Anger can erupt in many situations, for many different reasons, and in many different guises. Throughout my experience of arthritis, anger has not been a primary reaction or emotion: Mostly, I have been baffled, sad, worried, and ultimately brave and resilient. But I have noticed during the last few days that anger is beginning a slow boil beneath the surface of my determination and enforced positivity.
Frankly, I would have expected this “toil and trouble” to have reared its head when pain came on hard and fast; or when administrative hoops of insurance and surgical schedules demanded my less-than-agile jump-throughs. Perhaps it was because I was vigilant with regard to losing my self to anger that I was able to keep it in check: With any tinge of negativity, I pointedly redirected my thoughts and attitude.
Today, however, pain and misguided resentment got the best of me. Three trips up and down three flights of stairs to do laundry left my legs and hips quaking and aching. With one more errand to do, I forced a second wind into my body and set off. Upon return, two of my house friends were outside: One greeted me with an open hand, ready to help; and the other began what felt like a barrage of what I am sure was a well-meaning offer.
Unfortunately, my personal, alternative preference to what she suggested must have seemed like a decline of her help. I did my best to assure her that if I needed her technique, I would be open to it: However, her face and tone indicated that my “refusal” of her suggestion exasperated her. And I, in return, felt the bubble of anger begin its slow simmer.
Cut to several minutes later: I had returned into my apartment, body raging with pain, mind stewing over my increasing emotional sensitivity to needing help. Every step, every dropped tissue or cane or bottle top led me into anger’s trap: I cursed, growled, and silently sobbed. More pain led to more anger led to more weakness led to more anger, and on it went.
But anger is a state that has caused me much chagrin throughout my life; it is something that I have learned to address immediately upon its appearance. And today was no different. I reminded myself that anger is akin to fear, in that the origin of both is a felt or real loss of control. This despairing state is the Water element gone awry; anger’s Fire burns hot when it sees an opportunity.
To remedy that, first ascertain if the anger is founded or misguided. If righteous, work to replace it with a positive approach to the situation. If you have stumbled into inappropriate or misdirected anger, confront the feeling directly: cool it, calm it, and regain center.
I suggest exactly what I did for myself today. First, I gave in to the growls that emanated from my throat each time I tried to keep a sob at bay. Throat sounds often signal anger’s presence, and they are the way to respond to the threat of the fiery emotion: First, make exaggerated snoring sounds, in through the nose, then pushed out from the back of the throat. Continue this for up to 1 minute.
Then, standing or sitting, extend the arms to the sides, palms down. Extend the index fingers straight up, using the thumb to hold the other fingers down. This kundalini mudra opens the Heart meridians while connecting the nervous system to the wisdom of the Universe.
Now add Sitali Pranayama to the held mudra: Inhale through the curled tongue (like a straw), and exhale for twice the amount of time through the nose. (if you are unable to curl the tongue, breathe in through slightly parted lips.) Breathe this way with the mudra for 3-5 minutes. Concsiously reflect upon the origin and nature of the anger you had been feeling: Remind yourself that anger is human, but it need not offset your humanity.