Anger and Health Issues

I want to write about the three scenarios from last week’s blog posting.  Each of the three stories (all true stories) resulted in health problems for the people involved.  I believe it is critical to understand how anger – when held inside – causes physical harm.


In the Dan Cooper story, we have a young man who followed his father’s road map for his life instead of following his own.  This decision to please his father took a terrible toll on him health-wise.  Dan hated himself for not standing up for himself.  He also felt enormous hostility toward his father for forcing him into the business when he knew full well that his son wanted a career in music. That is a lot of baggage to carry around:


●hate of one’s parent

It is not possible to serve two Gods and remain healthy and sane.


Dan remained working in his father’s business for twenty-two (wasted) years.  Early in his 23rd year, his father had a massive heart attack and died.  Dan immediately put the company up for sale.  He then moved toNew York so that he could attend the Julliard School of Music.  He had a grand piano installed in his little apartment and started taking both piano lessons and violin lessons.  He worked hard at learning all he could about his chosen craft.  Over the next few years, his dragging limp disappeared along with his slurring speech.  The change happened slowly but it did happen.


Four years later, he accepted a position with Disney’s Imagineering Group where he is today, creating music for all of the cartoon movies that Disney creates.  Dan is finally a happy man.


A person can pay a dreadful price by not following his or her own aspirations, goals and ambitions, especially when those are a strong force within.  If you know intestinally what you should be doing in life, but you are doing what someone else thinks you should be doing, it will cost you in health and happiness.


With the Sally and Jay story, it is Jay who has the problem.  Somewhere during his childhood, something dreadful happened between him and his mother, Greta.  If he could have talked about whatever happened to a professional and gotten some closure, perhaps the issue of his spike in blood pressure when Greta was around could have been addressed.  Either Jay didn’t want to discuss it or he could not discuss it because it was buried somewhere deep in his subconscious.


This story illustrates what can happen health-wise when we do not deal with anger-causing issues but instead hold on to them.  We think we are hiding the problem but our bodies react to the issue anyway.


The mechanism is interesting.  Whatever happened, even though it was years ago, whenever we remember that situation, our hostility rises and our anger gets hot – just as hot as it was when the situation originally occurred.  Our bodies think, “My God, it’s happening again!”


As human beings we are pretty resilient when it comes to stress that is tied to a specific incident like someone cutting you off in traffic and almost causing an accident.  But that episodic stress passes and we easily recover.  However, it is the stress that doesn’t go away which eventually causes health damage.  This is the stress, anxiety, hostility and anger that bubbles up in our minds whenever we recall some aggravating incident.  That is why you should never tell yourself, “Oh it’s just a little thing; I shouldn’t get so upset.”  Instead, acknowledge that you are upset.    (Look, if something upsets you, there’s a good reason.   Do not belittle your feelings.  Your feelings are valid.)  Go talk to the person and put that hostility to rest once and for all.


In the Way-lin Yan story we have an example of a person dealing with the type of stress that does not go away.  In Way-lin’s situation, there was no respite – she had to face that aggravating situation every single day.  The caring nurse in the office of Way-lin’s doctor was right –leave that job before it kills you.


Way-lin had convinced herself that because she lacked experience, it was okay for her to be brutalized by a mean and bullying boss.  Now, however, she did have experience.  She was no longer a novice.  Way-lin was counseled to tell the boss that the current recruit was more than satisfactory and that Way-lin’s last day would be this coming Friday.


Way-lin returned to her job on Monday, prepared to make her departure announcement to the boss.  Mid-morning, an astonishing interaction occurred between the new recruit and this bullying boss which left Way-lin flabbergasted.


Boss:  (screaming) You are one dumb broad, sister.  Why in the hell did you staple the report together when you were clearly told not to?

Newbe: (standing up at her desk, facing the boss, head held high, hands at her

side, strong but calm voice)  Listen here.  You will not ever scream at me

again.  No one has ever done that to me in my life and you are certainly

not going to be the first.  I demand an immediate apology and a promise

that you will not ever again address me in such a disrespectful manner.

Boss:  (dumbfounded look, mumbling in low tones) Well, I was upset that you did

not follow directions.

Newbe: That’s not an apology.  I want an apology loud enough so that the entire

office will hear it just as they heard your criticism.

Boss:  (grumbling) I’ll get you some flowers.  Now get back to work.


Newbe: I don’t want flowers.  I want a loud apology and a promise that you will

not scream at me again.

Boss:  (somewhat loud voice) Okay, I apologize.  I’ll try not to raise my

voice when I’m upset over what you do.  Happy, now?

Newbe: Thank you.  That will do for a start.


Way-lin later reported that she was so surprised her mouth guard fell right out of her open mouth.  She was speechless.  “I realized”, she said, “That all I needed to do was stand up to Mr. Andrews once and his abuse would have stopped.”


The great lessons here for Way-lin were:

●speak up immediately when you have been disrespected

●facing up to a bully once usually stops that hostile behavior permanently

●speaking up immediately changes the dynamic of the relationship

●speaking up confirms you will not lay the victim role in the bully’s game


Hating yourself for allowing such a situation to continue is a killer because the stress never goes away.  Conventional wisdom might tell you that learning to deal with stress is a necessary fact of life.  Conventional wisdom is wrong.  How about learning to live without the kind of stress put on you by other people.  You shouldn’t stand for it.  Speak up.  Free your life.

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  • Lynn  On June 29, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Those who try yelling, intimidation, threatening strategies…in front of audience or private…I understand they have low self esteem. But in front of audience there is fall out for target,and privately…can let them wind down,but they can still do damage.

    • deannerosenberg  On July 3, 2011 at 7:13 pm

      You are so right! We did an experiment in a workshop where the speaker yelled at a participant. It was a set up. Then we asked all the participants to say something individually about their reaction to the exchange. Some said they were afraid and wanted to leave the room immediately. Other said they got angry and wanted to punch out the person yelling. Still others expressed a desire to support the target of the yelling. Some reported an elevated heart beat and rising blood pressure. Out of a class of 35, no one was unaffected.

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