rage response

What triggers rage? What situations lead to extreme anger or a rage response?

R. Douglas Fields probably isn’t someone you would identify as a rageful person. Dr. Fields is a developmental neurobiologist and Chief of the Nervous System Development and Plasticity Section at the National Institutes of Health. But his own experience with sudden rage after being accosted by a pickpocket in Barcelona led him on a quest to learn more about the rage response and its triggers. An interview in Scientific American explores more about what he learned: Explaining Rage: A Q&A with R. Douglas Fields

In the interview, Dr. Fields talks about his book, Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain. He says:

“There are many books taking a psychological perspective on aggressive behavior but I wanted to understand the neurocircuitry controlling these behaviors. Fundamentally, this unconscious reflex response is a threat-detection response. That’s why it’s subcortical and instantaneous.”

He identifies 9 specific triggers and says that understanding and recognizing these triggers can be tools that help us to control the rage response.

He uses the menemonic LIFEMORTS to list these triggers:

  • Life or limb (defending yourself against attackers)
  • Insult
  • Family (protecting loved ones)
  • Environment (protecting your territory)
  • Mate
  • Order in society (responding to social injustice)
  • Resources (gaining and safeguarding possessions)
  • Tribe (defending your group)
  • Stopped (escaping restraint or imprisonment)

Viewing anger from this perspective and understanding more about these triggers might be helpful personally to understand the source of our own bursts of rage. It would seem that  these triggers could be a useful tool in understanding, responding to and defusing rage that we see around us.

We have only read reviews so far, but this book is one that is definitely on our reading list. Given the relentless theme of rage that permeates the daily news, it seems it would be a good book to put on the national reading list, too. Our EAP counselors report that managing anger is a theme that surfaces frequently and that many people seek help for. Many people are troubled by their own tendency to fly of the handle or explode in rage and seek help in learning to control that anger. We offer our members counseling, training, and other supports for anger management. We’re also big fans of stress management.

If anger is an issue in your workplace or for you personally, this book might be worth adding to you reading list, too. Meanwhile, here are some additional tools:



Request a Quote