Here’s How Your Anger Works And What To Do To Control It

This week my wife walked into Shoppers Drug Mart and was waiting in line to fill a prescription.

The guy in line in front of her – a seemingly respectable middle aged male – started to flip out on the twenty something cashier, trying to pressure her into selling him something she wasn’t able to sell.  As she politely declined, he got mad.  Really mad.  He started F-bombing and threatening, at which point my wife (don’t mess with her btw) said, “Sir, YOU CAN’T TALK TO HER LIKE THAT!”

Now the guy completely lost his mind and moved threateningly towards my wife, heaping abuse on her too.  Another woman stepped up to defend Jenn, words were exchanged, a male employee arrived, and the guy bolted.  Now that he was outgunned, he lost appetite for the fight (would Will Smith have been as brave if the Oscars MC had been Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson?)

Extreme behavior.  We’ve all witnessed this.  Some of us have acted like this to varying degrees.  I’m ashamed to say that I have.  Not as bad as that, but I’ve completely lost my cool in ways that shamed and embarrassed me too.

So let’s look at and understand how the anger cycle works.

This diagram explains what’s happening when you lose your mind, and shows how to fix it


anger slide



Step 1: You Talk Yourself Into Getting REALLY Mad

This may only take a few seconds.  You’re brooding over what’s going on, and you’re explaining to yourself why it’s ridiculous, and why you deserve to be really mad right now.  You’re now very quickly assembling kindling and pouring gas all over it, just waiting; nay, daring someone to dare you to throw a match to it.

Step 2:  You Get Triggered

Some behavior triggers your anger.  We all have different triggers.  For me, it’s someone trying to get in my way, or keep me from getting my way.  Especially if I’m their customer, and I feel like they should be doing what I want.  Similar (but not to the degree) to the Shoppers Drug Mart villain.  What are your triggers?

Step 3: Your Judgment Simultaneously Goes Into the Toilet

How true is this?  While your anger is moving to its peak, your judgment is completely bottoming out at the identical rate and speed that your temper is increasing.  I’m sure one of Newton’s Laws is in play here.  I’ll have to ask my teenager which one.

That’s the anger cycle.

Pretty simple, and pretty self explanatory.  So what do you do about it?  Here’s a very simple outline of how to get control of your anger.

Identify your triggers

What are yours?  If you know the sorts of situations that set you off, you can decide in advance how you’re going to act when they inevitably present themselves.

  • When a cashier is sassy to me, I’m just not saying anything back
  • When I feel triggered by my teenager, I’m walking out of the room
  • When someone cuts me off, I’m hitting the brake, changing lanes and not looking at them

Decide in advance how you’re going to handle it.  Once you’ve played it out in your mind, it’s much easier to make that work in real time before you lose it and do something stupid.


There is a gap of time in between stimulus (the trigger that sets of you off) and your response.  It may only be a second.  But it’s there.

And your response is yours to choose.  No one ‘makes you mad.’  You allow yourself to get out of control.  When you lose it, you’ve abdicated your response-ability.

Your response is within your power!  You’re not a victim!  Don’t make excuses for your dumb, hurtful, juvenile, behavior.  (Talking to myself here).

In so many instances in life, when you discover your response-ability, things change for the better.

Getting ahead is about getting started.


Trevor head shot in office 1

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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    5 thoughts on “Here’s How Your Anger Works And What To Do To Control It”

    1. This really hits home this week when thinking about how I deal with situations with my young children. Something to work on for sure

    2. Wow, great thoughts Trevor. I wish this tip could go to every driver in B.C.. or even be part of driver training. It’s amazing how people allow themselves to lose control in seconds over seemingly trivial things.

    3. This is good stuff! I have discovered that several small things can happen to me quickly in a row. Together they use up my emotional energy. The next event becomes muh more difficult to respond to appropriately. I think I startto talking myself into the next event being a justifiable failure. As the 3rd event starts to take place I start excusing myself in advance with thoughts like, “What is going on here!?!” Instead I need to change my thoughts to, “Some days are like this. This too shall pass.”
      Just a thought

    4. Great Subject Trevor! Aligns well with Viktor E Frankl philosophy.

      One of my favorite quotes is – “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

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