Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
‘Holding on to your anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burnt’ – Lord Buddha
Anger is one of the most common human emotions. Anger is like a fire and it can vary in proportions for a given person and in given situations. It needs fuel to get triggered and increased to different levels of manifestation and existence. The fuels are available in and around us in the form of – stressful people and situations, thrive to survive, competition and lot more.
For some people a small amount of these triggers is enough for the anger to take a big shape and for some there must be a lot of factors, constant stimulation by triggers and provocation for anger to set in. Some people exhibit hard and some bury anger deep within.
‘We boil at different degrees’ – Clint Eastwood
Anger has been one of the witnesses of human evolution and development. Scientifically it is said that the people who have anger are optimistic. They do not fail because they do not take hasty decisions. This is true in case of all of us because we have varying proportions of anger within us.
Then what is good? Exhibiting anger or concealing anger!
‘Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy’ – Aristotle
According to Ayurveda anger is called Krodha. Ayurveda includes Krodha vis-à-vis anger in the category of Dharaneeya Vega’s i.e. the mind reflexes or emotions which should be arrested within us and not exhibited. This means to tell that anger should be checked from sprouting to the surface as and when it shows its signs within us.
From the perspective of social behaviour, controlling anger and trying to win over it is good. This avoids us to be branded as ‘hot and furious’. It is also good for health. But since anger is a form of heat and energy, it is inhuman to be totally devoid of it. Controlled anger and aggression is good for healthy competition and for multi-dimensional progression.
On the other way, the studies and researches in modern medical science tells that anger is bad, if it is controlled within us. We need to throw it out in some reasonable way, may not be in a way hurting to others and self. Anger diverted inwards without being expelled is dangerous as it disturbs many functions of the body from being rendered and accomplished smoothly.
It is just like pushing the raging fire inwards. This fire of anger diverted inwards causes damage to the tissues and organs by producing inflammatory changes. This may lead to many inflammatory diseases. One such inflammatory reaction occurring in the bony joints and soft tissues of musculo skeletal system causes Arthritis and Musculo skeletal Diseases (MSD) of inflammatory origin.
‘Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured’ – Mark Twain
In a way both concepts can be justified. Ayurveda’s concept of concealing anger doesn’t mean that we should get harmed by the heat produced by anger-induced-pitta. It means to tell that we should sincerely try to control and win over anger which is a negative emotion in many instances.
It might momentarily drive us to do something fanatic or energetic but on the other way it also compels us to commit blunders, mistakes and crimes which might not be rectified over a long run. By learning to control Krodha (anger) we would have avoided the pitta flare-ups. With this we would have avoided many inflammatory processes and diseases from getting manifested.
Krodat Pittam – Pitta flares up and gets aggravated by anger. This statement of Ayurveda justifies that Ayurvedic medical science too was familiar with the fact that the concealed anger would definitely aggravate Pitta. This holds well with the explanation given by the modern research works regarding the damaging impact of concealed anger.
On the other hand by mentioning Krodha as a Dharaneeya Vega, Ayurveda also advocates anger-control as a part of effective personality management.
How and why to hold on your anger?
‘When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred’ – Thomas Jefferson
Like any other emotion, anger too is your right to express. But remember you are a master of your anger and you have the remote to control it in your hands. You can express it the way you want and if you desire, you can hold on to it. But take caution – while you hold on the anger, you do not hold too much of it, sufficient enough to damage your beautiful interior.
It is not easy to hold on the anger and control it. It needs a constant practice followed by application.
‘Sankshepatah kriya yogo nidaana parivarjanam’
According to this quote from Madhava Nidanam text book, ‘the best and most effective way to manage a disease or disorder is to keep away from the causative factor or factors causing it’
Thus we can keep away the anger by keeping away the causative factors (situations and persons) and triggers of anger or ignoring them. Remember that you are larger and important than your emotions. If you rule your emotions you live healthy. If your emotions rule you then you would have cut short your beautiful life in a haphazard and premature way. The choice is anyway yours!!
‘There is nothing wrong with anger provided you use it constructively’ – Wayne Dyer
Patients with inflammatory diseases and inflammatory arthritis will be surely benefitted if they work on their anger along with using disease modifying medicines and treatments.
Body and mind are the 2 sides of the same coin. Comprehensive health care is not comprehensive when only body or mind is attended. Many times a medicine or therapy which relieves stress or soothes the mind and senses eradicates many physical ailments.
The real thing is by getting angry over a person or situation you show how weak you are. You also allow the other person and situations to rule you. If you remember that you are susceptible to be conquered by someone else’s anger, you will learn to sense it even before it has shown its early signs within you.
‘He who angers you, conquers you’ – Elizabeth Kenny
How can you throw away your anger in an effective way?
Firing at somebody and anticipating him or her not to get hurt or injured is great expectations!
If you know the reason regarding why you are angry at a point of time, you can monitor the way in which you put your anger out. Many times high outbursts of anger is spontaneous. We only realise after spitting out the venom. It still takes a lot of time to learn how much the venom of anger has hurt the person at the receiving end and how much we have hurt selves.
Throwing away the anger in a way which is not hurting to the host or guest is an art. If done effectively, it helps in prevention of inflammation and inflammatory diseases including arthritis.
‘Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one’ – Benjamin Franklin
We need to take a mid-way in such conditions. Throw out the anger and still make sure you are not hurting self or others. This is a tricky situation. In these conditions you need to remember that ‘Anger is a form of energy’ a high voltage one in fact. And the beauty of energy is that it can be converted into any form we want.
So if anger is negative energy or bad energy we shall try to convert it into positive good energy.
Say for example, your boss has played on your nerves and made you angry. The pity thing is that you cannot bounce back on him and give him back. At the same time you cannot bury your anger within yourself and allow that to hurt on a long run.
This is important because you have to go back to the same working condition and person the next day. There are two options to handle this situation. Ignore and keep away the causative factor i.e. your boss. This sometimes might not be possible because even if you let go, he might not.
In such conditions try these –
You can consider your boss to be an ice-cream and gulp it. Ice will cool your body and mind and you will feel that you have swallowed him.
Consider him to be a nut and chew it to your satisfaction.
Dig a pit in your garden thinking that the earth is your boss. Put a seed, close it and water it daily. As the plant comes out and starts to grow, you visit the plant every time your boss plays on your nerves and laugh at it. This way you are telling your boss that he can’t rule your emotions and feel relaxed.
You can keep bouncing a ball to the wall and keep catching it until your anger subsides. Give the ball your boss’s name. You will get 2-in-1 benefit, an exercise and a satisfaction that at some part of the day you are controlling your boss and punishing him.
You can burn a paper on which his name is written and flush the ash.
You can do many other things innovatively.
‘Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret’ – Laurence J. Peter
As you race ahead with time, your maturity will teach you to handle things more smoothly. You will be able to cope up with your inflammation and pains and make sure that you need less or no medicines to keep your raging mind and thoughts at bay. You could also have avoided the damages incurred on your beautiful system as an effective of unmonitored anger, thereby keeping inflammation and arthritis at bay.
Thus we can conclude that one should judiciously choose between holding and letting the anger depending on the situation and stressor’s available. At the same time we should be wary about the good and bad anger. A long-standing habit of either of them is dangerous. This is called as ‘streamed and channelized anger’.
Anger is thus constructive as well as destructive. It depends on what type of anger we are undergoing at a given point of time and situation!!
In this article we will just stick on to the topic of ‘inflammation occurs due to anger’ with special reference to causation of arthritis and MSD’s.
Anger causes inflammation and arthritis. Can you believe it!!
Do you have excessive anger? Then you might be prone to Arthritis!!!!!! This is called ‘Emotional inflammation’
Looks strange isn’t it?
We shall look at this with an Ayurveda perspective
Most of the systemic diseases of the modern day are psycho-somatic in nature. We hardly find a sole physical disorder or a sole mental disorder. Body and mind are 2 sides of the same coin. A problem at the physical level might at a later time reflect on the mind and vice versa. Anger is one of the most encountered emotions which has a serious destructive impact at a psycho-somatic level and is also a trigger for many health issues especially those of an inflammatory origin.
According to this quotation from Ayurveda it is clear that Kroda (anger) leads to disturbance of Pitta. Pitta is an element which represents fire within our system which carries out the heat related activities in the body, mainly metabolism. Pitta is made up of Agni (fire) and Jala (water) components of the Panchamahabhuta’s (5 basic elements of nature which supposedly take part in our creation).
We are basically hot blooded. Our body temperature is moderately warm or hot (though some bodies are cold on touch but they are not devoid of heat element, the cold element is just higher than its counterpart i.e. heat in these people). This heat is due to the activities of Pitta element in the body.
Pitta is responsible for central and cellular metabolism. If pitta is in a state of equilibrium, these processes take place smoothly and we are healthy. A pathological increase or decrease of Pitta can hamper the heat regulation in the body leading to destruction of tissues (increase of Pitta) or blocks in the cells and body channels (decrease in Pitta).
At the end of cellular metabolism, heat and energy are released. This is a normal phenomenon.
If excess heat is released and if the body is inefficient to throw the excess heat out of the body, the heat gets reflected inwards and gets concealed within the system. This concealed heat damages the body tissues and cause inflammation. When this inflammation gets intense, it leads to the manifestation of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Among various factors which aggravate Pitta, Krodha or Anger is a major one. Anger is the emotion which is a part of us and is expressed very often in varied proportions. Whenever we exhibit Anger, we are disturbing the Pitta in our system. If the anger pangs get into us as a practise it gives a permanent fuel for vitiation of Pitta.
The pitta thus increased sets in an inflammatory background in the tissues and leads to inflammatory diseases. Among these inflammatory diseases, Arthritis is one big entity. Anger may trigger any inflammatory process in the body immaterial of the organs and tissues and is not limited to arthritis.
Anger gives rise to vitiation of Pitta element in the body and this raised pitta further causes vitiation of Pitta. Thus the mutual affliction of pitta and krodha vis-à-vis anger gets into a cyclic pattern. This leads to the inflammatory reactions in the body which gets worse and gains a chronic pattern as time passes.
If Pitta and anger are not controlled in right time, they will cause sufficient damage to the body cells and organs and cause various diseases.
Anger is not the only causative factor for vitiation of Pitta and manifestation of Arthritis but surely one among many. It is not only a causative factor but also a triggering factor.
Avoiding anger or volunteering an anger management is the key to achieve its opposite entity i.e. Happiness. A constant practice may thus help the natural flow of happiness and love to all the cells in the body, including the joints. Though it may not cure your arthritis but it will surely make you feel better as you would have blocked the pathway of fuel for inflammation.
Isn’t happiness a key solution for everything???
Anger – its nature
Anger is quiet natural to all of us. The ageing process gives many of us the maturity to read, understand and manage anger including the art of when to exhibit and when to withdraw anger. If anger is a kind of stress then this art of anger management is called ‘fight (exhibiting) or flight (holding on) response’.
As we have discussed both have their own importance. The extent of damage we undergo due to anger and the quality and quantity of inflammatory changes and diseases which get manifested due to anger depends on our choice of fight or flight response and how frequently we do it.
‘You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger’ – Lord Buddha
Tips to cut off anger from your lives –
Identify the causes of anger – Ignore the causes or triggers which are regularly giving you anger pangs. You can also keep away from confronting with those people and situations if you have an alternate option Ex. Changing your job in case you have a frustrating employer, changing your house if you have an annoying owner etc.
Forgive and Forget – Difficult option but highly effective. Remember ‘Unable to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’
Change your body-mind attitude – Try doing something unusual when anger strikes you. Ex. Spot jogging or jumping to a count, walking away into fresh air, singing your favourite song, dancing with funny steps, making cartoons of your stressors etc
Get into a good will group – Make lot of good friends and develop your social networking. But make sure that you are not amidst people who are guiding wrongly or using you for their benefits. Also make sure that the people in the group of influence are optimistic and positive thinking people.
Think spiritual – Going to temples, joining prayer groups, reading spiritual books etc will put a brake on negative emotions including anger
Have a lot of fun – Watching fun movies like comedies, cartoons etc or watching fun plays etc. Laugh to your heart’s content. It is the best medicine and remedy for your anger.
Take a break – Breaks are essential to keep our nerves relaxed, Plan a weekend to a movie, nearby places of interest, fair, exhibitions, purchase etc with your beloved family members or friends
Go Holidaying – Plan a visit to exotic places and enjoy holidaying for a few days. Get involved into adventure and water sports.
Search a relaxing hobby – Like attending singing or dancing classes, painting, writing articles or stories etc
Do some exercising and aerobics – You can make sure that you are sufficiently oxygenated, at the same time win over anger
Join a Yoga class – Yoga is highly effective in controlling and warding off the negative emotions and to win over our anger
Meditate – You can meditate in many ways – chanting hymns, counting the beads, focussing on a point or material as a target etc
Breathing exercises – Inhale to your tummy to a count of four, slowly exhale through your mouth to a similar count. Do this 10-15 times. You can do it 3-4 times a day. Gradually work on increasing the count of inspiration and expiration. Learn about a simple Pranayama technique
Take help or counselling sessions – Don’t back out from consulting experts and from taking counselling. There are people who can help you out of your anger.
Write a diary – Write a diary and keep account of how many or how less situations you are encountering on a daily basis where you are getting into the anger web. Also analyse if your anger was reasonable. Think if there were any other options of avoiding confronting the anger. Analyse the causes and triggers and see if you are going to them or they are coming to you.
See if minor things are disturbing you and not essentially a big stressor or anger-trigger that is making you angry. In such cases you are only habituated to anger. See how many things and situations were under your control and how many were out of your reach. All these things will help you to get better and win over your nerves. Try to work and better the conditions and also maintain a follow up record.
Flip – If you are doing the regular things, flip and do something new.
Eat healthy – Lot of vegetables and fruits and a reasonably balanced diet will help
Convert anger – Anger is a form of energy which will either hurt us or the other person. The better way to throw off the fire of anger without hurting either is by transforming it into another form of positive or constructive energy. Get into activities like gardening, house cleaning etc.
Remember – ‘The other person is not bad, he or she is different’. Someone looks bad because we want that person to be like we want him or her to be. Learn to give space to everyone and enjoy your space.
Re-search happiness – Happiness and happy moments are antagonistic to anger. Swear to keep yourself happy. Try finding all possible ways and methods of keeping yourself happy.
Ayurvedic way of dealing with anger and ‘anger-induced-inflammation’
Nidana parivarjanam – Keeping away the cause and triggers of anger
Tackling Pitta –Since Pitta and Krodha (anger) are inter-related, we need to tackle the morbid Pitta to keep anger at bay. It is true that anger vitiates Pitta. On the other hand it is also true that excessive pitta can flare up anger. So it is essential to throw out the Pitta or subside it.
Below said are the measures of keeping Pitta, anger and inflammation at bay –
Avoid getting exposed to the causative factors which vitiate Pitta like – Pitta aggravating foods inclusive of those rich with hot foods, hot and pungent tastes, sour taste and salt, exposure to fire and heat of the sun, fried / oily foods and junks etc.
Opposite’s of Pitta – Taking foods having sweet, bitter and astringent tastes, seasonal fruits not having sour taste, cold foods and comforts etc which are antagonistic to Pitta
Pitta relieving treatments like Abhyanga (massage with herbal oils), Virechana (therapeutic purgation), Sarvanga dhara (stream pouring of medicated liquids like oils, milk etc over the body), Shirodhara (stream pouring of herbal oils over the head), Shirovasti (oil pooling over the head), Tikta vasti (enemas prepared out of medicines having bitter tastes), Ksheera Vasti (enemas prepared with medicines alleviating pitta processed and prepared in milk) etc
What does modern day research works tell us about the relations between anger and inflammation?
We have already mentioned that the modern research works have proved that concealed anger leads to inflammatory changes in the body. This is called emotional inflammation.
People with angry outbursts have elevated inflammation
For some people, violent behaviour and anger may be linked with inflammation in their bodies
Study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry – Inflammation markers were measured in the blood of 70 patients diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder (IED). In this condition, we can find repeated episodes of aggression and temper tantrums as seen in road rage, domestic abuse and throwing or breaking things.
The results showed a direct relationship between levels of 2 markers of inflammation and impulsivity i.e. C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) and aggression in the people with IED, but not in control participants. This proves that inflammation and aggression are biologically connected and for a damaging combination.
Animal studies show that when inflammatory proteins are introduced into the brains of cats and mice, they increase their aggressive behaviour. Likewise, even in human beings there is a possibility that some of the elevated proteins in the blood reach the brain and affect brain regions that control aggressive behaviours.
Anger is perhaps the single most damaging emotion, that if suppressed will surely lead to the chronic inflammation. This is evident by the abnormal levels of an important inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood levels.
Read more about the relation between anger and raised CRP levels in the blood which reflects inflammation –
‘Anger ventilated often hurries towards forgiveness, anger concealed often hardens into revenge’ – Edward. G Bulwer-Lytton
Just before finish –
Anger is one of the strongest and proved causes for inflammation and inflammatory diseases including painful conditions like arthritis and many musculoskeletal disorders. After knowing that careful and effective management of anger is in our own hands, we only need to pledge to keep this predictable enemy away or throw it in an un-hurting way.
‘Anger is an expensive luxury in which only men of certain income can indulge’ – George William Curtis