Spying on Anger

Our family has worked with the George Hull Family Crisis Center for all 3 kids for all different reasons.  A couple of years ago, we were on a 12-18 month waiting list for my one son.  When we were waiting to get help and support -- the Center was trying out a mini emergency triage program. We got three sessions with the intention to see if they could help and support while we were waiting for permanent care.  It was fabulous and tremendously helpful.  During this program, we met the most extraordinary social worker - we will call her M who was extremely gifted.  She wrote each of my son's and I a letter.  I have saved the letters, refer to them often and share them with other parents who are going through some of the same challenges we were at the time.

I thought I would share an letter excerpt:

Dear A,

Thanks for meeting with me today – It sounds like anger is really getting the better of you sometimes which seems very unfair!  A, anger is causing you to miss out on important and fun events!

Here are some ideas that I have for you to start figuring out how to take control of anger rather than anger controlling you.  Please feel free to play around with the ideas or throw them out completely:-)

Spying on Anger.

Over the next few weeks, take some time to spy on anger.

You are on the lookout for what are anger’s strengths (when is it most likely to take over A, what encourages it, what other emotions does it work with when it really takes over A's actions, what are the strategies that it uses to convince you that you don’t have control) and anger’s weaknesses  (what are the situations that A does control anger, when is it not around or at least doesn’t take over, what helps to shrink anger, etc.) You may have to have regular secret meetings where you get together to share what information you have gathered about anger. I would strongly suggest holding these meetings when anger is far away.

So far, this is what I have learned about anger:

-Anger may take over A’s thoughts and actions when A is disappointed, feels that a situation is not fair, or if someone does something that is not in line with A’s values (such as his value that everyone is nice and special). What other situations or other emotions might be likely to lead to anger taking control of A’s thoughts and actions?

-Anger’s weakness is humour and mac ‘n’ cheese (or other things A likes). Sperry, you also mentioned that anger is less likely to be around when you have ‘tummy hugs’. My guess is that anger’s weakness is also probably when A and Sperry work together to solve problems. What else makes anger weaker?

-Look at situations and ask each other, what was the anger about? What did the anger need or want? Was the anger scared, sad, worried, frustrated, hurt or something else?

-Once you have this better understanding about anger, you can start making a plan for an ‘anger takeover’

I hope you can use this approach to help your child investigate their feelings. 


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Susan Schenk