in Your Relationships
By Reshmi M. Siddique, Ph.D. and Mahmood I. Siddique, D.O.
Whether it is irritability, impatience or outright rage, anger is an emotion that everyone identifies with. Very few people know, however, how to manage this feeling in their relationships. It is estimated by psychological surveys that the majority of people suppress their anger (70%) or express it aggressively by harming others (20%). While a small proportion may know how to be assertive, even a smaller proportion realize that anger serves an important spiritual purpose.
If you bottle up your anger or express it aggressively, what are some of the consequences on your health? Our review of the medical literature of the effect of inappropriate anger behavior on health suggests that it can be devastating. For example, the misuse of this energy is associated with the leading killer disease in the United States: heart disease. It has also been associated with breast cancer, asthma and depression.
Studies have shown that whether you express anger aggressively or suppress it, there is an equal risk of heart attack. There is a three-fold chance of getting a heart attack if you manage anger inappropriately compared to someone who knows how to manage it assertively. It is interesting to note that the mortality rate for women due to heart disease over the last decade is greater than men. Further, anger is an independent risk factor for this disease.
Traditionally “anger” and “man” are associated together. If you are a woman, we hope we made you realize that if you don’t know what to do with your anger, you too are at great risk of heart disease. You don’t have to get a heart attack by shouting or yelling. You could also get it by suppressing anger. An unattended simmering kettle is just as bad as an unattended boiling pot.
As you can see, anger can have a deadly impact on your health if you don’t know how to manage it appropriately. So how do you manage anger in your relationships? Let us provide the following guidelines to help you:
1. Understand that anger is simply energy in motion. Realize that anger per se is not the problem. It is what you do with that anger. Although it is an unpleasant feeling, it is simply energy in motion. As moving energy, it is an internal guide to help you on your spiritual journey. Subconsciously, you might have negative beliefs about it (e.g., it is a “bad” emotion). Your job, as a first step, is to change these negative beliefs. Think of it as a neutral energy with a message. This brings us to the next step.
2. Let your anger be a doorway to a loving relationship with yourself first. Think of your anger as a doorway to some virtue that you need to learn. Maybe you need to learn a greater sense of self-esteem or compassion for yourself. Anger is a barometer that can help you assess where you need to do spiritual work on yourself. Instead of blaming the other person or event, ask the question, “What is my anger teaching me about myself?”
You need to shift the negative focus off the “other” person and direct the questions toward yourself. In effect, you are engaging in an internal feedback process. If, for example, you are angry because you have been abused in a relationship, the message of your anger could be that you need to stop being a victim. Instead of blaming the other person, ask what you learned from the relationship.
3. Let your anger be a doorway to a loving relationship with others. If you don’t allow anger to be a doorway to understanding yourself, there is no way you can have a loving relationship with another. If you have understood the spiritual meaning of anger and have taken personal responsibility, you will automatically find your relationships getting better.
Because of the universal law of cause and effect, you will find that you will literally “attract” positive emotions in others or “repel” negative ones. In fact, your “new” self will be mirrored in “new” relationships or better quality relationships in old ones. We have seen this happen in our lives and can testify that this is true. If you do need to communicate with another person: a) pause, step back and choose your response, b) always start your conversations with “I” statements rather than “You” statements.
4. Let your anger be a doorway to forgiveness. If a person has left your life so you cannot express your feelings, what do you do? In this case, give energetic feedback through forgiveness. To forgive means that you erase a negative memory picture of someone with a positive one. It is important that you learn to forgive that person, but not forget the spiritual lesson behind the experience. Until you forgive, the blocked energy of resentment will remain within you. One of two things will happen: it might materialize as disease, or angry events will occur in the future in order that you learn the lesson of forgiveness.
Everyone desires love in his or her relationships. If you want this to happen, have a loving relationship with yourself first. Your anger can help you towards this goal. Therefore, embrace it, acknowledge it, and use it as a guide to help you on your spiritual journey.
Reshmi Siddique is a psychiatric research scientist and Mahmood I. Siddique is a quadruple-boarded physician who is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, NJ. They are authors of the book, “How to Turn Anger into Love: A Spiritual Guide.” For more information, please visit our website at: www.HowToTurnAngerIntoLove.com or call toll free (800) 247-6553.
Return to the May/June Index page