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.