Anger Management Therapy: How to Manage Your Anger Triggers

May 14, 2024

Anger Management Therapy: How to Manage Your Triggers

Anger is an important natural emotion that helps us set boundaries and respond to behaviors we find unjust or violating. Unfortunately for many people anger ends up occurring with such frequency and intensity that rather than providing a constructive way to navigate relationships it instead becomes detrimental to them in the form of aggressive, hurtful behaviors. Understanding and managing the triggers that spur intense anger is integral to maintaining both our relationships and our well-being—here are several ways you can begin to get greater control of your anger.


Pay Attention to Your Body


Sometimes it can feel like anger surges out of nowhere. While this can happen, often there are warning signs in our body that anger is mounting and may erupt if we do not manage it. Common physical symptoms of rising anger include increased heart rate, muscle tension–especially clenching in jaws and fists–and feeling hot and/or sweating. Learning to pay attention to our bodies and notice these symptoms as they start to occur can help cue us to start implementing soothing techniques before an outburst occurs.


Find Ways to Self-Soothe


Once you’re aware that anger may be building, it’s important to find ways to soothe yourself. Some useful options may be:

  • Deep Breathing: Simple breathing exercises can help calm your mind and body. Try inhaling deeply for four counts, holding for four counts, and exhaling for four counts.
  • Take a Timeout: If possible, remove yourself from the triggering situation until you calm down. This can prevent the situation from escalating.
  • Exercise: Sometimes we can channel our aggressive energy into a productive outlet like exercise and calm ourselves in the process. 


Label Underlying Emotions


Anger is a green light emotion – it signals us to take action. When it feels like our anger is justified it can be a very quick transition from feeling our anger to acting on it. Another way to soothe ourselves is to learn to identify other feelings that underlie or exist alongside our anger, as a way of learning to pump the brakes on it as opposed to reflexively acting on it. Some of the most common feelings that may lead to outwardly expressed anger include:

  • Feeling hurt – Moments where we are feeling rejected or unvalued can naturally trigger a self-protective anger response.
  • Feeling threatened – Anger is the ‘fight’ part of our natural fight-or-flight response to perceived threats. In extreme situations this instinctive response can save our lives. In more ordinary circumstances however we might misperceive a situation with another person and attack to defend ourselves. Learning to label our anxiety helps us get a better read on when our anger may actually help us and when other options may better alleviate our anxiety. 
  • Grieving – Grief is most commonly associated with sadness, but it can also be a significant source of anger. It can lead to a sense of injustice around the loss which can cause people to become more combative with others. Being able to identify that we are grieving and finding outlets to process that grief can help prevent it from being acted out in aggressive ways.


Understand Your History – Get Help From A DC Therapist


While there are many self-directed ways we can learn to manage our anger triggers, talking to a therapist can often help to strengthen these techniques. Through exploration with a therapist we can understand why certain situations may be triggering to us if they remind us of other experiences we have been through, particularly if we’ve experienced earlier life traumas. This insight can help us to better know when we need to calm ourselves due to a reaction being potentially more about something that has happened to us in the past than about something that is occuring in the present.


Think you might benefit from anger management therapy? Book a free consultation to learn more about how I can assist you.