Anger and General Health

From what you have learnt so far, write in your journal as many reasons as you can why you think you should forgive. As you write, consider your feelings, thoughts and behaviours and the importance you place on relationships and why. What makes it good to forgive? Stop reading and write in your journal.

At times we may hold onto anger because we think we are showing self-respect but the opposite is the case; you are not respecting yourself by making your body, emotions, thoughts and actions be the home of toxic emotions.

Remember someone with anger may not always express it by screaming, fighting or shouting. Other unhealthy ways of expressing anger could be criticism, sarcasm, stony silence, withdrawal or passive disobedience. These ways are sometimes even unhealthier than the natural expressions of anger.

Do you have a memory, someone or a circumstance that makes you blow over? Then you need to explore forgiveness.

The forgiveness process helps you to deal with anger directed towards persons, anger that is caused by a real, not imagined, injustice, anger that has become a pattern that is not easily broken, anger that causes you to engage in self-destructive behaviour (withdrawing to yourself, unable to trust or hurting yourself through drugs etc.) or anger that affects your health and wellbeing.

Anger is related to your physical health and relationships:

Anger and blood pressure

Anger increases the risk of blood pressure especially if the anger is turned inward, stored and the cause of it constantly remembered without ever expressing it to the person or people who caused it.

Anger and heart disease

Intense and long living anger exposes you to heart diseases more than even poor eating habits and lack of exercise. Cynical mistrust, intense anger and aggressive behavior are a real risk for heart disease and chest pains.

Venting anger (Catharsis)

Venting of anger may give temporary feelings of relief but may leave one feeling even more angrier if the real underlying issues are not taken care of. It can hurt others by constantly expressing anger in an unhealthy manner. It’s important to say when we are hurt but say it in a healthy way.

Anger and family dysfunction

Anger by one family member may lead to illness to the member or members who are targeted by the angry person. Lots of divorces are the after effects of anger. Distancing yourself from a circumstance without forgiving is simply transferring the anger to a different person.

Temporary Solutions

Catharsis: this simply begets more anger. It works temporarily for men when they vent to a peer as opposed to a senior while for women, it doesn’t work. Cultivating friendlier attitudes is more effective for women.

Relaxation: this can help temporary anger especially to those given to high temper for no good reason. However, it cannot heal resentment.

Thought control: a source of an injustice must be addressed not just thought away.

Distraction: writing a book or being busy can be helpful if only the anger is temporary.

Changing thoughts, feelings and behaviour:  Anger logging: Source, intensity, times, length and expression. Rethinking and reframing thoughts by purposefully assuming goodwill as opposed to assuming malice in a person carrying out a perceived injustice

From the irrational to the rational: This is correcting unrealistic expectations such as expecting people to treat you fairly. People might or might not treat you fairly. Being open to such truths of life leaves you more understanding

Character formation: manage anger by being more caring about others and having reasonable trust in others

NB: As you have noticed therefore, there are many styles that you could be using or that people might have encouraged you to use in order to get over your hurt. The shortcoming of all of them is this; they all deal with symptoms and not the source of the problem. Until you understand and deal with the source of anger, the injustice suffered, you are simply taking medication for a headache instead of realizing the headache is being caused by a brain tumor. Until you treat the brain tumor, anything else temporarily postpones the headache but a time will come when even the painkillers will not be of help until you deal with the tumor itself.

(Summarized and Developed from: Robert Enright’s Forgiveness is a Choice Manual)

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