The Healthy Control of Anger
Anger is an emotion that is as natural as all the other emotions, but can have negative consequences, like all the other emotions, if not handled correctly. Nothing focuses our attention more on an object or another person than our anger does when we perceive some problem associated with that object or person. If we quickly resolve the problem then our anger served a useful purpose. But if we never resolve the problem then our anger lingers and can become a chronic drag on our health and well being. This can be devastating among a population which feels that it has little or no power to resolve problems but can only live with them. Their chronic seething anger can literally destroy them from the inside.
Researchers induced anger in 30 men “Anger Induction” (AI), which consists of 50 phrases in first person that reflect daily situations that provoke anger.
Before and immediately after the inducement of anger, the researchers measured heart rate and arterial tension, levels of testosterone and cortisol, and the asymmetric activation of the brain.
According to Eurekalert:
“The results … reveal that anger provokes profound changes in the state of mind of the subjects (‘they felt angered and had a more negative state of mind’) and in different psychobiological parameters.”
Eurekalert May 31, 2010
Hormones and Behavior March 2010, 57(3):276-83
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
The feeling of anger, like all emotions, is not isolated in your mind. The mental reaction triggers a cascade of physical reactions that extend throughout your body, including:
Increases in heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone
Decreases in cortisol (the stress hormone)
Stimulation of your left brain hemisphere, which is involved in experiencing emotions related to closeness
Interestingly, the last finding, uncovered by researchers from the University of Valencia, suggests that although anger is perceived as a negative emotion, it actually prompts you to become closer to the object of your anger, likely as a means to stop the conflict. And when it comes to anger, resolving the upset is a very wise decision.
Why Unresolved Anger Can be Deadly
Anger is a normal emotion, one that all of us experience from time to time. It’s a feeling that evokes that well-known “fight-or-flight” response, preparing us to defend ourselves physically and psychologically in a conflict. Back when anger corresponded to real threats, this response could be lifesaving, but today it pushes your body into an overdrive mode that is almost always unnecessary.
As soon as you start to get “hot under the collar,” your body starts preparing for a “fight.” Your muscles get tense, your digestive processes stop and certain brain centers are triggered, which alters your brain chemistry.
The feeling of anger may actually help you make better choices — even if you are normally not great at making rational decisions — because anger can make you focus on that which is important, and ignore things that are irrelevant to the task of making a decision.
In the long run, and sometimes even the short term, however, this automatic response to anger can weaken your immune system and lead to a variety of health problems such as:
Problems with digestion
High blood pressure
Skin problems, such as eczema
Not only that, but anger can lead to other negative emotions like bitterness, hopelessness, futility and overall sadness. Let’s face it — it’s hard to have a good time if you’re holding on to anger.
Feelings of Anger Damage Your Heart
It does not feel good to be angry, and this is a clue that this emotion is also likely damaging your body on a physical level.
This is especially true of your heart, and one study from Washington State University found that people over the age of 50 who express their anger by lashing out are more likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries — an indication that you’re at a high risk for a heart attack — than their mellower peers.
Letting your anger out explosively may be harmful because it triggers surges in stress hormones and injures blood vessel linings.
However, simply holding in your anger isn’t the answer either; this has been linked to increases in blood pressure and heart rate. A new study even found that suppressing your anger may triple your risk of having a heart attack.
Since it’s a given that you’re going to experience anger from time to time, it’s very important for your health to have a healthy form of release. You don’t want to lash out violently but you don’t want to hold it in either … turns out the best solution is actually somewhere in the middle.
Your Emotional Health is Intricately Linked to Your Physical Health
Negative emotions will invariably impact your physical well-being, and anger is no different. Emotional factors are actually one of the most important contributing factors for all diseases, including cancer.
That is why an effective strategy to manage your emotional stress has long been a part of my top health tools, and this is because there is overwhelming evidence that your mind does matter when it comes to preventing, or triggering, disease.
The idea that your emotions impact your health and the development of disease is not new. Even the conservative Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that 85 percent of all diseases appear to have an emotional element, but the actual percentage is likely to be even higher.
Your emotions can actually trigger your genes to either express health or disease … and if you’re chronically angry or prone to uncontrolled outbursts you could be inadvertently sabotaging your health.
This is why I highly recommend you work on overcoming your emotional barriers, whether they’re based on life’s anxiety-factors or more deep-seated emotional traumas that may have left you “angry at the world.”
There are a host of techniques to instill positive emotions and thoughts and create a sense of inner-peace, and the best rule is to find the one that works for you, whether it is considered conventional or “alternative,” and keep on using it. Prayer and meditation are helpful for many.
In my clinical practice, I have tried a variety of methods, and have been exposed to many more (both conventional and alternative) through my medical background, but none have come close to the success rate I have experienced with the Meridian Tapping Technique/Emotional Freedom Technique (MTT/EFT).
With EFT, while mentally focusing on the psychological/emotional issues in a positive manner through the use of affirmations, pressure is applied to the same energy points used for thousands of years in acupuncture (these energy points are finally even being recognized as legitimate by the pharmacy- and surgery-addicted American medical establishment.)
These energy points are only tapped, though, not punctured as in acupuncture, as it has been shown that pressure on these points is all that is necessary to activate your body’s bioenergy. This combination of positive mental focus on the issue(s) and physical stimulus to your body’s biochemistry is amazingly effective at eliminating the issue — be it anger, stress, anxiety, etc. — quickly.
Life’s Too Short to Live With Anger
Optimal health involves addressing and resolving your anger and other emotional traumas as quickly as possible — without letting old emotional wounds contribute to more negativity, and therefore disease, in your mind and body.
So in addition to using MTT/EFT as your primary anger-resolution tool, you may also want to try:
Relaxation techniques (slow deep breathing, meditation, prayer, positive imagery)
Empathizing with the person (or situation) you’re angry with
Exercising (vigorous activity is an excellent way to release angry energy that has built up, and gentler exercise, like yoga, can help you calm down afterward)
Asking yourself, “Will this situation matter in 10 minutes? Tomorrow? Next month? Next year?” Most often, situations you’re angry over mean very little in the greater scheme of your life. Keep this question in mind to help you remember that the situation you’re so angry about now will likely be irrelevant in a short time — and is probably not worth getting worked up over.
When combined, these techniques are extremely effective at both releasing negative energy and putting your mind at ease.
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