Angst: Our Biggest Enemy, or Our Best Friend?

Will your teen angst drive you to do the impossible, or to do nothing at all?


Maria Baker, Staff Writer

We have all had the days where we sit in class with a thousand thoughts pulling your brain in every which direction. There is an overwhelming level of stress, anxiety and frustration towering over you. Then the bell rings. You just sat through seventy-eight minutes of babble, lecture and gossip without obtaining an ounce of new information.

This feeling that put your heart in the pit of your stomach is called angst, and it takes its toll on everyone, especially teenagers. Hormones in general have the ability to make the teenage mind turn to complete chaos at the drop of a hat, but when the effects of a painful breakup, the loss of a family member, or a fight at home is also weighing down the mind of the young adult, there could be one of two outcomes for the individual.

Angst can be defined as the emotion that combines stress, rage and grief into a single, complex feeling. It results in high levels of stress and anxiety, which could easily distract the young mind.

Grief and stress, for instance, can discourage one from working and accomplishing goals. Rage, however, could do the opposite and drive the person to excel. So the question is, which will it be? Is angst a motivator, or the oppressor to incentive?

To find the answer to this seemingly undefinable question, we must first identify the meanings of the factors of grief: stress and rage. Starting with the effects of grief on adolescents, the pain and suffering that high school students go through, nobody else sees.

In the Huffington Post article, “6 Ways That Adolescent Grief Is Different”, by Kenneth J. Doka, M.Div., Ph.D., he states, “As adolescents become more independent, they also may become less comfortable in seeking support from parents or other adults. The young child who once curled up in a parent’s lap when upset may now be the adolescent who slams his or her bedroom door.”

Teenagers are taught to grow up fast and jump hurdles without the support of others. In many instances, independence is beneficial to the individual, but when one is dealing with grief, the support of others is often needed.

In this instance, grief is the oppressor of a teenager’s motivation. They must maintain focus in the classroom while also trying to cope with loss in a way that avoids distraction. Students are expected to learn in the classroom with nothing on their mind but the lesson placed in front of them.

These complex emotions are combined with the raging teenage hormones already plaguing their minds, making this far different from grief in adults. So, if grief is an oppressor, are the factors of stress and rage enough to motivate these teens?

As for stress, the effects are far more diverse than those of grief. Stress can have a variety of outcomes depending on the person experiencing it. One of the most common ways described by Kristine Tye, M.A. License Marriage and Family Therapist in the Halstrom Academy blog post “How Stress Affects Learning for High School Students”.

Tye describes, “Stressful Mindset #1: “I always aim to do things the “right” way.”/ Many students learned to do well by trying to adhere very precisely to every rule and guideline. Teachers, parents and peers may mistakenly praise a teen for practicing a level of perfectionism that is actually detrimental to a student’s advanced learning process.”

This describes that though stress is not always beneficial to the overall comprehension of the topics being taught in class, stress can in fact be a motivator for teenagers as they make their strides toward perfection.

Angst within the minds of high school students may seem like a complete split right now, which is what makes it so complicated to both feel and comprehend. This may, however, be swayed by the third emotion that defines angst: rage.

Everyone feels intense aggravation and anger at some point throughout the week. Whether this happens during an argument with a parent or when a risky driver cuts you off on the highway, everyone has experienced a form of rage.

According to Dr. Vincent Berger in his article entitled “Anger and Rage”, he states, “When we use our frustration and anger to motivate us to change something in our life, anger and frustration end up being good and helpful.  But for many people anger and frustration result in irritability, rage, wrath, stress, resentment, loss of confidence, depression and other negative behaviors.”

In saying this he explains that it is dependent on the situation whether rage will drive you to succeed or it will discourage and depress you. It is an even split and simply dependent. For instance, if one was driving and a car cuts you off at high speeds without using turn signals or simple road etiquette, it would most likely cause a moment of road rage, and drive the person to speed past the other to prove dominance or simply cool themselves down.

However if rage arises because of an occasion where a loved one is facing injustice and they are unable to help, that helpless feeling can be discouraging and painful to face, especially at a young age.

Due to an even divide, it will always be unclear as to whether angst has the power to motivate a high school student or to do quite the opposite. It is all dependent on the spirit and mentality of the individual and the situation that they are faced with.

Some teens are driven by anxiety, anger and an overwhelming loss, whereas others cannot handle it and turn away from the world and let it move on without them. It is up to you? Will you let everyday angst drag you down? Or will you let it push you forward, to achieve things you never thought possible?