Apoplexy is a lovely old fashioned word which shows me a picture of someone who is so angry that they’re ready to pop. Politics can make you feel really angry if you’re drawn into it and I’ve got a vivid memory of my father in law as was who would rant and rage at the TV every time Maggie Thatcher came on because he was a Yorkshire miner and for him the Tories sold the miners down the river. It was a very complex situation but like many people he felt betrayed. His face would get redder and redder and he looked like he was about to have a heart attack. Of course he had very high blood pressure and heart problems so his anger certainly didn’t do much for his health.
There are lots of very angry people out there in the UK right now who feel they’ve been let down by the politicians and their fellow country men. Families are being split along that Brexit divide, brothers have stopped talking to their best mate – their other brother and for what? Does it assuage the hurt to feel angry at someone else and punish them by not talking to them?
Does it make us feel good to get on the ‘righteous bandwagon’? Is it so important to be right and punish the person whom we see as wrong? You’ve known someone and been friends for forty years then all of a sudden they make what you see as a stupid decision, and yes, it’s a pretty big one but does that change the person they are? Self righteous anger can make you feel good and for years I followed my conditioning which urged me to stand up when I felt there was an injustice occurring. My brother used to counsel me to go steady.
“Wait till tomorrow,” he would urge me. “Don’t speak to your boss right now and for goodness sake, don’t put it in writing.”
My anger at a perceived injustice would fire me up and I’d be on a mission to sort it out. Looking back though, I realise that maybe I enjoyed those crusades. I really liked proving that I was right even if it made the other person feel bad. I enjoyed the adrenalin surge of ‘battle’ and the feeling of success when I ‘won’ the argument. Sadly it took me until I was nearly sixty to realise that I didn’t have to prove to someone that I was right and they were wrong. All of the emotion I put into the ‘battle’ of being right, could be invested more profitably elsewhere.
So who gets hurt when the anger is sustained at that ‘simmering’ level where it’s bubbling just under the surface? The anger that revives every so often as thoughts come back to us again and again of the injustice can have a long term effect on the body. Every time we revisit an event that made us angry, the body remembers and fires up again so the harmful stress hormone, Cortisol, continues to float freely round the body potentially causing damage.
Recognising anger as self indulgent is a big step. A huge step for some people.
A feeling that makes you feel buoyant can’t be bad can it?
Our Sympathetic System is so called because it ‘sympathises’ with our anger or our fear which of course are much the same to the body. The Sympathetic Response System goes into every organ of the body getting us ready for that physical battle that seldom comes and when we’re angry, it’s hard to get off the adrenalin rush that comes with anger.
We need cortisol to get us out of bed in the morning but when cortisol levels are high for a long time-
- the immune system partially shuts down so people are at risk of getting sick more often
- the uptake of amino acids into the muscles is inhibited so muscles don’t have enough fuel
- calcium absorption is inhibited in the gut
- the arteries become narrower forcing the blood to pump harder and faster
- heart rate and blood pressure go up
When we address the situation and it’s resolved, the hormone levels return to normal but how many of us hang on to our feeling of righteousness, the feeling of being wronged?
Our anger may be self indulgent but it can also be a trained response. The brain reacts and follows neural pathways it’s been down before, following the biggest, easiest path that it knows well. Recognising that simmering anger isn’t good for our body is the starting point. You become aware of how you are re- acting so there is an opportunity to observe how your body and mind behaves which means that you can act differently. I’m sure you’ve met people who seem to be permanently angry about something. They’re scary because there’s no reasoning with them. They’re floating on the lovely adrenalin and travelling along that well used neural pathway, sustaining the anger which keeps them going.
When your brain is stuck on that destructive angry path and reasoning with it won’t work, try the Hawaiian prayer called Hoponopono which is actually really effective because it blocks the other thoughts and brings us back to a loving space. Even if you don’t believe the words at first, keep saying them and you can make a change in your heart energy and begin to create new neural pathways in the brain.
Say aloud or to yourself:
I’m sorry (even if you’re not) (-:
Please forgive me (even if you don’t mean it)
I love you (try to really feel this)
Thank you (you’re learning something so say thank you)
This can come in any order and the more you say it, the easier it becomes to let go of the simmering anger which pops up every time you think about the event or the person. How can repeating words you don’t believe actually do anything I hear you ask? Well, we can ‘con’ the brain into thinking we’re happy by pretending to smile a lot so why can’t we con the brain into making the change we need for our wellbeing?
Elena is a Wellness Coach with years of experience. Contact Elena for details of workshops or consultations to learn more strategies for dealing with anger.