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Extract 4: 'The Abuse of Force' - Differentiating between Violent Behaviour and Non-violating Aggression

posted 20 May 2014, 15:00 by Mark O'Connell   [ updated 20 May 2014, 15:00 ]

Developing the ability to differentiate between behaviours which violate and non-violating aggression is essential in working with young people who have suffered abuse.

I once witness a very unfortunate restraint on a teenager who was being held on the ground by two male members of staff. One of the staff members was shouting at him “you are not angry”, the boy was shouting “I AM ANGRY”. Whatever had preceded this intervention, the staff were negating the boys emotional experience of anger. Given that he was under the physical control of the staff, a far more beneficial message might have been “we are going to stop you hurting others, and we hear that you are very angry”, thus saying ‘no’ to abuse while supporting the emotional experience.

Violence needs to be stopped whereas aggression, anger and other emotional responses can be essential for development and healing. The ability to contain a child’s experience, while at the same time supporting them to unfold or address their disturbance, and express themselves effectively, is a much needed skill in residential child care. This form of containment and facilitation of the child’s wholeness is much needed and will be referred to later.