MAKING IT BETTER: The impact of Anger and Hatred on your Well Being

Anger and hatred are negative states of the mind that destroy our happiness. As a people we are not very good at letting go of anger and its corresponding states. We plot, encourage and condone this emotion in ourselves and in each other. All negative mental states act as obstacles to our happiness, but we begin with anger, which seems to be one of the biggest blocks. The destructive effects of anger and hatred have been well documented in recent scientific studies in the US. Naturally, one doesn’t need scientific evidence to realize how these emotions can cloud our judgement, cause feelings of extreme discomfort, or wreak havoc in our personal relationships. Dozens of studies have resulted in document ting the harmful physical effects of anger and hostility. These emotions have been shown to be a significant cause of disease, and premature death. Research studies carried out at Stanford University in America demonstrated that anger, rage and hostility are particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system, and a major risk factor in heart disease. Some physicians even go a step further to say that it is at least equal to, or perhaps greater than, the traditionally recognised risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

‘Hatred is a boomerang which is sure to hit you harder than the one at which you throw it’ – Anon

There are many different kinds of negative or afflictive emotions, such as conceit, arrogance, jealousy, desire, lust and many others, but hatred and anger tend to be considered the most devastating, because they are the greatest obstacle in developing compassion, and they destroy one’s ability to be calm, thoughtful and at peace. I had a client who had been referred to me by her doctor regarding her constant headaches and what she considered as her inability to maintain healthy and sustained relationships. Once we had established the absence of any medical reasons for her headaches, on her first visit we went through the usual list of standard questions including the presenting complaint, marital status, age, background and so on. Up until then she had been very composed, almost demure. She was a very impressive looking woman, well put together and appeared to be well accomplished in her career endeavours.

‘In hatred

As in love, we grow like

The thing we brood upon.

What we hate, we graft

Into our very soul’ – Mary Ainsworth

All of a sudden during the assessment, she blurted out some profanities and went into a diatribe of invectives to describe her ex husband who she kept referring to as her husband. I imagined the break up was very recent and understandably her emotions were still quite raw. As our time was coming to a close and it appeared she was just getting warmed up and could continue in this vein for several hours to come, I chose to redirect her and acknowledged her anger and validated her difficulty in adjusting to a recent divorce, reassuring her that we could continue to explore her feelings in future sessions. Then I asked exactly how long she had been divorced, to which she answered ‘it will be 20 years in December!’

‘The most common way people give away their power is by thinking they don’t have any – Alice Walker’

 

While it is important to accept suffering as a natural fact of human existence, in other words some kinds of suffering are inevitable; however others are self-created such as the suffering my client was experiencing. The refusal to accept suffering as a natural part of life can lead to viewing oneself as a perpetual victim, leading to feelings of hurt, resentment, anger, hatred, and ultimately to a miserable life. We have the capacity to add to our own suffering in many ways. All too often we perpetuate our pain; we keep it alive, by replaying our hurts over and over again in our minds, magnifying our injustices in the process. We repeat our painful memories with the unconscious wish perhaps that somehow it will change the situation and make it better, but it never does. Naturally sometimes this endless recounting of our woes can serve a limited purpose; it can add drama and a certain excitement to our lives, or elicit attention, sympathy from others. It also prevents us from having to look inwards and to take responsibility for our own behaviour. However this seems like a poor trade-off for the unhappiness we continue to endure.

‘I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change….I’m changing the things I cannot accept’ – Angela Davies

Going back to anger, there can be two types. One type of anger can be positive. This would be mainly due to one’s motivation. In other words there can be some anger that is motivated by compassion or a sense of responsibility. Where anger is motivated by compassion, it can be used as an impetus or a catalyst for a positive action. Under these circumstances, a human emotion like anger can act as a force to bring about swift action. It creates a kind of energy that enables an individual to act quickly and decisively. It can be a powerful motivating factor. All too often, however, though that kind of anger can be positive, it always has the potential, if not guided to become destructive in the end. Generally speaking anger left to fester leads to ill feeling and hatred. And as far as hatred is concerned, it is never positive. It has no benefit at all. It is always totally negative.

‘You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served’  – Nina Simone

We cannot overcome anger and hatred simply by suppressing them. We need to actively cultivate the antidotes to hatred, which is patience and tolerance. When you are engaged in the practice of patience and tolerance, in reality what is actually happening is you are engaged in a combat with hatred and anger. Since it is a situation of combat, obviously you will be seeking victory. But you also have to be prepared for the possibility of losing the battle. None the less having the ability to withstand hardships, and generating strong enthusiasm, will most likely result in gaining victory.

‘Hate, It has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has hasn’t solved one yet’ – Maya Angelou

Enthusiasm results from learning about and reflecting upon the beneficial effects of tolerance and patience, and the negative effects of anger and hatred. Usually we don’t bother much about anger or hatred; we simply let it have its way with us. Whereas feeling cautious and wary of angry and hateful thoughts can act as a preventative measure against anger and hatred. Be conscious and mindful of your anger and how it serves you, whether it’s for good or its destructive.  You absolutely have the power to channel it in the way it will be better utilised, to work for you. Anger is a normal, natural, healthy and useful emotion. Hatred on the other hand has nothing at all good in it or about it.

 

Gloria Ogunbadejo writes a weekly column for Punch Newspaper. She is a Psychotherapist, a life coach, a spiritual counsellor and an ordained Minister

 

 

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