You probably don’t realise this but anger is my friend. My best friend. It’s my certainty amidst uncertainty. It’s always there for me, it protects me. It tells me I’m alive. It shows me that I exist in other people’s worlds. And you know what? It often makes me feel good, real good. It shows I have some power, some real raw power within me and I don’t get that any other time. For those few moments I can be king of the world and no-one can take that from me.
It’s my emotional rock in a sea of mixed up feelings that I have no way of understanding or processing. I love my Mum but she’s crap. I love my Dad but he’s a loser who doesn’t care about me, I don’t even know where he is. I really like some of my teachers and we can have a bit of a laugh. But I’m scared, really scared that maybe they’ll get too close and see how vulnerable I am. Or my mates will think I’m pathetic for getting on with them so well. Or my Mum will be angry and think that I’m trying to replace her or something. Or maybe they’ll end up finding me annoying and will reject me.
I don’t know how to express all this, I’m not even aware of most of it. I need to express something, and as my head is whirring with all these thoughts I seem to have no control over and don’t fit in my head, I end up blowing my top- I get angry. Me being angry with me for having such conflicting thoughts. Me being angry with you for making me feel this way with your kindness, your nagging, basically whatever you do. So amidst this blur of conflicting emotions I have a rock, a default feeling I can fall back on, one I can easily express even when all the others are confused. Even though it looks like my storm, it’s not, it’s my safe port. My anger, my best friend.
It protects me. It wraps me in ten layers of bubble-wrap and no amount of popping is going to let you get to me. Deep down I do want you to see my pain and my conflicting emotions and help me process them but I’m scared, so if I sense you are getting too close I will push you away. I will find a reason to erupt, a reason for me to hate you and a reason for you to run. And it’s not just adults I’ll do this with, I do it with my mates as well. I don’t want to expose myself to the risk of being hurt or rejected again. I’m terrified that you’ll see the real me, will think I’m mad and will be shocked and horrified and will run. My anger is a big fat diversion sign that sends you off down the road where you can dump me. It leaves me to sit in my bubble-wrap, protected from the world once more. My anger, my friend.
The thing is I know exactly what to expect from you if I blow up. It’s beautifully predictable. I push you away, you push me away. It’s my certainty amidst my emotional chaos. I control the end result. I might not be in control of my head but this I am in control of. My anger, my steady friend.
Anger also makes me feel alive. When I get that sick feeling in my stomach, or my face feels hot and flushed and my heart is beating like a high-speed train I know that I live. I feel like such a nobody that sometimes I wonder if I exist. But when those anger juices start pumping I am in no doubt. I don’t feel like a shell of a person any more, I don’t feel empty. So my anger fills me, it fills my void. Where security, stability, love, happiness, self-worth and purpose should live, there lives my anger. I’ll take anger over emptiness any day. My anger knows I live.
And when I get a reaction from you I know I exist, not just in my own skin, but I exist in your world too. I make it onto your radar. And wow, that gives me a buzz. I might feel stupid and embarrassed after (further adding to my confused feelings) but at the time it feels great. Hell, I actually have some power for once. I REALLY do exist.
To see you getting angry right back at me, to see you squirm when I hurl an insult, to see you struggle to regain control, to see you have to call for backup, it shows I have some influence. It shows I can make people notice and think about me. It shows I can make people do what I want them to- like chuck me out of the classroom when I really can’t do the work and don’t want everyone to see that, to make you push me away if I feel you are getting too close, to make you stop talking about that thing that really upsets me. And you know what one of the cleverest parts of me being angry is? I can make you feel what I feel. I can make you feel insecure, frustrated, vulnerable, useless, scared, out of control, confused. I can show you the friends of my anger. My anger, my best friend.
I should point out too, that just because I kick off when I’m angry isn’t the only way us teens express our anger. Some people I know show their anger by quietly withdrawing. They won’t show for school or anything. You’ll bend over backwards to engage them in anything and they’ll religiously ignore everything you to try to do for them. They seem more moody than angry. But don’t be fooled, they’re angry too. So don’t forget them, although it’s less in your face, they feel it. Anger is their friend too.
Whether I show my anger in an ‘in your face’ way or are more quietly subversive, you should know that feeling this power is addictive. Some people get addicted to drugs or alcohol to make them feel better, others to exercise, others to food. Some to combinations of things. Well my primary addiction is my anger. It works for me on so many levels, or so it seems anyway. My anger, my BFF.
Which is where you come in. You’ve probably been ‘called in’ to sort out my anger, to do some ‘anger management’ with me. First off I’ll tell you where I’d like to shove your anger management. Nothing makes me more angry than someone trying to fix my anger. It’s like someone coming in and telling me that I need to kill my friend. When my back is against the wall and someone tries to take one of the last friends I have then I will tell you straight- get stuffed. You don’t mess with me and you don’t mess with my best mate.
If you really want to help me, you need to treat my anger for the friend it is. So just like you don’t tell me not to do something cos you know it’ll make me do it more, don’t tell me to quit my anger cos it’ll only push us closer together. What you’ve got to do is help me come to realise that the way my friend treats me isn’t helping me in life, that I am actually held hostage by them and that there are better friends out there for me, other options. You then leave it to me to decide.
Cos the truth is that my anger actually chokes me when it has this addictive hold over me. Although I can be really noisy with it, it actually stops me from speaking and stops me from being really heard. It stops me from being able to properly connect with people and to even try to begin to explain myself and my feelings. It steals my emotional voice. It shoves a rag in my mouth and raps tape round my face.
So you’ve got to help me see this and this is no easy job. Because as you try to connect with me, it pushes back and tries to keep you out, stopping you from helping me. So expect a lot of angry outbursts from me at first. Get used to being told to ‘fuck off’. Desensitise yourself to it. I don’t really deep down mean it, this is my anger talking.
After a while me and my anger realise that you are not going away. That my anger doesn’t always work at pushing you away. And then it will dawn on me that maybe my anger isn’t that powerful after all. It might work well at getting me what I need at a particular moment, like you to get lost, or to make you feel like me, but it doesn’t actually get me what I really want and need- a secure attachment to someone. A relationship with someone who I can really talk to, who I feel safe enough with to explore my emotional conflicts and confusion. And the thing is that as soon as I actually start talking about all this pent-up confusion, I gradually, bit by bit lose my reliance on my friend, my anger. Me and my friend begin to separate, our explosive relationship diminishes.
Once my anger with you loses its hold, I have a bit of room to breathe, room to explore my anger with everything and everyone else. I can then explore how I use anger to protect myself, to ensure predictability in how others treat me and then look for alternative ways of protecting myself.
I then might get to a place where I can begin to unwrap some of the excess layers of bubble-wrap around me so that I have the confidence to take the risk of ‘putting myself out there’ a bit more. I will then come to see that if I reveal more of myself to others, then we will better connect and my basic need for attachment will be met. I need to learn that emotional attachment doesn’t have to be scary and negative as it may have been in the past and the benefits make it a risk worth taking.
Part of just talking with you will do that, it will be my first test-run at this. Next steps could be sharing with others like me who have made some progress in understanding their best friend, a sort of anger support group. We can then begin to share with others who ‘get it’. I’ll end up with some good mates this way who I really connect with which will further meet my base need for meaningful attachment. So rather than a bunch of ‘angry-messups’ in a room together being a recipe for disaster as adults so often think, it can really help us. We can find each other as friends and we can support each other. We can tell our destructive, disengaging anger ‘friends’ to take a hike.
You can help us prepare and cope with the unpredictability of life so we don’t go nuts when things don’t go our way, or how we expected them to. We won’t then need to resort to the predictability of an anger exchange to try and regain control. Show us how spontaneity can be a good thing and that we don’t need to be in complete control the whole time.
Validate our feelings of anger. We so often get told that our anger is wrong. Problem is that it is a huge part of us so telling us it is just plain wrong invalidates us. It’s not our anger that is wrong, it is the way we inappropriately express it in the wrong contexts. Help us to also see that often when we are angry it is not the situation in front of us that we are angry at, but something much deeper.
And this is where looking at our triggers in-depth helps. It helps us work this out. You don’t just help me discover what my triggers are, but why they are my triggers. Once you help me do this then disentangling appropriate from inappropriate responses becomes much easier.
So ‘anger management’ doesn’t have to involve completely kicking my good friend anger to the curb. He is a valid friend who does have a place in my life. I just have to make sure that he doesn’t take over, doesn’t control me, turns up for the right events in the right clothing and doesn’t mess up my thinking and my actions.
My anger can be a particularly good friend in one area. When controlled by me and used appropriately, he can help me seek proper justice for events in my life. That is often why I am so angry- I’m angry at the injustice of things that have happened and happen to me. Problem is in trying to voice my anger I often direct it at the wrong person and in the wrong way. Show me how to do this the right way.
I can seek justice with my anger for events like being abused and reporting the perpetrator and ensuring it never happens again. Or seek justice for the little things, like getting angry that my worker never shows up on time and doesn’t seem to care. Show me how to channel that anger into making an appropriate complaint. Help me to get justice by communicating in a way that gets the change I need. When I see positive results I am unlikely to turn to my destructive friend so regularly.
So help me turn my destructive, controlling, life-encompassing angry best friend into a positive, life-building, life-changing friend that only comes round when he’s really needed. The process won’t be easy, and I’ll have my relapses, but I can get there. Just remember that whenever talking to me or my mates about our anger, don’t disrespect our friend and what we feel he does for us. Just help us see how he oversteps the mark and messes stuff up for us. Then we will put anger back in his place and change his role in our lives. We have a lot to be angry about, and its usually not the surface stuff you see. Help us harness the real root of our anger and help us use it for own and others benefit. Make what seems like a bad friend, into something good.
To learn more about how to do this, watch this video…
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