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Confrontation in the Teenage Psyche

Confrontation in the Teenage Psyche

 

BACKGROUND:

The American teenager isn’t exactly known for their triumphs in confidence. Some could say we aren’t the most graceful creatures in conflict: stereotypical jocks fighting in the hallway or girls cyber bulling each other online: this portrayal of the American teenager is not an accurate depiction the environment of my school. In my findings, I have actually found quite the opposite. Although everyone is built with the biological instinct of “fight or flight” in dealing with conflict, I believe that society has become a major decider in the commonality one over the other. For example, in the environment of Greens Farms Academy, my school, the reaction of “flight” has been popularized among teenagers by societal circumstance.

When asked about confrontation to conflict at Greens Farms Academy, students said…

-“GFA isn’t very confrontational, like you don’t see major things happen. Conflict is generally handled privately.”

-“I think a lot of people settle confrontation indirectly, going through other people instead of confronting the person themselves. I personally try to be more direct but I think that’d probably be abnormal at GFA.”

-“It depends on the gender, I find that girls tend to avoid confrontation and talk about their problems with their friends, behind people’s backs. This can also be subjective to each person, some girls are very mature and able to talk about their issues along with what they have said to their friends. Guys tend to be less open with girls in general, so that is applicable to confrontation as well. I think that it is considered normal to sort of sweep problems or tension under the rug, but don’t find that normal; it is a really unhealthy way of dealing with problems but that’s kind of the way things are now. I think things are abnormal when they go against the social “norm” or go against the dictations of society. Abnormal is a strange term really because nothing would be considered “abnormal” if people stayed individualized instead of creating a society of people that can decide what is normal.”

-“Confrontation is largely avoided. The healthy response is to talk everything out with a clear head, although that doesn’t always happen. I think it’s abnormal when (for ex.) somebody is confronted they flip out of the relationship gets weird (like it ends up in a fight instead of an actual resolution).”

-“Confrontation doesn’t happen often at my school because most people are too scared of it. When people are confronted, they are usually offended and hurt, or angry. I think it is abnormal when someone confronts someone else…”

It is quite apparent from these conducted interviews that confrontation is a rare occurrence among students at GFA. It appears that many think that if confrontation occurs, someone will be “offended and hurt, or angry.” Students would have relationships dissipate rather than resolving a disagreement, just as a student stated above, “it ends up in a fight {disagreement} instead of an actual resolution.” In an intense (often private) school environment where teachers expect sensational work in every aspect of academia and colleges expect perfection in all aspects of an interdisciplinary excellence. Thus, it is my hypothesis that students may be subconsciously afraid of confrontation because they fear imperfect results, and imperfect results are the enemy of “sucess” in society today.


THE CHALLENGE:

I set out to record how confrontation is often avoided in my particular school and from that end, wanted to find some explanation as to why this has become the nature of many of my teenage peers. I know many in all social circles of the school that have been hurt by this seemingly benign behavior of avoiding confrontation which has proven quite unhealthy. I did so by conducting interviews and research on the human psych’s reactions to conflict. A long-term avoidance of pressing issues in life often leads to more cumulative stress and can be a contributor to anxiety and depression.


THE SOLUTION:

The photo above is a poster created to be an antivenom, an antivenom to the avoidance of confrontation rooted within my school, Greens Farms Academy, and preparatory schools like it. Hopefully this poster will promote confrontation – the “fight” of problems rather than the “flight” of them, to create a healthier state of mind among teenage students. This poster will do so because these pressurized preparatory schools expect perfection and unending work ethic from every student; colleges expect the same. Thus, students are inherently afraid to have anything messy or uncomfortable in their life that could harm a “perfect” persona their society expects from them. Also the first quote states that, we are “blindsided” if we think we are perfect. This unreachable and delusional expectation of self resonates internally and can lead to an unhealthy life (ie: “blindness”). Thus, acknowledging the problem and confronting it through the “fight” response will be more likely if my peers are not inherently afraid of the resulting unpredicability of their actions or to be less than perfect.


WHAT’S NEXT?

I hope to share this information verbally to my peers and show them my research (printed). I could also post the image around the school and explain why I created it, with the quotes regarding our school’s strive towards unattainable and unhealthy perfection. Those ideals are tied to confrontation and their decrease will naturally increase confrontation (from a lessening of fears to attain perfection in every aspect of life).  Hopefully I can make them a part in changing the normality of avoiding confrontation for the mental health of our society and others like it.


SOURCES CITED:

“Born to be Wild: Do Teenagers take Risks?” Psychology Today

“How the Fight or Flight Response Works,” Verywell Mind

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COMMENTS: 4
  1. April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

    Hi Sophie! I think that this is a great project and it is something that really needs to change. People are generally afraid of confrontation, I had no idea that it might have something to do with the need to be perfect, but this makes complete sense. I was wondering, do you think that if people were less anxious about maintaining a perfect image that they would be more likely to deal with confrontation in a healthy way? What do you think is a healthy way to deal with confrontation? Great Job!!!!

    • April 30, 2018 by Sophie Staeger

      Hi Lindsey!! Thanks for the insightful read of my project 🙂 I definitely think if people are less focused on being perfect, we would see a decrease in the fear of confrontation or dealing with topics that could be considered (emotionally) “messy.” The healthy way of approaching things is confronting them, talking about them to get things out in the open, then deciding what needs to be done from there to solve the issue. There would be no need for confrontation in the first place if there was not a problem that needed to be resolved. This tactic is actually a lot more clean-cut, because it is face to face, (or even text to text) which avoids rumors or feelings getting hurt from miscommunication. Although it may appear a bit scarier because it actually requires action from one of the present parties, it is surely the more healthy way of approaching conflict. Finally, avoiding this conflict leads to withholding emotions and that is a known cause of additional stress that can contribute to anxiety.

  2. April 30, 2018 by hannah filby

    Wow this is such an interesting issue to talk about! I go to a very small private school like you and I think that the lack of confrontation has always been at the back of my mind but I’ve never actively thought about it until now. I think that your breakdown and analysis of the issue is spot on, especially when it comes to private schools where the majority feel the need to appear perfect. Great job on this and I hope that you can bring this issue to light with your peers at school!

    • April 30, 2018 by Sophie Staeger

      Thanks so much for your reply! It is so cool to know that my research and hypothesis apply to not only my school, but other private schools like it. Your comment not only supports my theory, but can allow me to better share my insights with my peers!

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