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  • Sabrina Trobak

Cycle of Anger


This part of the cycle is when the anger is happening. Anger can look different for each person, as each person’s anger is unique to them, but often it can include varying degrees of yelling, swearing, throwing things, and hitting, or the silent treatment, dirty looks, sighing, angry thoughts, and anything in between.

For some people the explosion happens very frequently, several times to day or much less frequently; happening every few weeks or month or even longer.

Generally, if a person is not actively working on managing and challenging their anger, it will likely become more intense over time. This means the behaviours can become more intense, going from dirty looks, to yelling, to throwing things and can also happen more frequently, happening more and more often.

HONEYMOON: Reconnection Stage.

After the explosion there is the honeymoon stage which creates a sense of relief, connection and feeling loved. During this stage the people in the cycle of anger feel a sense of relief because the anger is over and they reconnect. There are often apologies, promises to not get angry again, and a sense of feeling loved and connected during this stage.

The honeymoon can include things like going for dinner, spending time together, gifts (small or large) etc. and this creates a sense of connection, love, and hope, hope it won't happen again.

It can also be a sense of calm or relief, a break from the anger or potential for anger. There is no apology or promises for change but simply a sense of relief.

The honeymoon stage is what keeps the cycle going. People feel a sense of relief after the explosion is over, they feel loved and connected and hope that it won't happen again and so they stay and the cycle continues. If there was no Honeymoon stage it would be much more likely the people in the cycle would step out of it. Honeymoon stage creates hope for things to be better, this helps them justify staying in the cycle.

DAILY LIVING: Emotions Build Stage.

During this stage, life goes on: the angry explosion is over, the family has reconnected, and everyone is feeling a temporary sense of relief. Then daily life continues, and stress, anxiety, and other emotions slowly start to build. These emotions build and build, making it harder and harder to suppress them, which makes it more and more challenging to cope with basic daily tasks and events.

The experiences that happen during daily living can be very simple, basic things like spilling your drink, misplacing the remote control, having a bad day at work, conflict with your partner or kids, and so on but they all create emotions. Things like spilling your drink can create emotions like frustration, disappointment, and feeling overwhelmed. Lots of daily events happen that create emotions, and if suppressed, over time, these emotions build, making it increasingly harder to cope with managing the suppressed feelings. These emotions build until anger is once again needed to suppress them.

This stage is also where people in the cycle of anger “walking on eggshells.” They know the anger is going to happen, but they don’t know when it will happen or what will be the trigger. It is predictably unpredictable. This stage of waiting for the anger to happen again is highly stressful and creates a great deal of anxiety for the people in the cycle.

TRIGGER: Excuse Stage.

The trigger happens when the built-up and suppressed emotions that have happened in the Daily Living stage of the cycle can no longer be suppressed or held in.

Triggers can be anything from mechanical problems with a piece of equipment, shoes not put away at the front entrance, things not going the way you expected, not having enough money in your bank account, someone not acknowledging you, crumbs on the counter, a dog barking, and so on. Anything you can use to release your anger is the trigger. The trigger is not what causes the anger, but the excuse used to get angry.

When the anger is triggered, the explosion part of the cycle occurs, and the cycle starts all over again.

As mentioned, the trigger is predictably unpredictable. The family knows there is going to be a trigger, but they don’t know when it will happen or what the trigger will be because it can change every time. The trigger can be something that is often used as the trigger but it can also be something that has never been a trigger. This is because the trigger isn't what causes the anger, it is the excuse to get angry when the built up emotions is too high. The TV being loud may have never really been a trigger, but now the emotions are too overwhelming so the TV volume becomes the trigger because of the need to explode to try to deal with the built up emotions.

Many people focus on the trigger, trying to eliminate possible triggers to prevent the anger but this doesn't work. It is not the trigger that keeps the cycle going, it is the build of emotions. So long as a person is suppressing emotions rather than sorting through and feeling emotions there is going to be a need for triggers so there is an excuse to get angry.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify, become aware and feel emotions. Once a person feels emotions and lets them out, there is no build up of emotions and so there is no need for anger.

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