What to Do When Anger Becomes Your Trigger Response

What do you do with the stuff that easily triggers anger?  I’m an easy going, peaceful and loving person, but I have my moments where I lose it, like when my kids throw tantrums or are exceptionally whiny, or someone treats me with disrespect.  I get that we are all human and anger is a natural emotion, but in these situations it just feels awful and I always regret it.  How do we show up as who we really are in those moments?  I sometimes feel like a terrible person!

Martha, San Francisco


Hi Martha,

Great question, and I think we can all relate to it. I’m glad you used the example of “losing it” with your kids, because those blessed little creatures sure know how to push our buttons and make us feel the furthest thing from spiritually evolved (coming from a mother of a “lively” 3 year old).  I’m going to use this example as I explain why we have some strong emotional responses that don’t feel so great sometimes as well as how to shift them.

Conversations with God discusses the concept of “giving meaning to things”, saying that nothing in this world has any meaning save the meaning we give it.  So a thing is not “good” or “bad” by itself, it is simply a thing that is occurring and those who are observing this occurrence are the ones who assign the meaning of it being either a bad thing or a good thing.  Now let’s apply this concept to the thing we call “kids throwing tantrums”, something I happen to be very familiar with, and I’ll speak from my point of view since I can’t reach into your mind to access yours.

The meaning I have assigned in the past to my child throwing a whopper of a tantrum (and total transparency here, please don’t judge!), looks something like this, “She is being so irrational right now for no reason, she is not listening to me which is disrespectful and undermines my parenting.  And this is awful to experience!”  The meaning I assigned that occurrence was making me feel bad, and triggering an emotional response of anger and irritation, which used to cause me either to raise my voice, get frustrated, things that certainly didn’t help the situation.  Presently, I am happy to report that I’ve assigned this occurrence a new meaning, which looks something like this, “Wow, my little baby is having a difficult time right now, she’s clearly overwhelmed by something and doesn’t know how to manage her emotions yet.  Poor thing!”  This new meaning triggers my emotional response of compassion, which now causes me to practice patience, tolerance, and even scoop the little tyrant up and hug her until she calms down.  Voila, my experience of this occurrence is now vastly different and much, much better for all involved, simply because I changed the way I was looking at it.

So I encourage you, Martha, to take a deep look at those common situations that occur in your life that trigger your anger.  Ask yourself what meaning you are currently giving each of them, and then consciously assign them a new meaning that feels better to you.  And then, of course, practice implementing them.  You’re not a terrible person, you’re an amazing person for noticing something that you’re not in alignment with and wanting to change it.


(Nova Wightman is a CWG Life Coach, as well as the owner and operator of Go Within Life Coaching, www.gowithincoaching.com, specializing in helping individuals blend their spirituality with their humanity in a way that makes life more enjoyable, easy, and fulfilling.  She can be reached at Nova@theglobalconversation.com. )

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