Anger, Fear, and Triggers
Fear presents itself in two ways. The first is Truthful fear, such as when you are in a life-or-death situation. The second way fear presents itself is in distortion, which describes all the rest of our fears.
Triggers are indicators or evidence that you are feeling emotions. When you feel “triggered,” it simply means you have become aware that you are feeling emotion(s). Triggers are not good or bad, they are only indicators that you are feeling (comfortable or uncomfortable emotions).
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is not bad, contrary to popular belief. The feelings and experience of anger are good and appropriate; they are a natural and God-given part of the human experience. The only time anger becomes “bad” or inappropriate is when I give myself permission to act out in destructive, devious, manipulative or abusive ways towards myself or others.
Anger has a distinct purpose and function. The function of anger is to alert me to any real or perceived danger or threat to my person. Anger is meant to protect me and support me to hold boundaries within myself and with others. Anger tells me what is going on within myself emotionally. It can serve as a tool to help me “wake up” to what is going on emotionally and physically in my world. One of the greatest challenges in this life is learning to befriend my anger and use it in positive and constructive ways.
Positive Uses of Anger
Anger can be used in very positive and constructive ways. For example, you might find out that your next-door neighbor is physically abusing her child. You would feel anger towards the woman and use your anger to motivate you to call and report the crime.
Another example: you find out that your son used your credit card to purchase a $1,000 item without your permission. You confront him and he lies to you. You feel angry, disappointed, shocked and hurt that he would use you and then lie to you. You use the emotion of anger to share with him how hurt and angry you feel, and to let him know that trust has been destroyed between the two of you. You hold him accountable for his choices and use your emotions—one being anger—indicators to help your son appreciate that he has done wrong and that he can choose to make more correct choices based on honesty and responsibility. Your anger can move you to hold boundaries of accountability with him.
Destructive Uses of Anger
Anger can also be used in very destructive ways. It can be acted out in demonstrative and “out-of-control” behaviors such as screaming at the top of my lungs because I am mad at my child for leaving the stove on and burning all of the potatoes. Anger can also be acted out in covert or passive ways, such as giving my spouse the “silent treatment” because I am angry at him for not telling me he was going to a basketball game last night with his friends, and I felt ignored and abandoned.
Above all, my anger is my friend, my ally and my partner in life. Many people are afraid of anger because they have experienced their own and/or other people’s anger as being misused and acted out in abusive and destructive manners towards themselves and others. But anger is not the problem. Anger is only an emotion. It is what I do with anger or what my anger “gives me permission to do” that is the problem. I am in charge of how I act and behave; my emotions are not. The emotion of anger is not to blame for people’s choices to behave inappropriately or abusively.
The feeling of anger is helpful and useful. It supports me to be vigilant in my environment so I can take care of myself and those who are entrusted to me. Anger sends signals to me of potential emotional, spiritual, financial, social, familial, and physical harm. As I begin to forge a new relationship with my anger, I will not allow my anger to remain dormant and unavailable to me, nor will I allow it to be out of control and volatile so that it scares, intimates or is used in inappropriate manners towards others or myself. Instead, I will learn to employ my anger as one of many information-gathering and decision-making tools which can support me to become wise and healthy.
presents itself in two ways. The first is Truthful fear, such as when you are in a life-or-death situation. The second way fear presents itself is in distortion, which describes all the rest of our fears. Examples of distorted fear include, “I fear losing my job,” “I fear I’m not enough,” “I fear he/she won’t like me,” “I fear being alone,” “I fear the dark,” “I fear being poor,” “I fear being a “bad” parent,” and on and on. The emotion of fear is incredibly powerful, whether it is in Reality or in distortion. Distorted fear is a doorway into denial and disconnection. Our responsibility is not to become reactionary to our fears, but instead to become curious about why we feel fear, and then reframe the fear back into the Truth. For example, “I fear losing my job” becomes, “The Truth is, it is always possible to lose my job. I will save money for a rainy day.” “I fear I’m not enough” becomes, “The Truth is, I’m never not enough.” “I fear he/she won’t like me” becomes, “The Truth is, I don’t know if they will like me, and I’m going to find out by talking to them.” “I fear being alone” becomes, “The Truth is, it’s not ‘bad’ to be alone.” “I fear being poor” becomes, “The Truth is, ‘poor’ is a mindset.” “I fear being a bad parent” becomes, “The Truth is, I am giving my children my very best.”
You always have the power to choose the Truth, which will always overpower distorted, destructive, life-limiting fears.
are indicators or evidence that you are feeling emotions. When you feel “triggered,” it simply means you have become aware that you are feeling emotion(s). Triggers are not good or bad, they are only indicators that you are feeling (comfortable or uncomfortable emotions). Anytime you are feeling an emotion, you are thinking a thought / perception which caused the emotion. The purpose of a trigger is to draw your attention to the fact that you are feeling (and therefore thinking)—to invite you to be curious and find out what you are thinking. Triggers are your allies; they are the gateway into awareness of yourself and others.
You can experience triggers around comfortable / pleasant emotions. However, for the purposes of this book, we focus on triggers that are indicators of unpleasant / uncomfortable emotions, because these are the emotions most of us struggle to 1) be curious and learn from, and 2) manage in the Truth.
Triggers exist to give you vital, intuitive information about yourself and your experiences. Triggers can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending upon how willing you are to 1) enter into uncomfortable emotions and be responsible with those emotions, and 2) tell yourself the Truth about your thoughts / perceptions that are creating your emotions.
As you engage in experiences / circumstances, you have thoughts & perceptions. Thoughts & perceptions elicit (trigger) emotions / feelings. We all feel emotions, and with every thought, experience, or situation, a corresponding emotion follows. When you feel an emotion and classify it as uncomfortable or unpleasant, it is termed a “trigger” because it causes you to become aware and conscious of what you are feeling, and invites you to become curious about what you are thinking. From this position of awareness, you can choose to make conscious changes to what you think, and therefore to what you feel.
If you will become conscious of your triggers and ask curious questions such as “Why am I feeling this way?” and “What is causing me to react in this manner?”, you will quickly develop awareness of yourself and create wisdom inside of yourself. Thus, triggers can empower you to change your own thinking and behavioral patterns. Triggers are your allies!
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