Rebellious behavior is often negatively associated with teenagers. It’s seen as something that’s annoying at best and dangerous at worst, a tendency to break rules “just because” that’s hopefully overcome once a person becomes an adult.
But that’s not a completely accurate view of what rebellion is and what its uses are. It’s not just a behavior limited to immature children and young people. For some it can have negative consequences. But for others, when harnessed usefully, rebellion can actually a positive part of an adult life.
What is Rebellion?
Rebellion is different from struggling with doing something you don’t want to do because you know you have to do it. Even if you have a dream job there are some days where you don’t want to go into work for some reason, but you make yourself go anyway. Rebellion occurs when you change your behavior or routine – altering the boundaries of your life in a way that can be seen as drastically different.
This change can be positive or negative. It’s negative if it harmfully interferes with your day-to-day functioning by causing you to:
- Act inappropriately
- Be self-destructive
- Experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety
This is the type of rebellion most people are thinking of when they talk about rebellious teenagers who resist a healthy way of fitting in socially or defy adult authority. If you do sense yourself rebelling in this negative way, ask yourself what it is you’re rebelling against, whether it’s:
- Where you feel your life is.
- How you are fitting in with your family.
- Who or what you feel is controlling you.
It’s understandable to feel this way about an aspect of your life that takes up a lot of time and energy, but engaging in activities or behaviors that are dangerous, self-destructive, or harmful to yourself or others aren’t constructive or healthy ways of changing your life.
How Rebelling Can Be Turned into a Positive
It’s important to remember that most adults are in a position that teenagers aren’t: full control over their own lives. Because of this, adults have the opportunity to turn the thoughts and feelings that rebellion comes from into motivation to make a positive and necessary change in their lives. For example, if you’re feeling rebellious at work, maybe it’s time to consider turning that rebellion into a chance to improve your life at work or elsewhere.
You can also change your thinking to help understand and calm your rebellion. You might feel less burdened and angry about your job if you see it not as your primary purpose in life but as a simple transaction that you may not enjoy in itself, but which provides you with money to pursue or maintain the life you want.
Managing your rebellious feelings instead of trying to ignore them or act on them without thinking about their motivations or consequences is crucial to having a more fulfilling life. If you need help with that process, talking to a psychologist can make a real difference.