We are busy nowadays trying to safeguard ourselves from coronavirus. But negative emotions can be equally deadly and cause disease. Emotions like anger are essentially mental pathogens. They are probably as dangerous to the body if not more, as all the deadly viruses and bacteria known to us.
By Pragati Oswal
Anger is a powerful emotion that is characterized by strong uncomfortable hostile response to provocation, hurt or threatening situations, circumstance or state of being. It is a natural emotion that primarily evolves as a way of surviving and protecting yourself from what is considered a wrong-doing or against one’s will. Even babies display anger! Fortunately, the babies generally live in the present. In other words, the emotion doesn’t cling to them and they shift their emotion quickly. What happens with majority of people (even children) as they grow more perceptive is that while the situation, provocation, circumstance subsides or alleviates, the anger stays! The wound continues to fester under the scar.
Let’s try to decode how anger creates disease. How anger can be tracked down as the root cause for many diseases!
Bhagvad Gita, one of the treatises on Yoga states “attachment” as the main source of anger.
Dhyayato visayan pumsah sangas tesupajayate
sangat sanjayate kamah kamat krodho ‘bhijayate (Ch-II, 62)
While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, from such attachment lust develops and from lust anger arises.
An attachment can be understood as:
1) Obsession with one’s own judgement of right and wrong
2) Liking or dependence upon an object of affection
3) The need to control a situation
4) The need to possess the object of affection
Many rages and hurts in our subjective worldly transactions and relationships arise from such triggers and their extensions. Whether the anger is:
1) Justifiable: a sense of moral outrage at the injustices of the world like gender issues, oppression of human rights, violence in the community, or abusive relationships; It is an attachment to and personalization of a particular subject.
Such anger may have benefits in the short term like driving one towards changing the world for better, but when it is taken upon oneself personally it robs one’s peace of mind and causes suffering within.
2) Out of Irritation: the most common type of anger people can experience in their lives on a daily basis. This type of anger stems from subjective frustrations of daily life like dissatisfaction with job or income, differences of opinion in personal relationships etc. Again, the reasons for irritations are subjective likes and dislikes or attachments and repulsions, expectations and outcomes.
In this case one feels personally attacked by another’s words and actions and internalizes the emotion. This can convert into chronic anger as the irritations keep multiplying exponentially due to constant repetition of similar exchange over a period of time.
3) Tantrums: Dramatic outbursts of anger when one’s selfish and often unreasonable wants and needs are not fulfilled. Tantrums are often associated with childish behaviour or immaturity since they directed toward those whose words and actions do not deserve exaggerated emotional fury. Getting one’s own way is another manifestation of attachment to the object of desire.
While this is usual and common with younger children as they are learning about the world and their own ways, some individuals never outgrow their tantrums and continue to unleash them in adult life when they don’t get their way.
4) Aggression: Aggression is often used in situations where one individual tries to exercise direct control over another, or on a situation, by the way of dominance, intimidation, or manipulation. Sometimes parents use this with children to control behaviour or bosses use it with their employees to set rules and reach targets. Exercising control is nothing but an attachment to having the position of power in a situation.
Chronic aggressive anger inevitably results in destructive outcomes, including painful conflicts, ruined relationships, and damaged reputations since it is mostly expressed repeatedly in relationships by the ways of bullying, oppression, psychological violence and abuse.
Coming to how the body registers anger, most of us would have experienced one or more of the following symptoms while we are angry:
1) Faster Breathing /haphazard breathing and/or flaring nostils
2) Heat sensation all over the body or specific areas like ears, face etc.
3) Shivering or trembling all over the body or specific body parts.
4) Redness or bulging of the eye
5) Clenching of teeth or fists
6) Increased blood pressure
7) Increased heart rate
8) Urge to scream or yell
The point to be noted is that these are the physiological manifestations of distress in the body. So, if one is dealing with a deep-seated resentment, its recollection facilitates the same response. In other words, whether or not the situation demands one to be angry, the memory itself is enough to put the body in a state of distress. The longer one thinks of the trigger, the longer the body stays removed from its state of harmony, balance or homeostasis. Consequently, the body’s normal state of being starts to shift.
Bhagavad Gita further states:
Smrutibramshaatbuddhinaashaha, buddhinaashaatpranashyati (Ch-II, 63)
Anger leads to delusion which confuses memory. When memory is confounded, it attacks intelligence, when intelligence is lost, the man falls down.
Auto-immune disorders could be translated as the natural intelligence of the body gone wrong or the memory cells of the immune system getting confused making the body attack itself. In this sense, the emotion of sustained anger re-programmes the body to attack itself constantly.
We also attack ourselves through constant anger against ourselves in forms of self-criticism, self-hatred, cursing one-self. The body only concurs with the mind by the way of self-destruction. Louise L. Hay traces the roots of Arthritis and many other inflammatory disorders “itis” to the feeling of being “inflamed with anger”.
In her book, You can heal your life, Louise L. Hay suggests that the leading cause for cancer is deep-seated resentment.
Yoga Vasistha states that a disturbed mind much like in an angry state of mind, makes the breath go haywire. Haphazard breathing (a common sign of anger) leads to Ajirnatvam (indigestion), Atijirnatvam(over-digestion) or Kujirnatvam (wrong digestion). All these hamper the body’s capacity to assimilate nutrition from the food and remove untowardly substances. Since the food creates the physical body, badly digested food creates an unhealthy physical body or body systems. Popular idiom describes anger as “Bile rising in the throat”. Well the bile does rise when one is angry, leading to digestive distress and potential damage to the lining of stomach and oesophagus over a period of time.
Some quotes by Buddha sums up the gist
- “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing at someone else; you are the one that gets burned.”
- Holding onto anger is like drinking the poison and expecting the other person to die”.
- “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger”
With a bit of observation one can easily trace these correlations. If you can relate to some of this then “Why this Kolaveri di?”
Many argue that many extreme situations like war, violence, indiscipline etc demand one to be angry else there’ll be no action or change. Well, one could try to dramatize rather than personalize anger, that is, enact anger, seem enraged without really getting angry. It is a tough solution but worth a try.
If you cannot avoid getting angry (like myself) at least cease to hold on to it.
Pragati Oswal is a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Practitioner and Researcher with expertise in pain relief, healing and wellness without the use of medicines. She can be reached through her website www.pragatioswal.com or her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PragatiOswal/