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The Cycle of Anger

Have you ever wondered how you can go from zero to thirty on the anger scale in such a short amount of time?  Anger is an undesirable emotional state ranging from mild annoyance to intense rage. Anger may be stimulated by frustration, vocal insult, physical hostility, perceptions of unfairness and injustice, etc. Because anger is also related to aggression, anger has the potential to cause harm. For those in relationships, angry feelings might also fuel a malicious cycle of reciprocated anger and damaging behaviors.

The Cycle

The first event that occurs during the cycle of anger is the triggering event.  This is an occurrence that triggers an individual’s anger. Examples would be when you get cut off when you’re driving, having a bad day at work, or feeling disrespected.  

The second experience that follows in the cycle is irrational or negative thoughts.  These usually take the form of self-deprecating thoughts toward self, or others. An example of this kind of thinking is, “I am the worst parent ever!” or “The jerk that cut me off does not care about anyone else but himself.”

The third element of the cycle is the emotional response.  Negative thoughts lead to unconstructive emotions and feelings of “shame” and “guilt.”  Rage can of often be directed toward oneself or another individual.

The forth quality of the anger cycle are the physical symptoms that accompany the process.   The body automatically responds to anger with several symptoms such as racing heart, clenched fists, sweating, and shaking.  

Lastly, the behavioral response occurs.  This is when the individual reacts based upon thoughts, feelings, and physical symptoms that accumulate.  This triggers fighting, yelling, arguing, and even violence.  

How to Break the Cycle 

You can disrupt the self-perpetuating cycle of destruction and anger by weakening the links under influence.  A reframe is an example of when you say something to your partner or another individual, but in a different way.   Instead of saying, “You did a terrible job,” you could reframe that by saying, “That might not have been your best work, let’s do it again.”  

And when you are ready to express your anger, do so in a more constructive manner. Even when you do not feel enraged, you may be unintentionally angering your partner by using profanities or using words like never, always, worst, etc. In contrast, by expressing your anger more constructively and focusing on your own feelings, you are less likely to provoke your partner and fuel or initiate the vicious cycle.

For more information on anger, the cycle of anger, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue, we are here for you!  Please do not hesitate to reach out at 832.421.8714, we are all in this together!


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