Treating a Rebellious Teenager

rebellious teenager

A woman came to see me because of a problematic and rebellious 16 year-old boy named Martin. She was the founder of a philanthropic organization dedicated to offering shelter and care to abused or abandoned adolescents and youth in the city. Martin was one of these young boys housed in the shelter. Unfortunately he was the cause of much anxiety. Inside the shelter Martin wouldn’t respect the staff and outside, he had been repeatedly caught shoplifting by the police. But since he was under-age and already enrolled in a social program for difficult youth, he was not criminally charged but merely reprimanded by the judge and sent back.

She had taken him to numerous psychologists who had tried their best to reason with him. Some psychotherapists had talked to Martin about his current situation as an abandoned child and how he could constructively cope with his anger. Other therapists had listened to him in order to understand the origin of his arrogant and rude behavior, trying to unearth the ‘nice boy’ underneath all those layers of misconduct.

I also learned that as part of the social program Martin received an allowance of $12 per month. As well, he enjoyed many other social privileges: a cell phone, weekend outings, swimming pool, horseback riding, jacuzzi, soccer games, trips and summer vacations.

On the scheduled day of our session, Martin walked into my office accompanied by the two young women who worked with him almost every day as his tutors. They explained to me in detail their numerous efforts aimed to help Martin become more cooperative at the youth center and how they had tried in different ways to stop his negative and destructive behavior. They had punished him for things they didn’t want to encourage, rewarded him for behavior they wanted to encourage and even at times ignored him completely hoping that he grow out of his ‘childish’ behavior. As I was listening to these two meek and gentle young girls, I noticed the smirking expression on Martin’s face as he sat there with a very arrogant and disrespectful posture.
Read more

Taming the Angry Beast Within

The owner of a major chain of furniture stores came to ask for my help. It turned out Frank, a middle aged man, sought my help to tame what he called a ‘raging beast’ he had inside him. He seemed mild-mannered enough in my office but from what he described about himself he was anything but. He admitted to me that if one of his employees made a mistake, he would become furious and blow a gasket. He knew that his harsh and asymmetrical reaction wasn’t correct but he didn’t feel he could help it. He had struggled with his anger problem for many years to no avail.

“I feel the raging beast coming”, said Frank, “but I can’t do anything about it. Under the effects of this beast, I say things that hurt others.”

Frank explained that even though he was normally a timid person, he became domineering because he didn’t tolerate being criticized. Rationally he understood and realized that his anger explosions were not good for him as a person nor for his business but he didn’t know how to change or how to control his anger. This inability made him anxious.

He had tried solving his problem through various ways. For example, he had read multiple self-help books on self-development and tried very hard to not explode impulsively. However his struggles to contain his anger were unsuccessful and he regularly shouted at his employees. As you’d expect everyone around him felt like they were walking on eggshells and were afraid of him.

After listening patiently to him describe his situation, I talked to him about the writings of Lao Tse and Baha’u’llah. I told him that the true sign of power is humility, and not domination.

I quoted Lao Tse:

The oceans attract the streams by their skill in being lower than they; thus are they masters thereof. Thus the wise in watching over the people speak humbly from below the people.

I then asked him to memorize and repeat several days the following quote from Baha’u’llah:

A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men.

Two weeks later Frank told me that he had gotten angry on fewer occasions and then with less intensity. He told me that he had realized that he could use a ‘kindly tongue’ not only with others but also with himself.

“I’m a perfectionist”, he added, “and I must be kind to myself when I make mistakes.”

Over few several weeks, Frank managed to calm his fury down even more. He learned to become better at using his ‘kindly tongue’ and be like an ocean, attracting others because of his humility.