There are numerous potential triggers for us to get angry. So, why is it, that sometimes we experience a trigger event and feel really angry, yet can experience the same trigger event another time and it doesn’t impact us that much?
The reason, is something called ‘setting events’.
As an example, a key trigger for someone could be other peoples poor driving. One day, someone getting cut up on the road could lead to them reacting in response to their increased feelings of anger.
There is nothing to be gained by screaming abuse at the other driver.
Yet other days, someone could get cut off, yet they don’t care so much. They may be slightly annoyed, but have no desire to react angrily.
“The difference between the responses, to the same events, are the ‘setting events’ that come before it.”
If the trigger event occurs when we’re driving home after a long day at work, there could be numerous ‘setting events’ that have occurred throughout the day:
- Struggled at work – upset
- Not had any breaks – tired
- Not had enough food during a meal break – hungry
- Conflict at home that still needs to be resolved – anger.
Each of these reasons could put us more at risk of having a higher level anger reaction, when someone cuts us off whilst driving.
If the same trigger event were to occur after we’ve had a good day at work, we’re rested, well fed and home life is good. There is significantly less risk we will feel intense anger.
Before you enter an environment that has a potential trigger event, such as driving, or going to a difficult meeting or calling a service where you’ve previously got the run around, check if you’ve had any ‘setting events’ that day that could place you at risk of responding with anger, should a trigger event occur.
“If you are set up to react, if possible, delay entering the environment that has a potential trigger until you feel less vulnerable and more calm.”
If you can’t delay entering the environment, use self talk prior to going into the environment, and remind yourself you are potentially vulnerable and at risk. You need to be careful to not react with anger if a trigger occurs.
Use anger management strategies such as controlled breathing or counting backwards to increase a sense of calm and self-control. That way, you will be less at risk of feeling intense anger, and even worse, behaving in response to that anger, should a trigger event occur.