Chronic Anger

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Chronic Anger

Laurence T. Gayao MD

Chronic Anger Prisoner 1024x822 Chronic Anger
Prisoner of Chronic Anger

I was checking my tweets to today and I was attracted to this quotation “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I searched to see who was responsible for this quotation and could not find any but found several variations. One variation is “By doing this (holding onto anger) you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.”Visuddhimagga IX, 23. Is there anything good on holding onto anger or chronic anger?

I have come across a lady who was a victim of rape that occurred several decades back and she has not seen the perpetrator for long time, but all these years she harbored anger at this individual to the point that she was miserable and could not trust people. Anything that reminded her of the individual or incident triggered severe emotional response.

At one point of my career I had to cover at times for a psychiatrist in a drug and alcohol rehab center. I noticed many of the patients harbored long standing anger or animosity for people in their remote past due to being sexually, physically or mentally abused by parents or other people in their past. I also happened work as physician for a short period of time at a Texas state penitentiary and noticed many prisoners had a lot of grudge and anger directed to people in their past too.

To be abused by one’s parents, someone you love, respect or even by a stranger must be traumatic and to many of us who have never been victims it would have hard comprehending the difficulty in coping up after incident and pain one bears as a result of the such trauma. That being said, one becomes a long-term victim if he or she holds on to that anger, as the quotation says, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Anger is normal emotional reaction that we experience from time to time. We know in acute situations when there is a perceive a threat it evokes the fight or flight response. The blood adrenaline goes up, the heart rate goes up, there is a  increased tone of your muscles, the pupils get bigger making you ready physically and mentally to face the threat and in many instances that extra burst of energy could be life-saving.

In acute situations 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.

On the other-hand chronic or prolong anger is harmful mentally and physically to the individual. It weakens your immune system and leads to a variety of health and mental disorders such as:

  •        Headaches, tension or migraine headaches
  •       Problems with digestion like peptic ulcers or irritable bowel
  •       Insomnia and sleep disorders
  •       Increased anxiety and poor concentration
  •       Depression and may even lead to suicide, must seek medical help right away. 
  •       High blood pressure
  •       Skin problems, such as eczema
  •       Heart attack
  •       Stroke
  •       Eating disorders, overeating or poor appetite.
  •       Alcoholism and drug abuse (both legal and illegal drugs).
  •       Marriage problems and difficulty in relationships
  •      It may create a feeling inferiority complex, that you are not good enough until you   make your revenge.
  •       Chronic fatigue syndrome

You see, chronic anger creates attitude of bitterness, hopelessness and sense of futility resulting in a life of unhappiness. The truth is, it is hard to be happy or have a good time if are holding on to anger.
Fortunately, our minds functions in a way that in a given moment we could process only one thought at a time. You could either have a good time or be angry but not both.

This is the basis of positive thinking. Not everybody may accept the Bible to be divinely inspired but there is a lot to truth to this verse in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In the Buddhist teaching they emphasize meditating on positive things. A good example is being thankful that you are not the rapist and sympathize that the perpetrator who is miserable individual that needs help. So, you refuse being a perpetual victim that gives another individual control over your life and happiness. In other words, there is nothing wrong with you and you feel sorry him or her for being wrong or being that kind of an individual. When you forgive, you quit punishing yourself by not harboring the burden of chronic anger which is self-destructive.   

A few years ago my eldest daughter gave me a copy of the book the Art of Happiness co-written by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, MD. I read the whole book in just one setting. The book in a way enlightens it readers of the basic tenets of Buddhism which emphasizes the need for a positive attitude. When I was in undergraduate school I had the privileged to have read motivational books like, “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Noman Vincent Peel, “See You At the Top,” by Zig Ziglar and “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” by Dale Carnegie. Let me tell you, personally these books have help direct my life to where I am today and over decades gave me ability to help others along the way. The price of all these books combine is cheaper than an initial visit to a psychiatrist but the lesions they blessed me with could not be measured in terms money.

Still harboring chronic anger? Give it up, free yourself of that unnecessary luggage you have been carrying all this years. Quit being a victim.

Your Fitness Doc

“Our worst fault is our preoccupation with the faults of others.” Kahlil Gibran

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