Linda Lewis Griffith

Chronic anger threatens health

‘I am so angry at my husband,” the woman confided to me. “I don’t want to divorce him. But I can never forgive him for what he has done.”

We all get irritated by events throughout our day. Most of the negativity quickly subsides, and we barely remember the source of our angst.

Chronic anger, on the other hand, is an emotional cancer that contaminates all corners of our well-being. It often begins with an identifiable incident, such as an insult or infidelity. Then, it’s fed by relentless recaps that embellish the image with added drama and pathos. The incident quickly gains a life of its own and spawns feelings that far outweigh the original situation.

Our mental misery is devastating to our relationships. Perennial dissatisfaction tells loved ones, “You’re not good enough.” They live under a cloud of perpetual gloom. No matter what they do, they can’t shake us from our scorn and displeasure. They either become hyper-vigilant in their never-ending efforts to please us or they stop trying and the relationship withers and dies.

Health consequences

Chronic anger also wreaks havoc on our health. According to an analysis of 44 studies published in the March 2009 Journal of the American College of Cardiology, anger and hostility are associated with increased heart problems in otherwise healthy individuals and poorer outcomes for patients already diagnosed with heart disease.

Unfortunately, chronic anger seldom achieves the desired goal. While the unspoken intent is to punish the offender, it causes far more anguish and pain to those harboring the anger.

The Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

In fact, targets of our anger may be completely unaware of any negative feelings directed toward them.

Meanwhile, we marinate in our own hostility for months, even years.

Although we’re quick to blame others for our suffering, we have complete control over what we think.

Releasing ourselves requires awareness and perseverance. But happiness is well worth the effort.

SOME TIPS ON LETTING GO OF ANGER

Here are some ways you can deal with anger when it arises and keep it from affecting you and those around you adversely.

Recognize when you’re angry. Do you clench your fist? Talk too fast? Have trouble breathing? These are symptoms that something’s amiss. Don’t ignore them.

Change your emotional channel. If you catch yourself thinking unhappy thoughts, replace them with calming, joyous ones. Repeat the process as often as necessary.

Release what you can’t control. Certain things in life are given. Fretting about them wastes energy and emotional resources. Take a deep breath and accept them into your universe.

Reframe your situation in positive terms. Your best friend may have dumped you, but now you’re free to hang with co-workers after hours. Make lemonade from lemons wherever possible. You’ll be much happier if you do.

Focus on what’s working. It’s easy to obsess about your problems, but there’s a lot that’s working well, too. Take inventory of the pluses, and return to them whenever angry feelings creep back in.

Make appropriate changes. Maybe it’s time for a grown child to move out, or you want to heal a rift with your sibling. Do what you need to make life even better.

Meditate. Meditation teaches you how to quiet your mind and release negative thoughts. Find a class or teacher to help you get started.

Practice forgiveness. We all make mistakes. It’s imperative that we move past others’ transgressions. Loved ones will appreciate our clemency. We’ll be happier, too.

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