There’s a T-shirt that reads, “Depression is Anger without
the Enthusiasm.” That’s very funny, and also very, very true.
At the Optimum Health Institute (OHI), we teach guests that there are just
two core emotions – positive, or love based, and negative, or fear
based. This fear is frequently expressed as anger.
Somewhere along the line, many of us, and most women, got the message that
it just wasn’t OK or “ladylike” to feel or express anger.
“Nice” people never got angry – instead they would just
swallow their emotions, compromising their desires, beliefs and goals,
to keep everyone else happy and maintain a semblance of peace.
After decades of getting this message that “anger is wrong,”
and trying to stifle this very honest and real emotion, what happens?
Yep – the T-shirt is right. Depression sets in because it really
anger without the enthusiasm.
Depression isn’t the only potential fallout from unexpressed anger.
A recent study at Columbia University Medical Center shows unexpressed
rage can also literally harm the heart. Our feelings of anger set off
our “flight-fight response,” which drives up heart and respiration
rates and tightly squeezes blood vessels as our body gets ready to react
decisively. If we try to suppress that emotion, the body never gets the
“release” of appropriately expressed anger, and our risk for
heart disease is escalated.
Explosive, undirected spurts of anger can take the same toll on the heart
as suppressing rage, so it’s important to learn to express your
anger in appropriate ways.
Confronting the situation or person that triggered your anger is key, as
is being able to have a discussion – even a rather heated one –
about the issue in question. Healthy resolution is not about fixing blame
– it’s about getting back to that core emotion, and verbalizing
what need of yours you fear is not being met. This moderate expression
of anger, research shows, can be both constructive
Dr. Candace Pert, the pharmacologist and researcher who’s rewritten
the medical books by proving every cell of our body has a separate consciousness,
has seen other positive results from occasionally letting that anger inside
of us explode.
She’s seen cancer patients who do not meekly accept their diagnosis,
but rage against the disease attacking their body. The same way a fever
kills invading germs, she’s seen this expression of fury result
in an almost immediate remission, as if the anger somehow burned out the
We need to understand it’s not the emotion of anger itself that’s
wrong, but any inappropriate behavior that anger and fear might trigger.
When you feel your anger level start to creep upwards, instead of just
swallowing it, try these steps:
- B-R-E-A-T-H-E! Consciously taking a few deep breaths helps you stop and
take a quick inventory of the situation.
- Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”
- Know that your FEELINGS are neither right nor wrong. It’s the BEHAVIOR
you choose to do as a result of your feelings that can be unproductive.
- At the core of all anger is a need you have that is not being fulfilled.
Identify that need, and you can constructively express exactly what you
want – whether it’s being listened to, getting rewarded for
your contribution, being respected or just having your own space.
In our Emotional Detox class at OHI, we share the idea that “Holding
anger and resentment towards another person is like me taking poison and
hoping that someone else dies.” It’s a funny thought with
a lot of truth – and it’s also a great reminder to first own
your anger, and then release it in an appropriate and constructive way.
To learn more about OHI, visit our website at www.OptimumHealth.org.
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