Why Does My Child Get So Angry?

angry childChildren who are seemingly irrational in their anger, and who begin to act out aggressively can be a danger to themselves and to others. From the outside it looks like they are triggered by very small actions, but the rage that they act out is many times out of much larger fears, emotional hurt, or a feeling of powerlessness or helplessness.

Interestingly both adults and children who explode are not been able to see the bigger picture, or see anyone that stands in the way of them getting their needs met as the enemy and so that little part of their brain – the one that is meant to protect them – reacts in a fight or flight manner. In the person who explodes, the reaction is to fight and protect themselves.

Determining the needs that are not getting met is part of helping the child or adult overcome the outbursts of anger as a reaction to their triggers. When we can find the needs that need to be met, then we can work on finding more healthy way of meeting those needs. When working with children, some of the work will be with the child and parts of it will be helping parents understand how they can help their child to be more relaxed and confident in themselves.

Illusions of Power

On the subject of internal arts and the effects of emotions, I’d like to talk about anger a bit. It is the emotion that I am most aware of struggling with in my own training, and I see it every day in others.

I think the allure of anger is that anger feels powerful. When the world is not as we want it to be, or we don’t like how we are treated by others, it is comforting to feel we are kings, as if our displeasure has the ability to reform things to our liking. When we are angry, we do not feel helpless, we do not feel vulnerable.

For an example of anger, let’s consider weapons shop vendors here in Wudang. My classmates and I are learning spear, so the other day I had to go to one of these shops. I struggle to finance my training, and I can not afford to throw money around carelessly on anything. However, it is standard practice in these shops that when a foreigner walks in the first quote rockets up above %1,000 and no amount of haggling will lower it to any realistic value (I am not exaggerating, and thank the rich, gullible tourists for that). Despite my best efforts, the best price I could get was 70 yuan, down from an original quote of 110 yuan, while my Chinese kungfu brother walked out of the store with the same spear for 20 yuan.

This makes me angry, and in my anger I feel righteous. I think, ” They’ll regret making me angry. My friends and I will never shop there again. I’ll write a blog about these jerks and ruin them internationally. I ought to go back there and throw a brick through the window of the shop, I’ll… I’ll…” But reality sets in and each of these angry thoughts is revealed as pointless and wrong. I will have to go back to that crook the next time I need a new weapon. My friends will do the same. Gouging customers is how these guys make their living, and no one blinks at it. That brick, though tempting, would be cowardly, petty, and probably make a lot of trouble for me, my master, and other foreigners in the area. Once I have left the store with my purchase, I am every bit as powerless as I feel. My anger does violence to me, and that vendor doesn’t lose any sleep at all.

Truly that vendor is part of my training, a sparring partner of sorts. I have to accept the fact that he is part of a system that is so much larger than me that I can not fight it. What can I do? I must proceed in a yielding way. I can try to learn to haggle better. I can make friends and they can shop on my behalf. I can be thankful that as a white American male, I have been given an opportunity to understand discrimination and compassion as I would never have understood it had I stayed in my own culture. But most importantly, I have to learn that though is nice to imagine myself as a king in my castle, inviolable and potent, there will always be forces in this world greater than me and lesser than me. And regardless of my actual ability to change my surroundings, I must be able to relate to them with tranquility. Thus, China itself tempers me.

I sometimes worry about how I will someday teach these lessons to Americans at home, where everyone tells you you can, “have it your way.” Anyway, more next time.

And if, in the unforeseeable future, I find myself in charge of regulating commercial tourism practices in Wudang, that salesman had better keep his head down ;-p.

Appreciation: with respect

Showing respect is just one way of demonstrating our appreciation. When we think about our home, our school, nature and the environment, and the people in our lives we can see that showing respect is an important part of demonstrating appreciation.
You have heard me comment before about not doing things out of fear or anger. This is one of the areas that we can practice that. Respect is treating others the way we want to be treated. How can we show respect for our home, school, environment and the people in our lives?
When I think about this I think about how we care for our possessions. Do we maintain our home? Do we contribute to the neatness and cleanliness of our home, office or school? We live in such a throw away society that it is easy to think that we can just replace this or that. But what if we did not have that kind of resources. How would we treat our possessions then? How would we treat the environment or our bodies, if we recognized that while it does a real good job of healing itself, that we can show how much we value it by taking care of it to the very best of our ability.
Even our friends and neighbors. Do we value them for who they are and demonstrate our respect for them by the way we speak and the kindness we show them. Are we on time for appointments, do we listen deeply when conversing with them, or do we value our own opinion more? Thinking about the impact we have on others with the words we use with them, is another way of being aware of showing appreciation for our companions.

Living with simplicity

I have been giving a lot of thought to the place that we find ourselves, with increase pressure from the economy and the price of gasoline and all the other pressures that we feel environmentally. I have noted before that when we approach any challenge or problem we should do so out of love and not out of fear or anger.
It is because of those thoughts that I believe it is the time as never before to look at living our lives with more simplicity. At the end of the day, it is never the things that we have accumulated that make the difference in our lives, but rather the ability to recognize the small miracles that happen around us every day and our ability to share them with others and especially our family.
Maybe the time has come to pay attention to our lives and insist on them being less cluttered, and ultimately less stressful. Simplifying may be the answer. All the things we gather really are just props, simplicity allows us to be us and to see and love the things that are really important.
How do you feel about this subject?  click on comments at the top and let me know.

Gratitude in the bad times

It is not hard to be thankful when we are in the good times.  When everything is going our way and we are happy, everyone is getting along and times are feeling the best, we can be thankful for many things very easily.  It is when we are not happy, when we are feeling sad, frustrated, disappointed, angry or even envious that being able to see the things we have to be thankful about requires more work.
For me this comes back to how we talk to ourselves, and listening to the words and feelings of others that may bring us back to our ‘attitude of gratitude’.  Yesterday was not my best day of being a teacher.  I had been disappointed in a few students at the begining of the day and somehow I allowed this to affect my teaching style the rest of the day.
Has that ever happened to you?  Your disappointed by something or someone and you feel like you need to fix everything right now in this very day or moment.  What I should have done is as soon as I could see and feel this disappointment, is step back and look at what I have to be thankful for and meditate on that for a few minutes.  Had I done that I am sure I would have spent the rest of the day in a better frame of mind, and maybe even taught a better class.
I have said this before but I will repeat this again, for my own benefit.  You never accomplish your goals or be your best when you are trying or acting out of fear or anger.  It is only when you act out and respond to challenges and situations from a place of love and gratitude that you are able to reach your goals. I will continue to work on this and if you have ever had similar experience I would like to hear about them.  Sometimes it helps to know that we are not the only one that has an experience like the one I described.