I had a heart wrenching email based on my post ‘What is pain?’ from a reader the other day, and it’s been on my mind since. After I first read it I had to pause. There were so many feelings racing around my body because I could have written the same email a few years ago. In fact, the writer and I share a number of characteristics: we’re both female; around the same age; with boys around the same ages; a love of working out; and a love for flowers.
But her chronic pain stems from many issues I do not have and would not want to deal with on their own, much less face them combined as they are in her body. They include: fibromyalgia; degenerative spine disease; a bulge in her lower back and one in her neck; as well as scoliosis.
This has been a saddening discovery for me since I started writing about my own chronic pain – it is the number of people that have multiple issues of pain.
Like many, me included, she has tried everything to help heal or at least manage the pain. Everything from ‘regular exercise, clean eating, meditation, prayers and injections’ she says, with the result that, ‘NOTHING works and [it] continues to get worse.’ In her particular case what came through the email most strongly was anger; an emotion I truly understand.
While I realize anger is not the only emotional issue one feels when facing chronic pain it is the one I am going to address because I believe that when we start healing one issue, no matter which one, it helps in the healing of all other issues. And anger is like a poison in your body.
Obviously anger is a normal emotion and spurs us to action and hopefully to the resolution of a problem. But when it becomes chronic, like chronic pain, it becomes an issue. As with any other emotion, anger is not isolated to your mind either; it triggers numerous physical reactions that move through your body. The most prevalent problem caused by chronic anger is a weakening of the immune system leading to things like: headaches; problems with digestion; insomnia; increased anxiety; depression; high blood pressure; or heart attack and stroke.
When you are in chronic pain, day in and day out, it is easy to understand how anger arises. You may feel let down by your body or by life in general. You may feel that it’s not fair that this happened to you, or upset with family and friends who don’t understand and can’t appreciate what you’re going through. You may wake up, feel the pain and just feel angry that you have to endure this for another day. There are so many reasons to be angry.
But every single one of them that you harbor, consciously or unconsciously, takes away your ability to find peace about your situation. It takes away the capacity of your body to do what it naturally does, heal itself. It takes away any chance you have of moving beyond just coping.
How do you identify chronic anger? Some questions to ask yourself include the following:
~ Do you recall certain past events or people and feel angry?
~ Do you find yourself feeling angry, yet have no specific cause for the anger?
~ Do you ever notice other people being careful about not getting into a confrontation with you?
Doctors Redford and Virginia Williams, co-authors of Anger Kills and Life Skills, suggest four questions to ask yourself whenever you feel angry:
Important: Is this something that’s important to me?
Appropriate: Is my response appropriate to the situation?
Modifiable: Is there anything I can do about it?
Worth It: Is taking action worth it in this situation?
Using these four questions as a starting point for facing your anger, they say that you will not only respond to your anger constructively, but you will also lower your overall anger levels.
If nothing else, reflect on the teaching of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in his commentary of the Indian scriptures, the Bhagavad-Gita.
“Anger excites the mind, which loses its balance and power of discrimination; it loses proper vision and foresight and a right sense of values. This state of ‘delusion’ obscures the track of memory, and thereby one feels disconnected from the harmonious rhythm of life. Wisdom fails, and the intellect ceases to function. The boat of life is left with nobody in control; it meets with disaster as a matter of course.”
If you have this poison raging through you it is making your chronic pain worse. Face your anger, deal with it, and let it go. Bring peace back into your life and start healing from the inside out.
What is your best tactic for managing anger? I'd love to hear from you.