The Value of Understanding Anger Triggers

I recently read a book called Why We Snap by R. Douglas Fields PhD. It is an interesting book about the rage, or anger, circuits in your brain.

As it turns out, there are nine triggers that automatically activate the anger circuits in your brain. These are built-in circuits that were designed by evolutionary processes to automatically provoke you to respond in ways that can help you survive at times.

Think of these anger circuits and triggers from both sides of an angry interaction. If you understand the triggers, you can try to avoid using words, voice tone and body language that might activate the triggers in another person's brain. And according to Dr. Fields, awareness of the triggers can help you prevent them from being activated in your brain when someone else is using similar words, voice tone and body language. 

Here are the nine triggers. The acronym LIFEMORTS can help you learn and remember them.

L     Life and Limb (threats to)

I      Insults

F     Family (threats to members of)

E     Environment (threats to perceived territory)

M     Mate (threats to)

O     Order (threats to social order, such as breaking in line)

R     Resources (threats to)

T     Tribe (threats to members of)

S     Stopping or restraining someone from progress

Note that one situation or event can activate several triggers. For example, think of these triggers in relation to road rage which has the potential to activate all nine at once (e.g. yelling insults or sending "digital" signals, people consider their lane in traffic as their territory, a "tribe" of motorcyclists passing by might annoy some people, etc.). 

Conflict is a three-part process: a trigger or triggering event occurs, next there is an emotional response to the trigger (anger), and then there is a behavioral response to the emotion. The highly predictable behavioral response to anger is attack (now, later, direct, indirect, overt, covert). Anger management techniques can be somewhat helpful, but by definition they are focused on the emotional response...when the "horse is already out of the barn" so to speak. Doesn't it make more sense to deal with the trigger, or triggers, and prevent the anger from occurring in the first place? That's what this book is all about. I recommend that you consider reading it and becoming very familiar with the nine anger triggers.