Anger Management: Understanding Your Triggers and How to Overcome Them

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Have you heard the term “triggers” as part of anger management but don’t understand what the word really means? Knowing what triggers are, how they apply to you, and how to overcome them is an essential part of getting your anger under control.

What are triggers?

Quite simply, a trigger is something that causes you to become angry. However, this is more than becoming annoyed or frustrated (such as waiting in line or being put on hold when calling the phone company). Instead, a trigger initiates an anger response, and it can happen quickly. The trigger could be connected with your past, especially if you have experienced a traumatic event in your life. Or, it can be related to something for which you feel shame. Some examples of triggers include:
  • Feeling wronged or mistreated
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Being picked on or made fun of by others
  • Being blamed for something you didn’t do
  • Not feeling heard
Note that this is not an all-inclusive list of triggers. What may be a trigger for one person can be utterly unimportant to another.

What happens when you are triggered?

When something triggers anger, you might experience both an emotional and physiological response.

1. Emotional: The primal sectors of your brain override the prefrontal cortex (which controls reasoning). All you want is for whatever is happening to stop. An enormous part of anger can be a feeling that you are not in control.

2. Physiological: When you become triggered, your heart rate and respiratory rate increase rapidly. These responses can cause you to feel anxious, on edge, and even experience panic. Your muscles tense, and you can develop tunnel vision. These are the same responses you experience when you feel unsafe or threatened.

When emotional and physiological responses are combined, these two responses can make it very difficult for you to make rational decisions. Instead, you feel your anger getting out of control.

How can you overcome your triggers?

The first step toward overcoming your triggers is first to understand what they are. You may already know them, but for some, it can be a real soul-searching process. It’s hard to accept that there is something that can cause you to feel out of control. Nobody likes that feeling, but understanding what they are is an essential first step in regaining control. The next step is to develop tools that you can use when these situations arise.

Coping tools for when you are triggered

There are several coping tools that you can utilise when you are triggered. For example:
  • Mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing
  • Questioning why you are becoming triggered
  • Removing yourself from the situation to refocus
  • Repeating a comforting word or phrase that helps you stay in control
  • Go for a walk or exercise to burn off energy and refocus
These tools aim to buy you time to regain control and avoid jumping straight to anger mode.

Seek Professional Help

The third step to overcoming your triggers is getting professional help from a trained therapist who understands these issues. A therapist can help by providing a safe space for you to understand the problem. Your therapist, for example, will:
  • Provide a safe space for you to express your emotions
  • Challenge your preconceived beliefs about your anger
  • Empower you with coping skills to help you calm down
Ultimately, counselling provides the opportunity to learn how to stay in control and not let your anger get the best of you.

As you can see, a critical part of anger management is understanding why you get angry in the first place. By knowing your triggers, using coping skills, and taking part in anger management counselling, you can learn how to keep calm and not let anger override your life.

Image by Wendy Corniquet from Pixabay


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