Understand and Recognise Triggers

The first step to anger management is figuring out what’s making you angry in the first place.  Anger is usually a reaction to something else you are feeling.  Explore with young people common triggers for why people get angry.  Identify that these can be things, feelings, and thoughts.  Sometimes it is useful to get them to think about times when they have been angry and reflect on what happened just before. 

Some questions to consider could be:

  • What has made you feel angry?
  • Did someone do or say something to upset you?
  • Do you have other feelings that might affect how you are coping?  For instance, are you sad, tired or embarrassed?
  • Did a situation bring up bad memories?  Is that the real reason you are angry?
  • What are you thinking about when you're angry?

Many young people in out-of-home care find it difficult to identify their emotions and therefore might struggle to recognise emotional triggers.  Also, sometimes triggers can be really subtle for example: another young person receiving a gift for an achievement triggering a sense of rejection.  Some tools that could help explore this in more depth could be:

  • Help the young person visualise their triggers. The Anger Gram – uses a visual map of events & feelings that trigger anger.  How they are placed around the body image can indicate the strength of each trigger.
  • Supporting young people to be mindful and recognise their emotions
  • Help young people reflect on what they are feeling underneath their anger (check out the 'Iceberg' technique). 
  • Help young people recognise the thoughts they have that can trigger feeling angry or that maintain anger i.e. Do your thoughts fuel or calm your anger? Do you get angry when other fail to live up to your expectations?  

Once identified, they can then get better at dealing with their triggers and develop control over how they choose to think, feel and behave in relation to the trigger. 

Some ways that you could encourage for them to consider are:

  • Avoid the triggers or situations that make then angry eg. certain peers.  Be careful though as avoidance is not a long term solution.  You can’t always avoid people or things that anger or irritate you.
  • Notice the feeling related to anger and label it.  Sometimes helping a young person see this feeling as something separate/external to them reminds them that they have some control on what to do with it and whether to act or not. 
  • Understand the impact of their thoughts both negative and positive.  Help young people to see that they may be able to talk themselves out of anger through thinking or saying things like “No point getting mad.  Let’s just take a few breaths”. 
Further Resources