It never ceases to amaze me just how much of a profound effect emotions can have on physical health, in particular anger. Recently I’ve had quite a few clients who have had some difficulties with unexpressed anger following unfair, cruel or abusive treatment, some of whom would only admit to being angry after quite a long discussion. Anger that has been suppressed can manifest in a variety of ways, some of which are quite serious – diabetes, psoriasis, arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, depression, PCOS, the list goes on. Odd really, because I’d previously thought of anger as being part of a ‘hot’ pattern of symptoms, whereas some of the illnesses I’ve seen recently seem to follow a much colder pattern of behaviour. But then I began thinking about it, and it actually makes a lot of sense, especially if you look at health in terms of using the vital force, Qi, Prana, Chi, whatever you would like to call it. That force drives us, pushes us forward, gives us the energy and impetus to get through the day, to get things done, to defend ourselves. It is, quite literally, the spark of life. Sometimes that spark can flare into anger, in defence of the body, the mind, the sense of self respect.
Life has the bad habit of stomping all over us at one time or another, and, for many of the people I have seen recently, that has resulted in anger being turned inwards, pushed downwards, trapped in the body, perhaps specifically the liver. Ever heard the saying ‘to vent one’s spleen’? Yeah. Liver patterns, again. We are constantly told that to be angry, to express anger, is not polite, bad manners, not ladylike, is uncouth, uncivilized, that we are supposed to be ‘better’ than that. The big problem with this attitude is that it fosters a ‘put up and shut up’ attitude that is profoundly unhealthy, both for ourselves and our health but also for society at a whole. Now, believe me, I’m not advocating going out there and vocalising anger constantly – what I am advocating is a mindful expression of anger when it is appropriate and safe to do so. Even if that means you go home and kick a cushion or write ten pages of expletives. We all have the right to say ‘NO’ when we are unhappy with something. Don’t push it down and deny it – give it a voice and you’ll be surprised how much it can change your world, and change it for the better. Imagine all that energy, directed outwards towards making positive change, instead of repressed, shut down and denied, and you’ll begin to see how much more powerful you can be if you allow yourself a voice, allow yourself the right to stand up and say ‘NO, that is not acceptable’. You may be startled by the results!
There are many herbs that can help with unexpressed, justified anger – bitter liver herbs, for the most part, with Dandelion root being a particularly good one to use – more on this in a future post. I like to back it up with a little Calamus root, to help people to find their voice and feel they have a right to talk, to express how they are feeling. I also recommend journalling, writing down all the things you dont feel you can say in polite conversation (expletives included!), writing letters to anyone you feel has wronged you severely (not to send, just to express the thoughts and get them out of the head). Take up martial arts. Run. Get a punch bag and beat hell out of it. Beat up a cushion. Listen to loud and angry music and sing along at the top of your lungs. Cry. Have a healthy ranting session with someone you can trust. The trick is to not let it turn inwards, because once turned inwards, anger will turn into depression, which will then turn into ill health as that fire, that force, that spark, finds other ways to express itself. This is one time I would not recommend taking herbs unless you have back up plans to help you express the fury you are stirring up. Start gentle. Go carefully. Be kind to yourself. Realise that sometimes calming herbs are not the way to go – sometimes it is better to get angry. And that’s ok.