In this week’s podcast of CNN’s One Thing, gun violence among teens is explored along with the young lives who have been cut short by it. At one point, the parents of a son lost to gun violence ask what is making teens so angry.
When interviewed, they posed the question: What is going through their heads that makes anger an appropriate response?
Despite being over 2000 years old, Chinese Medicine still offers insight into why some teens may be prone to anger.
Full disclaimer: Parenting a human who is somewhere between adult and child is complex and there is no one answer. Nor am I being so presumptuous to dispense parental advice. But Chinese Medicine has a way of explaining the mind and body that may be insightful when navigating a teen’s psycho-emotional development.
Brief Overview of What Causes Anger:
You’ve probably heard about youth being the spring of life. This is an archetypal idea that also exists in Chinese Medicine. Spring is full of yang qi (our life force) and teens usually have an abundance of it.
The element associated with Spring is wood. Like Spring where plant life pushes out from the soil, the energy of wood symbolizes mental, emotional and physiological functions that deal with upward expansion. Our intuition, for example, is part of the wood system. Its upward characteristic can be seen in its connection with a cosmic intelligence beyond our own.
In nature, this upward expansion is evident in watching a plant burst forth from the ground. Wood energy in nature can even have an explosive quality at times similar to the way we see nature suddenly bloom after a gray, lifeless winter.
This explosive nature is also seen physiologically in the form of anger and it’s not coincidental. In all of us but with young people in particular, their abundant wood energy can get bound by the mental, emotional and physical burdens placed upon them. Over time, this stagnation leads to pressure that eventually reaches to a point where something has got to give.
To release the pressure, one possible survival response can be extreme and reactionary. Anger is a way of freeing stuck energy in the wood system so that it can resume its natural upward expansion. Without that continual movement, body and mind cannot exist.
Although anger provides a temporary yet critical release for survival, it is not the same as the harmonious outward movement of nature. Yang qi expressed through this type of anger is pathological and destructive.
4 Ways to Address Anger:
Nature is probably one of the most dramatic ways to harmonize wood energy and you don’t have to go camping to reap the benefits. Routine walks, visits to local parks and tending your own or a community garden can all unwind stagnant yang qi. It gives a sense of purpose, accomplishment and connection. What someone sees or experiences in the natural world has a softening and sometimes humbling effect on an agitated wood system.
Encouraging creativity helps the body to release mental and emotional energies that may be stuck. One might think of things like music and art when it comes to creativity but it actually comes in different forms. Entrepreneurs, for example, have to be creative too. Bringing something from idea to reality can release once mired psycho emotional energies in a way that manifests as increased self esteem and curiosity of the world around them.
Cultivate good sleep habits. In Chinese Medicine, something unique happens at midnight when our yang qi is renewed after its daily cycle around the circle of life. If we aren’t in a deep sleep by that time, the quality of our life force is compromised. This can lead to an overactive and agitated mind at night and inability to focus during the day. I suggest going to bed by 10 – 10:30, the latest.
What we eat contributes to how a brain develops so consider introducing foods that promote good gallbladder health. The gallbladder is one of the organs in the wood system. Many of our modern foods congest the gallbladder which at first manifests in energetic ways like anger, fright and depression. But then it can lead to physical conditions later in life such as gallstones.
Healthy fats, vegetables and fruits promote good gallbladder function. Dark leafy greens are particularly helpful. Both mentally and physically, it’s remarkable how I feel after eating dandelion greens.