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Alternative Rebellion and TRUE BIZ by Sara Nović

Do you sometimes rebel against authority in unsafe ways and end up experiencing negative consequences? If so, consider trying alternate rebellion, a way of feeling the rush of rebelliousness without losing ground on your goals.

Cover of the book True Biz by Sara Nović used as a teaching example for Alternate Rebellion

What is Alternate Rebellion?

The idea behind alternate rebellion is that you may not be able to change your situation, but you can manage your outcomes by responding in less destructive and more effective ways. Alternate Rebellions, like traditional rebellious behavior, can still be exciting or edgy. But it’s not so spicy that you end up in hot water.

What Are The Steps To Alternate Rebellions?

1. List the situations you find triggering and the urges that emerge.

Maybe your parent is imposing a curfew, and you want to sneak out to feel the rush of breaking the rules, showing your anger, or just plain saying no. Maybe your employer infringes on your time off, and you feel overwhelmed and want to swear so that they see how angry you are.

Following either of those impulsive urges is an inefficient way to handle your feelings because you will ultimately expose yourself to negative consequences.

2. Create a list of non-destructive, safe rebellions.

Come up with things that fit you! To help, here are some ideas:

  • Be honest instead of polite

  • Dye your hair

  • Leave the lights on all-day

  • Do things out of order

  • Write a letter to the editor

  • Turn up the volume on your music

  • Write a no-send letter

  • Express unpopular views

  • Sleep late

  • Shout into a pillow

  • Pierce your ears

  • Sleep late

  • Advocate for a person or issue you care about (get in the good kind of trouble)

3. Practice

When urges arise, try using an alternate rebellion from your list. If the first doesn’t work, try another (and another…). Afterward, assess how effectively the alternate rebellion helped you resolve the urge without giving into unsafe options.

Teaching Example: True Biz by Sara Nović

Charlie is mad. She is deaf and has a cochlear implant that doesn’t work, so she can barely communicate with people around her. The kids at her mainstream school bullied her, her parents were always in court fighting over who she lived with and where she went to school, and she had no healthy outlet for her feelings. When Charlie reached her boiling point, she snuck out of her house, went to a bar, drank and did drugs, and hooked up with her much older ex – now an anarchist with criminal tendencies.

Pretty destructive.

Apply The Skills

Charlie lacks control over her parents' legal battles, how deaf people are treated in a majority-hearing world, the pain and buzzing related to her cochlear implant and other things that make her angry.

But, she can control her response to these situations.

Charlie could try alternate rebellion. Here’s how she’d do it. Charlie would recognize that when her mother insists that she rely on the cochlear implant or belittles ASL, Charlie gets mad and has the urge to flee into a world so chock full of sensory experiences (drugs/sex/vibrations of music) that her feelings are drowned out. Knowing that her urge is to have an overwhelming sensory experience, numb out her feelings, and show her mom how angry she is, Charlie could instead try: go on a fast run, watch an intense television show, paint her wall a different color, punch a pillow, eat something with a strong taste, dye her hair a color she loves (and maybe her mom hates), etc. Afterward, she would assess how helpful the alternate rebellions she tried were and use this data to add more ideas to her list.

Big picture: The goal of alternate rebellion is NOT skipping rebellion. The goal is rebelling in non-destructive ways.


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