In this column, I would like to highlight some latent triggers for our anger.
It might be said that the triggers for anger involve our values. An example could be our getting angry when someone is condescending toward us. In this case, our value is about our thoughts, our person, being respected. When we find ourselves getting angry, we might look at what values are being crossed.
I recently asked people to list triggers for their anger. The list included: when people talk down to me, when they treat me as if I am stupid, when they talk behind my back, or when they think they know it all and are better than I am. If we made a list of triggers that set us off, we might notice, like in the list above, that a lot are carryovers that set us off as children. Some of us carry those childhood triggers to adulthood.
Of course, stressors can cause us to be less tolerant and more prone to anger. One of those stressors is when we are overwhelmed. When our to-do list is too long, we feel overwhelmed. Of course, when we are overwhelmed, we have less patience and tend to be on edge. It doesn't take much for us to get angry.
Another stressor is when we are grieving. Grief uncorks feelings such as anger, guilt, relief, sorrow and anxiety. When we experience these strong emotions that drain our energy, we find ourselves "on edge" so that the least little thing can cause us to snap at someone.
One of the experiences that can set us on edge is an operation. The body is on edge because of all the chemicals and trauma it has experienced. We may find ourselves uptight and ready to crawl out of our skin emotionally. We can cry or growl instantly until the chemicals are out of our system.
When I was in seminary, I was chosen for a year-long internship in Panama. The night before I was to leave, my family invited some friends for a going-away party. I found myself on edge and irritated with my family. I felt guilty. Why am I so irritated with them? I thought. They are being nice and giving me a party. Luckily, I realized why I was so irritated. It was because of the feelings I had about going to Panama.
Many of our conflicts happen prior to leaving on a deployment, before an operation, before the wedding, before leaving for college or with any change in our life situation.
The more we know what our triggers are, the more we can respond instead of reacting when our buttons are pushed.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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