Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Control Anger by Recognizing Triggers

This blog links in from Trick Your Brain , and is one part of what I've called START.
If your goal is to stop resorting to explosive anger, this part of START relates to Triggers, for the habit of explosive anger. Please read blog Trick Your Brain to know more about START. Here I cover one aspect, being Triggers, and tie it to communication.

Maybe the reaction is anger. Responding immediately, or allowing your body's physiological responses to dictate your actions, can lead to serious ramifications. Get to really know your body. What happens right before you explode? Does your body get hot, does your face flush,  your fists ball, jaw clench, voice rise, breathing slow or pause, etc.? What can you recognize right before it comes on, and how can you channel it or express it before it happens? Can you pause, and ask a question, have someone rephrase, seek clarification, walk away, wait to speak until you're calm, postpone the feelings until you have an outlet that can be beneficial...?
Anger doesn't have to be explosive; it can be harnessed and expressed constructively. It's not others making you angry; anger is what happens inside you and is expressed by you, in response to something you don't like or of which you are opposed. Responding in anger is something different from the feeling of anger. Responding in anger is your independent, learned expression of the way you tend to handle anger. Anger is often times a secondary emotion that relates to a primary emotion - anger comes from initial feelings of fear, jealousy, hurt, confusion, frustration, etc. With frequent practice and inflection, it IS possible to identify the base feelings one has, to better equip them to handle these feelings before it turns to anger. Example, your friend or family member tells you something you find hurtful, and you get "angry". What was the real emotion? Hurt. It could also be pride that was involved, and got hurt. You felt "hurt" because they matter to you, their opinion matters, and you probably didn't like how you felt about yourself from the comment (especially if it was true). So, the hurt, not being expressed directly, turns to anger instead, and explosive responses (it's also possible to insert passive aggression here, which we can talk about later, or in a question/response area after the blog, or in email ( feel free to email me here: for lifestyle coaching or simple advice/feedback/constructive criticism or ideas).

To express hurt, children cry. Because we don't feel comfortable crying and this doesn't seem to be a social behavior that is acceptable, strong, beneficial at most times, we get angry. However, crying isn't the only way, and either is explosive anger. Even if angry, we can take a time-out until thinking clearly, or pause and ask a question to make sure the message we received was indeed the message that the other person intended to send. Very often, the intended message wasn't the same as the message that was received. Many times context, schema, common threads from the past, body language, tone, preconceptions, etc. influence how one hears a message. It can help a lot to learn to identify and articulate your initial, primary/base feelings to the other person. This can prevent anger, or channel it, and leave the ball in the court of the sender.

*Your frame of reference that you bring to the table based on connected and preconceived thoughts or patterns of behavior is your own schema. These schemas can impact the way you perceive things that happen that contain commonalities or familiarity to another incident you've experienced (and produce triggers). They create a framework for your world or the world around you that impacts how you synthesize (organize, receive, interpret) information in new circumstances (or repeat incidences).  In other words, people are most likely going to affirm things that fit their schema and re-interpret or assign their own meaning to new things, according to their personal schema. Most often, they are unaware of this, unless they consciously gauge each new knowledge or occurrence from a clean lens (if in addition to their own). Usually, if there are contradictions to our schema, we have a tendency to distort what's happening or why it's happening, to make the explanation or information fit the way we already see things. This is so important to understand when being a sender or receiver of communication, and when feelings arise.

Lastly, with anger for example, to create a new trigger, recognize the physiological responses associated with anger, and build new habits - of breathing, pausing, asking questions... :)

To read more on communication (ties into triggers for anger):

Opening Statements - The psychology of non-verbal Communication
Psychology of Verbal Communication
Communication Effectiveness
Skills You Need: Verbal Communication
Communication 101 For Everyone - Sending & Receiving

(Some of these resources may support my theories, while others just add to them.)