One Forked Tongue
Ouch! This image truly pains me. But it is a great reminder of the damage done by one forked tongue. Proverbs 11:17 “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.” Kind words are a little bit like forgiveness: Our own souls benefit when we are forgiving, but we destroy ourselves when we aren’t. It is a strange phenomenon that we hurt ourselves when we are angry, even though we think we are hurting others. Many times, we do hurt them but, ultimately, we are the ones who pay the biggest price in pain, suffering, and disease.
How so, you may ask? We have two parts of our central nervous system: The Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic. When we are angry, the Sympathetic system is ordered by the brain to release adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline is the chemical that triggers a “fight or flight” response, also called the “stress” response. The Parasympathetic system (the “resting & digesting” part) produces norepinephrine, which calms and relaxes. When we are frequently in the “fight or flight” mode, the heart beats faster and more forcefully, digestion is inhibited, blood vessels constrict/pressure rises, and many other adverse effects occur as a result of stress. Every time we hold grudges or remember events that angered us, we relive the episode that elicits the adrenaline release, thereby triggering all of the stressful unconscious responses that wreak havoc on the body, all over again. And as the famous saying goes, stress is a killer.
But there are many physical, emotional, and spiritual releases for stress in the body. Exercise produces endorphins, those chemicals ordered by the brain, to improve sleep and kill pain, which in turn reduces stress. Meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, deep breathing, story-telling, music, and other activities, also produce endorphins. Many find that any outdoor activity produces a similar effect, such as picnics in the park, strolls along the promenade, moonlight serenades, beach-going, bird-watching; whatever a person enjoys; all these emotional amusements reduce stress and lift our spirits. If an individual is religious or spiritual, regular Church/Synagogue attendance, Bible study, prayer, nature observance, and volunteer service, all increase connection with positivism and inspirational forces. Often, we find power and influence beyond our own, when we open ourselves up to the universe of great expectations.
Above all, anger management, or self-control, is the endeavor most worthy of pursuit. We are all human and affected by anger, to one degree or another. But avoiding it (at least minimizing it) or letting it go, (which seems monumental) is actually just an effort of training our brains to “rethink,” not simply to “react.” Of course, no one is expected to accept or condone abusive behavior or put themselves in dangerous situations. But if we can identify the causes of our anger, recognize there are countless books, programs, and strategies to confront it, then we have taken the first steps towards our own good health and healing.
One of my own favorite anger-coping mechanisms is the redirecting of an angry thought towards something that makes me laugh. Laughter is extremely therapeutic (another one of those endorphin catalysts). I try to recall a funny memory (like my ridiculous grade school picture) or store a humorous occasion for just that needed moment (remember when Designing Women’s, Julia, strutted out of the bathroom, parading around the room with the back of her skirt caught in the top of the pantyhose). Then, in one split second, I have interrupted a train of angry thoughts, lessening my overreaction with a humorous recollection. Often, it works miraculously! Disclaimer: It isn’t always 100% effective, but I am a work in progress 😊. Aren’t we all?