Thinking Putty is an amazing invention. I have five tins of the stuff. It’s perfect for giving to young people to occupy their hands while they talk. Thinking Putty comes in 30 colours, including glow-in-the-dark, heat-sensitive, and electric-colored putty. It can stretch like rubber and bounce like a ball, and because it’s silicone-based, it won’t dry out or crumble over time. It’s part toy, part stress reliever, part physical therapy and entirely addictive.
As you can tell I am a huge fan of the stuff. Today though I want to talk about how I use it with young people and anger.
I have found that a lot of young people think that anger just happens. That they go from zero to rage in the blink of an eye. Quite often it can really feel like this but the truth is much different. That moment where their anger is at its most obvious (in a fight, shout at a teacher etc. etc) is quite often at the end of a long list of micro experiences that have taken place over a period of time. Perhaps in a day from when a sibling, over breakfast, started to annoy them, or over the last couple of days when frustration at their inability to understand a new learning target.
This slow burn is hard for a lot of young people to comprehend. They focus all their attention on the person who happened to be in front of them at the time, believing that the persons actions is what took them from calm to hurricane because of that one thing they did or said.
In my work I start by showing them what this might look like. So I use the Magnetic Putty and create a circle around the magnet. I put this to one side and continue our conversation. They don’t notice the putty move but over the course of 20 minutes the magnet gets swallowed by the putty. Most young people don’t really notice this happening and by the time they go back to it they see that it has been consumed.
This process is slow but inevitable without removing the magnet it will be covered. Watch it happen in the 20 min time-lapse video I made below:
This illustration is so important for a young person to get their head around. We first have to acknowledge that anger consumes slowly. When we have this idea firmly lodged in our mind we can then start to unpick the day and look at those micro experiences that contribute to the anger we feel.
Helping a young person to be mindful during the day to these moments helps them to start to deal with each moment uniquely and on its own merit. Dealing with each situation as it comes up then allows a young person to let go and therefore helps to stop the build up of anger in the first place.
It starts with this understanding of how anger works.