It certainly is! And do you know how?
Recently, more research has been reported on the link between anger and illness. Anger management coach John Schinnerer, a consultant to the Pixar movie “Inside Out,” reports this: “It’s [anger’s] been linked to obesity, low self-esteem, migraines, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, sexual performance problems, increased heart attack risk, lower-quality relationships, higher probability of abusing others emotionally or physically or both, higher blood pressure, and stroke.” My own research adds auto-immune issues, acne, gall bladder and digestive disorders, and cancer. Another researcher, Thaik, says chronic anger leads to increased anxiety, insomnia, mental or brain fog, and fatigue, and can reduce the immune system\’s ability to fend off threats, leading to an increased risk of infection.
Research done with people over 80 confirms that chronically-held-onto anger becomes an irritant, which leads to inflammation. Inflammation is the basis of the development of illness in our bodies. A recent report by the American Psychological Association found anger may be more harmful to an older person\’s physical health than sadness, potentially increasing inflammation, which is associated with chronic illnesses like heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
As researcher Thaik reveals, these physical irritants are connected to chronic anger. Chronic anger is anger that is being held onto, not allowed to move through us.
According to Unity Minister Catherine Ponder, under every human ill is a lack of forgiveness. Holding anger inside of us (non-forgiveness) forms the basis for illness. How does this work?
All emotion is energy. Anger is our most active emotion. This means that it has the potential to do the most harm whenever we hamper its movement, keeping it from passing through and out of us.
We know that energy needs to move. We also know that if we block the movement of energy, it continues to attempt to move. One of the most dynamic examples of this is water that has been held behind a dam. It takes only one tiny flaw in the dam for the water to begin working its way to freedom, potentially resulting in a cataclysmic and ravaging flood. Anger, stored inside of us through harboring, suppression, and repression, also keeps seeking that flaw (a weak spot) in us that will allow it to keep moving.
While it’s inside of us, it’s still active. In its search for release, it looks for our weakest points, the sluggish gall bladder, the too-acid gut, or some part of our body that is chronically tense. Anger doesn’t actually cause the illness, but in its desperate search to move, it can inflame and irritate our organs and bodies, inviting infection and uncontrolled cell multiplication (as in cancer), leading to illness.
The saying is “Anger poisons the vessel it fills.”
When we hold onto anger, hide it, harbor, or suppress it, we are the vessel anger fills.
We literally poison ourselves, either without being aware we’re doing that or expecting it to kill someone else. Instead, it can kill us! Often, we don’t want to forgive because we believe we’ll be letting the other person “off the hook.” As you can see, the person who is really on the hook is the person holding onto the anger, YOU and ME. Holding onto anger because we don’t want to let someone off the hook who has betrayed or hurt us actually poisons our self. My work with emotions is motivated by my desire to share how we can avoid these disastrous consequences resulting from holding onto emotions like anger!
Before reading this, did you know that just turning anger loose, harmlessly (“to forgive” means “to let go”) can relieve you of potential illnesses? Did you realize that your failure to work to allow anger (and other emotions) to move (through and out of you) could make you ill? It takes some work, but all we have to do is stop creating resistance to emotions like anger, so it doesn’t build up in us or become “chronic.”
Most people don’t realize this. You may. Yet, it’s time for all of us to know it.
How do we move anger through us?
Two things to make it simpler and easier:
- When we face facts, we free ourselves
- A simple exercise helps us face facts regarding anger
To “Face Fact” means to look at things squarely and honestly, seeing them for what they really are, rather than as someone has told us, or how we hope things are. Facing fact means being totally honest with yourself. “That person seems nice, but I don’t like him.” “I really hate this job.” “I’m ashamed of myself when I do that.” Tell yourself the truth.
The first fact to face is allowing ourselves to know we’re feeling angry and letting that just “be” rather than judging ourselves. “I’m feeling angry” is the fact we need to face.
This simple exercise can help you face fact. It works even if you’re not aware of feeling angry. It’s good to do to protect yourself from anger buildup. I call it the “I’m Angry” exercise.
Start by closing your eyes and taking a few minutes to notice what you’re feeling, Then, repeat aloud, in a cadence, the words “I’m angry, I’m angry, I’m angry, I’m angry.” If a thought comes to your mind, say that out loud also, then return to repeating “I’m angry” in your cadence. Do this several minutes until you feel “finished.” Keeping your eyes closed, notice once again how you’re feeling.
If you’re feeling calmer or lighter, then you’ve been carrying some anger, and this process of facing facts has released it!
This exercise works with all emotions. “I’m afraid, I’m afraid” “I’m jealous” “I’m hurt” To keep emotions moving, Face fact whenever you notice emotion arising in you.
There are many more exercises for helping you with emotions in my book, Emotions in Motion: Mastering Life’s Built-in Navigation System. For an order, visit my website.
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Ilene Dillon, MSW, has dedicated her life to helping people resolve personal challenges once and for all, then design life to be what they want it to be. A Transformation Specialist, she has worked 50 years as a psychotherapist and 15 years as a coach. She is a global speaker, Amazon International Best-selling author (The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, Volumes 1 and 2), podcast guest, and plans to give her first TEDx speech (on Anger) later this year. Ilene is also the author of Emotions in Motion: Mastering Life’s Built-in Navigation System and End Manipulation: Stop Being Jerked Around by Toxic, Energy-draining People. With her little dog, Pi, Ilene lives and travels full-time throughout North America in her RV, writing, teaching, and speaking along the way.