I used to work in a mental health hospital that was a 19-bed unit for children and adolescents that required temporary hospitalization. Many times, we saw the effects of acting out due to anger issues. And on many occasions, there were absolute mental health issues that included behaviors with depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
During the time I worked there, I had the honor of meeting a real gem of a child psychiatrist who not only involved himself with the medication component of these children’s care, but also who helped us to become better therapists and counselors as well, having a positive impact on this aspect of their therapy while they were with us, as well.
One of the children admitted to our care during my time there, came face to face with this amazing man, regarding a major blow-up he had with another patient. He showed his true colors and caused a huge disruption on the floor after something happened, that angered him severely. The issue required more than just a brief sit-down and involved this man, who was in charge of the ward.
I recall the incident as if it were yesterday, although it is many years later. But the part I recall the most, involved this Doctor talking with the young, angry boy afterward in which he explained to him that there were really only two different scenarios that could play out for the remainder of the young man’s life. He began by telling him that he could promise him there would be many more times that this young man was going to come face to face with situations that angered him. Sometimes he would become exactly as angry as he had just become. Other times, he wouldn’t be nearly as angry and more than likely, there would be other times when he would become even angrier than he was here. Doctor Z. stated clearly, three or four times, that he could guarantee this young man of this.
He emphasized that this young man had absolutely no choice in this. There was nothing that any of us could do, no matter who we were and how much we may want to help him, that could prevent the situations from happening in the future and then he surprised this young boy by telling him that he wasn’t going to do anything to try and prevent the young boy from getting angry in the future over these things. He told him that if anybody expected to be able to prevent their anger was a fool.
I had never heard of this type of a technique when it came to dealing with anger or any emotion for that matter. I was young and fairly wet behind the ears and I though my job was to help these children from becoming too angry or too anxious or too sad. But I learned from Doctor Z. that if I intended to prevent such things, I not only was foolish, but I would fail miserably.
That day, Doctor Z. taught me and that young man that there is indeed a choice, but that the choice is about whether that feeling rules us or whether we rule that feeling. It isn’t about having the feeling or about how strong the feeling is. It is about who ends up in control – us, or our feelings?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!