I am writing this brief post because it this is something I wish I knew earlier: Scared often looks like mad. What I mean by this is when you see someone (often a teenager) who looks or is acting in an anger way, it is often coming straight from fear. This is a lesson I often teach to teenagers regarding their parents.
Anger Comes from Fear
We are leaving in an age of anxiety. We have to take of our shoes at the airport because of bombs, we are on Orange alert and babies practically come out of the womb slathered in sunscreen because of the reports about skin cancer. People often cover, hide or immediately react from their fear or anxiety with anger. Fear is vulnerable. Being scared is scary. Therefore, it is easier to be mad and draw attention away from your real feelings.
A Scared Parent Looks Like An Angry Parent to a Teen
Parents always, always, always want the best for their children. I have found that this often means they are fearful. Parents are afraid of something happening to their children, their teens making the bad decision or actually making a wrong decision themselves. What I tell teens is, ths often comes out as anger. They get mad at you when you ask them to have a later curfew this weekend? They are probably afraid of you
A) Getting into an accident
B) Partying too hard
C) Having sex or hooking up
D) General lack of control over what you are doing.
If teens can recognize this pattern, they can address the fears rather than reacting to the anger. This calms what a parent is afraid of and consequently makes them less mad.
A Scared Teen Looks Like An Angry Teen to a Parent
Teens often get angry because they are afraid. They could be afraid of:
-Getting caught “How COULD YOU ASK ME whether or not I snuck out last night, I AM SO MAD you don’t trust me at all”…fear
-Fear of not being accepted “I told you not to come down when my friends are over!!!!”
-Fear of failure “I hate hate hate my math teacher for giving me a bad grade.”
Address the fear and you can calm the anger.
A Scared Co-Worker Looks Like An Angry Co-Worker
This goes for friends, significant others, bosses or even customers and clients. Often times I observe people getting angry in public or in a work situation or friendship and almost always after a few minutes I can tell that the person is really just afraid of _______. And if the person who is on the receiving side of the anger (eek!) they could probably get them to calm down by addressing the fear.
Address the fear, calm the anger.
This post is dedicated to Dr. Robyn Silverman who has an amazing understanding of all kinds of relationships and a is a great woman doing great things for families online.