Anger Management and Violence Prevention: A Holistic Solution
Levinson, Martin H., ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
ANGER IN THE CLASSROOM is usually destructive. Whether from student or teacher, anger undermines the learning environment. It may lead to disturbing threats of emotional or physical harm or to actual violence. It can interfere with relationships between students and teachers, e.g., it's difficult for a teacher to be nice to a youngster who says "take a hike" or perhaps something more insulting. Anger can directly affect student performance. There is a clear correlation between anxiety and academic achievement: the higher the anxiety, which can be caused by hostility in the environment, the lower the achievement.
Many programs focus on teaching children how to express anger in socially acceptable ways. While there may be some benefit in this, general semantics (GS) can help individuals avoid anger in the first place. General semantics ideas and formulations applied to everyday problems offer a more efficient approach and one that puts less strain on the body. Anger produces changes in pulse, stomach acid secretions, and blood pressure. Anger can also weaken the body's immune system and make it more difficult to fight off diseases.
The general semantics ideas and exercises described in this article are ones that I used when counseling middle-school students in the New York City public school system. Elementary and high school students can also benefit from these ideas and exercises if they are adapted to the students' level of development. (1) One does not have to be a counselor to use a general semantics anger-management approach with students. Teachers at my school were able to get good results with the approach when "teachable moments" presented themselves.
Anger in Children: Two Theories
The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
Some theories on anger maintain it is an emotion caused by frustration. This notion, which has been labeled the "frustration-aggression hypothesis," states that when people are frustrated, the aggression drive is stirred up. The only way to reduce this drive is for the individual to act aggressively in some way. For example, Joe constantly raises his hand in class to respond to the teacher's questions, but he is not called on. When Joe asks for an explanation, the teacher replies that she thinks Joe knows the answers to the questions and she wants other students, who may not know the answers, to respond. Joe becomes angry and shouts, "That's not fair! Why should I be penalized because I'm smart."
According to the frustration-aggression hypothesis, Joe became angry because he was blocked from his goal--to be called on to answer questions. But there is another theory that would posit that the source for Joe's anger is Joe. Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) asserts that anger is not caused by frustration but rather by a demand that one not be frustrated.
Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
If the frustration-aggression hypothesis is correct, then all "bright" students who are ignored by the teacher will become angry. But empirically this is not so. One can find "smart" students who become mildly annoyed when a teacher does not recognize their raised hands. Such students tend to think like this: "I don't like not being asked to answer questions in class but I guess that's the penalty 'intelligent' people like me have to pay with this particular teacher. No big deal."
REBT maintains, as did the philosopher Epictetus, that "People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them." In other words, feelings are based on thoughts. If Joe thought the same way his mildly annoyed counterparts did in the above example, he would not have become angry.
REBT, a system heavily rooted in general semantics, was originated by psychologist Albert Ellis in 1955. It contends that events don't cause emotions. Beliefs about events cause emotional reactions.
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Publication information: Article title: Anger Management and Violence Prevention: A Holistic Solution. Contributors: Levinson, Martin H. - Author. Journal title: ETC.: A Review of General Semantics. Volume: 63. Issue: 2 Publication date: April 2006. Page number: 187+. © 1999 International Society for General Semantics. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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