Through their organizing work young people develop the skills they need to transform emotions into assets. Youth learn to channel their emotions into constructive action, maintain their composure, and stay focused on their goals—even when faced with difficult emotions like anger, anxiety, frustration, demoralization, and sadness.
Handling difficult emotions, experiencing positive ones and developing social skills are an essential part of growing into adulthood and an important outcome for this study. YO goes a step further and provides the skills necessary for young people, like Itzel, to maintain composure and stay focused on constructive action even when faced with difficult emotions like indignation.
The challenges of community organizing, are wide-ranging. “Emotional work” occurs before and after important events. For example, rehearsing for a meeting with a powerful school official and then standing before that school official. Despite the practice young people must often think on their feet, show confidence, and keep anxiety in check. All of these are among the social and emotional skills young people learn for handling difficult and unpleasant emotions.
Equal Education, South Africa (YEAR)
Emotional Endurance: The emotional work involved in community organizing require young people to handle difficult emotions, including anger, frustration, demoralization, and sadness. Because it can take months if not years to see progress on structural problems like inadequate schooling, we call this form of perseverance “emotional endurance.” Young people who gain it demonstrated the ability to sustain their focus on a task or goal despite unpleasant feelings. With the skills needed to regulate or channel difficult emotions, passion, and intensity, young people are more likely to prevail on other worthwhile projects requiring long-term effort.
Transforming Emotions into Constructive Action: Young people sometimes transform and buffer difficult emotions by adopting a strategic, analytical perspective that allows them to re-direct their emotions into positive constructive behavior and actions aimed at challenging situations that are often oppressive. In in the context of youth organizing, when faced with a challenging situation, many young people, channeled their difficult emotions into something reflective, constructive and action-oriented — such as sharing stories or testimonies of lived experience, attending a rally or action, and/or organizing a campaign.
Essential Social & Leadership Skills: Young people develop social and civic skills associated with leadership, team and community-building, social support, and sense of agency. A supportive community within the organization can facilitate a safe and brave space for young people. Such settings, for example, might involved youth feeling comfortable enough to share difficult or challenging experiences that might require them to be vulnerable. Yet, through verbal and physical displays of validation, encouragement, and support young people learn to engage with and develop and social skills necessary be leaders.
The Power of Positive Emotions: [coming soon]