Post 10: Teenagers: The Power of Role

Ned.  Crushed, scarred knuckles, wild blond hair, ferocity oozing from every pore, emanating confidence and power.  The modern day knight trapped in his shining armour.  Utlilised by his social group as a violent ‘rescuer’:  male and female friends calling upon him to ‘sort’ their spats and disputes – with his fists.  He is risking his place in education and risking a criminal record, as his rages become more serious.

Post 9 explains Ned’s story and progress so far: Post 9: Confidence? What is it?

A reminder here of the ‘service’ Ned is providing to his friends:

Boyfriend troubles?

Call on Ned.  He’ll sort it.

Need someone to fight your corner for you?

Ned’s fists are at the ready.

Got a problem you can’t be bothered to sort out for yourself?

Text Ned.

Fancy being entertained by some pointless fighting?

Light Ned’s torch paper and watch him explode!

In the privacy of his weekly S.F.C. sessions with me, Ned confesses that, in truth, he despises himself, has zero confidence and is frightened of following the male family tradition of criminal records and prison due to violent behaviour.  So why can’t he stop?

Owning the Process of Change and Learning About Self

So far, Ned was engaging well in the SFC activities: gradually modifying his (negative) self-belief, building a more positive identity, whilst learning about the physiology of his anger and how to calm it.  Through the activities, we were regularly but carefully illuminating his strengths and values.  This is a delicate process (as elucidated in Post 7: and Post 8.)

Ned realised that his positive qualities of ‘loyalty’, ‘caring’ and ‘helping out’ his friends had got out of control, but he was struggling to address this role.

The Power of Identity and Role

Ned’s role was strongly bound up in his developing teenage identity.  Changing this identity was not straightforward.  To Ned, it would be like removing vital organs and expecting his body to continue to function!  bullet-1027871_1920Something else had to be put in to place before he could shed his armour and put down his weapons.

I talked to my colleague, Pete, about how challenging I was finding the sessions with Ned, despite the great progress he had made.  “He’s so stuck in this role,” I explained. Pete reminded me of a diagram used in ‘Transactional Analysis’ (the analysis of social interactions), to help us to understand our transactions with others.  Of course!

In our next session, I showed this diagram of the ‘Drama Triangle’ to Ned.  I made a large copy and stuck it to the wall.

DramaTriangle (2)

Ned studied it quietly.  He smiled wryly at the title and said “yeah – I’m always in the middle of drama.” Then he jabbed his finger at the top left corner of the triangle: “That’s me!”  Then at the top right: “That’s me too!”  The fact that it ‘normalised’ Ned’s behaviour seemed to reassure him: ‘if a diagram exists that illustrates my situation, perhaps there are others like me?’  One of the reasons for Ned’s ‘black’ hopelessness and unhappiness was that he felt very isolated and alone in his role.

We looked at the words used underneath ‘The Rescuer’ – particularly the last three – and I was curious: “Ned, do you offer to help your friends, before they even ask for help?”  Ned nodded, “yes, sometimes”.  He realised that he was perpetuating his own role – the role he was now resenting!  He was encouraging his friends to depend upon him, hence possibly encouraging their roles as ‘victims’.

Ned confessed that he also felt like a victim.  It was this side of himself that he had revealed to me towards the end of his first session and in consequent sessions (after initially demonstrating the furious-you-can’t-help-me side!)  I admired him for that.

Much fascinating discussion followed – and scribblings upon the diagram – as Ned strove to understand his behaviour with his peers.  Ned said that he found the diagram very helpful.  He responded well to interactive, visual cues, which was why he was enjoying the SFC activities so much.

New Task, New Risks

Ned stated that he now had to consider a new task:

  • To change my ‘rescuer’ role, whilst still showing that I care about my friends.
  • To not lose credibility/respect

How would he do this?  If he did this, would he risk losing his friends?  Would they lose respect for him?


Would he lose his identity?man-2037255_1920 (2)


The crisis burning in Ned was palpable; his fear heating the simmering anger.  Would he conclude that the risk was too great and walk away?  His behaviour was often unpredictable.


Read Post 11: Dismantling the Stereotype? to find out what Ned did next, along with a surprise.


If you would like to share any similar stories, or comment on this Post, please do so either in the ‘Comments’ box at the end of this Post (scroll right down to the bottom of the page!) or Contact me.

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2 comments

  1. Ned is an intriguing character. This blog shows that focussing on visuals can be so useful. I loved the diagram but also the figure feeling very empty. It feels good that I am building up a picture of Ned and feel that I almost know him……I can’t wait to see if/how the questions are answered. Its a situation so many YPs could find themselves in, both boys and girls.

    Like

    • Hello Sheila, thank you for taking the time to read about Ned and to get to know him through the Posts. He taught me much about the complexities beneath an apparently confident, ‘angry’, character. But also how, when you engage a YP, they respond so well – and yes you are right – many of them respond well to visual materials. It seems to help them to make sense of their behaviour, their feelings and their world.

      Like

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