People convicted of violence learn to control their angry impulses
"Anger is a universal feeling, but it is a taboo subject in our society. For example, in Denmark, you cannot be referred to a psychologist if you have behavioural problems such as anger and aggression – as opposed to, for example, depression or anxiety. That means it's up to you to control your anger. However, since violence breeds violence, it often means that young people who have such problems experience either social exclusion or punishment. And none of those things alleviate or alter the violent behaviour patterns when you're young."
In his graduate project from Design School Kolding communication designer Mikkel Kortsen-Sørensen has confronted a major societal problem. In collaboration with the Danish Prison and Probation Service, the organisation Diamantforløbet and the Police of South and Southern Jutland, he has created a set of simple, intuitive aids for young people convicted of violence who are enrolled in a follow-up programme under the Danish Prison and Probation Service:
"My project builds on the instruction in anger management they have received and helps the young people retain what they have learned," he explains.
A fair amount of theory
The designer has taken his point of departure in a wealth of theoretical material about cognitive behavioural psychology and also developmental psychology, a volume of text that might benefit professionals, but which is by no means readily accessible to those individuals who need sufficient self-perception to change their violent behaviour.
"Few of the young people convicted of violence are academically minded. Therefore, I have tried to visualise the theoretical concepts so that they become simple and intelligible for the user," Mikkel Kortsen-Sørensen explains, referring to his Defuse kit, which consists of three different parts.
What we are not talking about
With his project, Mikkel Kortsen-Sørensen wants to highlight a topic that nobody really wants to talk about: "Anger is indeed such a no-no concept in our society. From a very young age we learn to speak nicely to each other, but I want to bring anger up for debate so that we, as a society, will get better at dealing with aggressive individuals, within design as well. In my start-up phase, I searched for design references about anger. I found only a single artistic project that had anger as its theme. But we are forced to relate to that feeling. Anger can be a constructive incentive to change things, but it can also be so destructive that it prevents the individual from functioning as a normal human being."
DEFUSE - A THREE-PRONGED TOOL
Defuse is an anger management tool developed by communications designer Mikkel Kortsen-Sørensen. It is intended to give young people convicted of violent acts a basic understanding, more self-control and strengthened self-development in relation to impulsive anger and aggression:
• The first part is a manual for understanding the anatomy of anger, a kind of introductory illustrated guide that explains what happens when you get angry.
• The second part is an impulse tool, a cylindrically shaped watch that the person can wear on his hand or in his pocket, which is used in situations where the subject feels moderate or intense anger. The watch reinforces an exercise called 'tactical breathing', which lowers the body's stress level; the person can also insert a small personal photo of a favourite person or place into the watch. The photo can help the person move the focus away from the anger – a psychological mechanism called 'cognitive priming'.
• The third part is a visual template that lets the subject keep a log book of his or her own anger. It must be completed visually using patterns, and it enables the person to understand the bouts of anger over time. The goal is for the individual to become more knowledgeable about his or her aggressive behaviour.