Summary: “Don’t wait for anger management, get ahead of it and manage anger triggers.”
Think of anger as a three-part process. A triggering event occurs, the emotion we call anger is triggered, and negative behavior associated with anger usually follows.
According to R. Douglas Fields, author of the book Why We Snap, nine events are responsible for triggering most anger: threats to Life, Insults, threats to Family, Environment/territory, Mates, social Order, Resources, Tribe and events that Stop or thwart your desires (note the letters in bold-caps: Dr. Fields suggests using the acronym LIFEMORTS to help learn and remember these triggers. “Mort” is the French word for death, so apparently this could be a matter of life or death in some circumstances). Dr. Fields suggests that if you feel anger arising, take the time to consider the nine triggers and focus on the specific reasons/triggers for your anger.
Here’s why I think this is a very good idea. You actually have three brains (or distinct areas of your whole brain) that sometimes work together and sometimes work in competition to produce your behavior. For example, at any particular time, either your thinking brain (cortex), or your emotional brain (limbic brain), is in charge of your behavior. Yes, your entire brain is always active, but certain parts of your brain, shall we say, take the lead in generating certain kinds of behavior. The cortex generally produces more rational responses to events (anger triggers, in this case) and the limbic brain produces more emotional responses.
When you are angry, your emotional brain is likely controlling your behavior. Taking a moment to analyze the nine triggers activates your thinking brain and gives it more control over your behavior. And when your thinking brain is in charge of your behavior, you are more likely to calm down and respond rationally and appropriately.
Isolating the anger trigger, or triggers, also puts you in a better position to be more specific about how you might address your concerns. If you are lucky, your thinking brain will help you avoid reactions you might regret later.
Likewise, if you find yourself on the other side of someone else’s anger, identifying the specific trigger or triggers can help you develop a strategy to perhaps avoid or resolve conflict. For example, if I know that you perceive that I am threatening your resources (R), I can specifically address that in further conversations with you.
Go beyond anger management and practice anger trigger management. It may save you some unnecessary grief. It’s a great way to joyfully participate in life.
Joyfully participate in life today…Chris