Explosive and disrespectful anger does not just "erupt
out of nowhere," even though that's what many
angry people feel and describe to others. After an angry
episode, you might have been thinking to yourself, "I
was feeling fine and then I just reacted" - or "My
day was going great, and then I just blew up." But
that isn't quite the reality.
In fact, explosive anger arises as a result of an
escalation process. An escalation is a gradual build-up
of emotion and tension over a period of time and an explosion
is the end result. Some people escalate to drinking too
much, eating too much, or getting depressed. People who
tend to react to stress by getting angry get explosive
and rageful. An escalation may last minutes, hours,
days, weeks, and even months and involves specific "cues"
or "triggers" that can include brooding about
past hurts and resentments, reacting to current situations
and people, and any and all feelings.
Anxiety, disappointment, and fear can be a part of
an escalation just as much as anger can. Often, angry
people have little, if any, awareness that the pressure
is building internally and have few, if any, skills to
identify and handle the escalation in a productive and
A key in handling anger more effectively is getting
to know yourself. The more information you have about
what is happening inside you, e.g. your thoughts, feelings,
and physical sensations, and what you tend to react to
that is happening around you, the better you will be able
to recognize and intervene in an escalation to explosive
The more effectively you can notice what's going
on and then do something about it, the less likely you
are to become punishing, demeaning, and disrespectful with
The Escalation Prevention Plan can help you identify
your cues and triggers and then come up with De-Escalation
Strategies that you can use to respond to them differently.
Remember too that an escalation is not just feeling rageful
and "out of control" and acting in an abusive
or destructive manner. It can also involve experiencing
any feelings (e.g. anxiety) and signs (e.g. increased heartbeat)
that can lead to an explosion.