someone hiring a personal trainer seeks health and wellbeing. And much like those sessions, it may take a few difficult tasks, pushing against our limits and trial and error to find the workout that gives us the desired results.

The Horizon Never Moves Closer

Similarly, goals generally require us to try various tools and methods, to fail until we learn enough to succeed.

Because really, growing in skills, ability and experience is what makes us human. Personal growth, in my view, means we’re really living.

Christine also reminds us in that article that we’re “…never going to ARRIVE at the horizon. That line where earth and sky meet will always be out in front of you.”

Which is amazing, really. In some ways, the true reach of human potential really is infinite.

It’s something I never remember, especially when I’m feeling bad and can’t explain why. It’s something I know, but can’t access the knowledge of. These little steps are the easiest, and perhaps most effective… But it’s important not to focus on the horizon, just focus on where you want to put your feet next.

 

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