Lars Asbrink, Media Analyst, Sweden


My occupation is to work with teenagers - mainly disturbed teenagers in remedial homes and youth centers, but also in ordinary schools. The basis for my work is analysis of video films, together with the young boys and girls, to make them aware of the patterns of violence in the films and in their own lives.

The disturbed teenagers that I work with are disturbed for many reasons, but they have three things in common

1. They have a thoroughly negative concept of self, or lack of identity. They don´t even have a name, but introduce themselves (when forced) as "the butcher", "the slaughterer" or some other nickname, mumbled unclearly.
2. You cannot have eye contact with them - their eyes are always looking down or away, or flickering when you talk to them.
3. The only joy they can experience is when they see other people suffer.

And most of them watch video 25-26 hours a week - mostly different kinds of violent action videos. They can´t stand their own reality.
The very amount of their video watching heavily influences their conception of reality. Let´s start by looking at the pattern of these films:

* they are built up of 3 minutes passages, each passage divided
* into 3 seconds long sequences, starting with a heavy input of violence, threat or horror
* then the presentation of a character, first a whole picture, then half and then close-up picture
heavy "bangs" or threats to lift the thrill.
* an amount of very cruel violence, from which those subjected to it never seem to suffer at all - if they are "the good ones"
* the "bad characters" are usually violently destroyed - and the young audience (and deep inside all of us) like to see this; this teaches (whether we like it or not): "Death to those who oppose us - and a cruel death!"
* few and usually passive women (nothing but sex)

This pattern, if consumed over and over again instead of living, ruins your capacity for attention in real life - which usually flows in longer sequences, in fully / whole pictures, without heavy inputs and big bangs, and where people get hurt when you hit them. When these teenageres meet real life, they cannot cope with it (to say nothing of their ability to attend lessons in school). And they seldom get a job. Who hires a boy who can´t even say his name properly? And if he gets it, he can't keep it - far too little action for him.

But analyzing and talking to them about these negative patterns, and comparing it to "real life" experience, does help these teenagers to come to terms with themselves - though it may take a long time .

So far I have only talked of videos of violence, that offer nothing but bad identification.

Of course there are also videos which make a positive identification possible, films where you can go inside the symbols to understand your own situation. Like the film with the young boy who looses his white horse (the security and safety of childhood), which fills him with sorrow but forces him to go on, on his own legs (into a grown up life...).

When I work with groups I prefer to have about 15 persons in the group, and to meet them once or twice a week for a long period. In schools I usually meet the pupils in the morning (one grade at a time, all of the same age), the teachers in the afternoon and the parents in the evening.

It is important that all those who are close to each other get the same experience at the same time.


Seminar introduction

This seminar deals with what happens with us when we are insecure and afraid and when we feel fear.

A great deal of our aggressive behaviour springs from fear. Fear of not knowing what is going to happen next, fear of not being able to cope with things, fear of not being liked and so on.

Many young people today live in constant fear and insecurity. Their feelings are hidden behind a tough attitude which in its turn creates fear in others around them. These youngsters need to realize that they are afraid, realize that we are all afraid.

One reason why young people feel insecure is that there are so many skills they lack and so much they don´t know. ln our society lack of knowledge is something we have come to look down upon. To be knowledgeable and capable of handling difficult situations gives prestige. These youngsters often have very low marks in school and are branded as restless, ignorant and stupid.

The easiest way of getting rid of this insecurity and the fear is to dare to say to oneself and to others: I don't know, I don't understand, I don't dare. But this is not always easy. It takes a very strong self-esteem to dare to admit that you don´t know. You dare not ask for fear of being laughed at and left outside. The others turn to enemies, and you yourself get afraid and angry.

Then it´s no longer a matter of knowledge, but of overwhelming emotions. But when you are scared it´s difficult to interpret emotions. It´s even difficult to feel your feelings when you are scared, they get blocked. Then you can hardly understand yourself, nor talk to others about how you feel. That´s why young people with problems are so difficult to reach.

The aim of my work with these youngsters is to help them learn a little bit more about themselves. If they are to change their negative patterns of behaviour they must understand what evokes them. I show them by teaching them in a simple and easily understandable way about insecurity, fear and anger. Where do different feelings, attitudes and reactions come from? In what situations are their fears and aggressiveness triggered off? Why do we react with anger and rage?

They try to deny their own fear. Most of all they would like to kill it. I hope that won´t be possible - the result would be a hard and emotionally dead human being. I try to show them that if they dare to see their own fear and learn to live with it, it leads to more security.

I am a pedagogue, media analyst and filmproducer. For 15 years I have worked with young people who in different ways have problems to relate to their surrounding. They are often called problem kids, but more often the surroundings are the problem.

Our reactions very often stem from our own insecurity and fear. It frightens us when a teenager breaks windows or destroys other things at school. Many of us go away because we are afraid to be beaten ourselves, others get angry and call the police. Neither of these solutions will break the destructive behaviour. We must dare to understand that agression is transformed fear and insecurity and allow ourselves to see this fear in the teenagers. Only then will they be able to see it in themselves.

"Vadå rädd? Om hur rädsla påverkar vårt beteende". L. Åsbrink. Rädda Barnen 1984. ISSN 0284-0561.




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