Identify Root Causes


If you’ve made progress in preventing rage by identifying your warning signs and using the time-out technique, good for you! That ability is critical. However, some of the situations we react to have a lot of power. That makes it tough for us to see warning signs and call a time-out. Pressing pause on your growth and change after Step 2 is unlikely to stop you from getting enraged in every situation and puts your overall progress at risk. Plus, frequent anger, even without rage, hurts our relationships. Perhaps the worst part is that you’d miss the chance to feel at peace inside.

Taking it to the next level

Eliminating rage is only part of the objective. Our goal should be to reduce the size of our reaction and the number of things we react to. Think of reactions like weeds in a lawn. What makes the lawn look weedy is either the size of the weeds OR the number of weeds. Of course, many big weeds are really ugly. To reduce both the size and number of our reactions, we have to go deeper, to the root causes.

​Roots (and root causes) aren’t easy to see. Here’s a process that will help you identify them. It starts on the outside and works inward.

  1. Keep a journal about the times you become angry. Identify those things that regularly trigger your reactions. If you’re frequently reacting to certain similar situations, chances are you are perceiving those situations as threats.
  2. Name the emotions that you feel in those situations. Having trouble finding a word to describe your feelings? That’s pretty common, especially for guys. Look through a prepared list of emotions until you find one (or several) you are experiencing.
  3. Study the patterns and frequency of your triggers and emotions. This will help you discover your “buttons” — the sensitive spots which regularly set reactions into motion.

​A button is a term used to describe a sensitive spot that, when triggered, sets off an emotional reaction.

Getting to the root

Buttons are really just emotionally sensitive spots left from unhealed prior wounds. If we can determine what those hurts are and how they got there, then we have an opportunity to heal them. These hurts are often buried deep inside of our subconscious and show themselves in all kinds of different situations. This is why we call them “core hurts”. Use your overreactions as opportunities to discover your buttons and better understand your core hurts. ​Remember that reading about the concept of buttons and core hurts in a general sense is not the same as discovering your own. They will take time and effort to dig out because they are buried. With time, effort, and perhaps some coaching, however, these roots will become more visible. Life after healing core hurts is more peaceful, more content, and allows for healthy relationships.

Healing core hurts disconnects buttons

Think of a button being connected to the brain with a huge, braided wire cable. Now imagine the only tool we have available to cut that cable is a small wire cutter. To reduce or disconnect a button, we can only cut one strand of wire at a time. Each time we process an incident well, it cuts one of the wire strands for next time. Strand by strand, we deactivate the connection between the button and our brain. In other words, this task takes a while. Don’t expect instant results. Do expect to notice progress, however!

What does “processing an incident well” mean? As we’ve covered here, start by identifying:

  1. Who or what pushed your button
  2. The emotion you felt
  3. The core hurt associated with your pushed button

Once you have a good handle on your core hurts, move on toward healing them. Healing will involve:

  1. Identifying the distorted thinking that potentially caused the emotion
  2. A challenge to the distorted thinking
  3. How we could have handled the situation differently and better

​We’ll cover these last three in Step 4: Challenge Thoughts. When you’re ready, advance there by clicking on the button below.

Read more about Step 3 – Identify Root Causes here.