Anger is a natural emotion that usually stems from perceived threat or loss. It’s a pervasive emotion and it affects our body, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Anger is often described in terms of its intensity, frequency, duration, threshold, and expression.
Anger typically follows a predictable pattern: a cycle. Understanding the cycle of anger can help us understand our own anger reactions, and those of others. It can also help us in considering the most appropriate response. When you work in a customer service field and one so emotionally charged as the pet industry, having an understanding of anger and its cycle and help you manage client interactions and dialogue.
Illustrated below are the five phases of the anger cycle: trigger, escalation, crisis, recovery, and depression.
The trigger phase happens when we perceive a threat or loss, and our body prepares to respond. In this phase there is a subtle change from an individual’s normal/ adaptive state into their stressed state. Anger triggers are different from person to person. The triggers can come from both the environment and from internal thought processes.
In the escalation phase there is the progressive appearance of the anger response. In this phase our body prepares for a crisis after perceiving the trigger. This preparation is mostly physical and is manifested through symptoms like rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and raised blood pressure. Once the escalation phase is reached there is less chance of calming down as this is the phase where the body prepares for fight or flight.
As mentioned above the escalation phase is progressive and it is in the crisis phase that the anger reaction reaches its peak. In the crisis phase our body is on full alert and fully prepared to take action in response to the trigger. During this phase logic and rationality are limited, if not impaired because the anger instinct takes over. In extreme cases the crisis phase means that a person may be a serious danger to themselves or other people.
The recovery phase happens when the anger has been spent or at least controlled and there is now a steady return to a person’s normal/ adaptive state. In this stage individual reasoning and awareness return. If the right intervention is applied the return to normalcy progresses smoothly. If an inappropriate intervention takes place then this can re-ignite the anger and serve as a new trigger.
The depression phase marks a return to a person’s normal/ adaptive ways. Physically this stage marks below normal vital signs, such as heart rate so that the body can recover equilibrium. A person’s full use of their faculties return at this point and the new awareness helps the person assess what just occurred. Consequently this is the stage marked by embarrassment, guilt, regret, and or depression. After the depression phase a new trigger can start the entire cycle all over again.
How long each phase lasts varies from person to person. Some people also skip certain phases or they go through them privately. Do you recognize any of these phases in your own anger? Do you have good coping mechanisms and anger management strategies?
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