Nineteen-year-old Ahmad stood at the brink of a waterfall, eyes closed, fists clenched as he counted to 10. He wore a harness to steady himself as he rappelled over the edge, but first he needed to breathe.

That is how he had been taught to calm down during a youth training session the day before in Salt, the western Jordanian city where he lives, a 90-minute drive away.

There were 15 young men in the program run by Mercy Corps, an international nonprofit aid group headquartered in Oregon. The 12-week course provides, among other things, leadership training, local job placement, rock-climbing instruction — and lessons on controlling one’s emotions.

Ahmad had signed up with his friend Omar, also 19, whom he had met in a fight. “He was beating someone up because of a card game, and I took his side,” Ahmad said. Fighting was no big deal to him, he said. What scared him was how he sometimes lost control and would cut himself.

“I can only calm down when I see blood,” he had told Monther Altiti, one of the program leaders.

Jordanian youths prepare to rappel down a waterfall near the Dead Sea, Jordan. (Alice Su/For The Washington Post)

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