do you know what your triggers are?

meditator at Goðafoss, Iceland. Photo by Jennifer Picard Photography.

meditator at Goðafoss, Iceland. Photo by Jennifer Picard Photography.

anger is a prickly beast. no matter how you try and hold onto it, you seem to get hurt. for the sake of our own well-being, it's best to not handle it at all.

anger has a way of quickly sneaking up and overwhelming you with a flood of heated emotions in the matter of moments, and it's easy to get swept away by them and carried downstream — if you're caught unaware. one second you might be perfectly fine, and the next your face is red, your temper flares, and you're stomping on the ground in uncontrollable fits of irritation.

anger is an expression of your inability to accept whatever's happening in the moment.

however, anger often has a predictable cause, and the more aware we are of our sensitivities that set it off, the better we’re able to manage our reactions to them.

managing our anger is a skill of active mindfulness.

do you know what sends you flying off into a rage at a moment's notice? do you know what shifts you into an overly defensive mode where you reply in haste? what situations, comments or behaviours bring out your worst?

maybe it’s being told what to do. maybe it's being spoken over, or feeling like you're never being heard. maybe it's getting cut off in traffic, or having to always wait when people run late. perhaps it's having to repeat things once too many times, or simply having to do household chores. maybe it's when muddy shoes are tracked indoors, or when dishes aren't put back in their proper place.

i know i have at least a hundred such triggers — probably more — which is a far cry from the thousand or more that i used to saddle onto my back and lug around everyday.

our sensitive points cause us more pain than what they attempt to protect us from.

we manufacture so many trigger points for our anger that we unknowingly create a very narrow window of opportunity where happiness even has a chance to reside — everything has to be absolutely perfect — outside of that, we're mad as hell at the entire world.

we create an environment for ourselves where we're literally waiting for the very next thing to set us off.

if you're able to heal these sensitivities however, so that you're imune to them, you'll find an inner peace that will otherwise remain unknown.

stop your anger from growing, before it has a chance to even be born. once you know what emotionally triggers you, you can begin to change how you react to them.

our anger is situational — our reactions, predictable.

do you know what your triggers are? here's some clues. watch for thoughts arising that are similar to these:

"ohhh, this type of thing makes me so mad!"
"i hate it when they do that!"
"if this happens, i'm going to lose it!"
"if he's late, i'm going to freak out!"
"i can't stand this, it's going to take me all day... i swear i'm going to scream!"

perhaps there's certain phrases that have a history of spinning you out of control and that seem to transform you into a monster — “calm down”, or “don’t be so serious”, or “you always say that”.

practice to not let simple words gain power over you — you're stronger than that. be conscious of what irks you.

anger doesn't diffuse a situation's intensity, it throws another log onto its already raging fire.

instead, replace your anger with a breath of stillness and an open awareness of how you feel in that exact moment. allow yourself to truly feel your emotion rise, and to consider their source, without giving in to the hasty, mindless reaction they want to pull out from you.

give yourself a pause and ask yourself, how would you like to react? pour your awareness into the energy of the feeling itself — feel it, accept it, investigate it... and let it go.

when we give in to anger it has a domino effect, createing even more painful situations that then spin out of control.

anger feeds anger — it only deepens and becomes more vile.

how you embody your anger determines how intense it will be and how long it will last — you decide how much you’ll suffer.

so, do you know what pushes your buttons?

brian thompson