Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, except you’re the one that gets burned. Both bitterness and anger can lead to self-inflicted wounds that can sometimes literally become lethal.
Buddha once said, “You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger. This is very true, and manifest itself mentally, emotionally, and even physically. When Eckhart Tolle said, “Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath,” he may not have been explicitly referring to physical repercussions of long-term anger, yet there have been numerous scientific studies that show us that is exactly what happened.
That’s not to say that momentary anger is “bad” or “negative” but that sustained anger that we don’t allow to flow through is is the problem. It becomes stuck, bottled up, and trapped, leading to bitterness, which acts as a poison that slowly leads to immense suffering, often physical.
How Bitterness and Anger Affect Out DNA
The feelings we experience every day, which we also project onto others and the rest of the world, can affect the very structure of our DNA! Research done at the Institute of HeartMath has demonstrated that when feelings of love, gratitude, and appreciation are felt, DNA relaxes itself and unwinds to become longer. On the flip side, when feelings of anger, frustration, stress, or fear are experienced, DNA tightens itself and becomes shorter. Some DNA codes even shut down during such negative emotional states. The good news is that these detrimental effects can be reversed by feeling the positive emotional states.
Negatively-charged emotional states such as anger, frustration, aggression, and rage have time and time again shown to manifest a wide range of diseases, ailments, and disorders in the body. In the book The Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson, there is the fascinating idea that emotionally-charged events that occurred at some point in our lives can literally get stuck as “trapped emotions” within our bodies, leading to pain, illness, and disease. Dr. Nelson was even able to localize the specific areas in the body where emotions get trapped as a result of a particular emotion experienced, such as the feeling of abandonment manifesting as a trapped emotion within the heart or small intestine.
However, not everyone manifests ailments as a result of their thoughts in the same way. As Choa Kok Sui noted in the book Pranic Healing that “It seems that a certain type of negative emotion may manifest as a certain type of disease in one patient but may manifest as another type of disease in another.”
Repeated feelings of frustration may manifest as an ulcer in one person, whereas in another person that may develop as a heart condition. When all is said and done, the universal law still applies, which is that negative energy in the form of our thoughts will have a negative effect on our physical body.
As we progress further into the future present, more and more discoveries are being made regarding the mind-body relationship regarding thoughts turning into things. Here are a couple:
- The risk of having a heart attack more than doubles among those who become angry often.
- The greatest predictor of cardiac arrest and heart attacks is the level of psychological stress a person is experiencing.
According to a 2006 Harvard study, 10 million adult men in the United States are so angry that they’re sick. In fact, their disease has a name: intermittent explosive disorder, or IED. It’s been something recognized since 1980, but has existed for millenia before humans discovered the facts of the matter.
Besides a person filled with anger and rage being an immediate threat to any property or people that may happen to be within swinging distance, there is some serious damage that is happening internally as well. People who experience frequent outbursts of anger have been found to be more likely to die of heart disease or stroke.
In fact, more than 30,000 heart attacks each year are triggered by momentary anger, according to a 2004 Harvard study. “People who have a lot of anger invest a lot of energy in trying to control it, and that kind of friction is likely to increase the probability of a heart attack,” says Charles Spielberger, Ph.D., a University of South Florida psychologist who developed the most widely used test to measure anger. “The more intense the anger, the more likely the heart attack.” Other studies have shown that angry men are three times more likely to develop premature cardiovascular disease, six times more likely to have an early heart attack, and three times more likely to have a stroke.
Other Physical Effects of Bitterness and Anger
Just so that we drive this point home, here are several other proven examples of how thinking negative thoughts manifests in disease in the body.
- A Harvard Medical School Study of 1,623 heart attack survivors found that when subjects became angry during emotional conflicts, their risk of subsequent heart attacks was more than double that of those who remained calm.
- Three 10-year studies concluded that emotional stress was more predictive of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease than smoking; people who were unable to effectively manage their stress had a 40% higher death rate than non-stressed individuals.
- In a study of 5,716 middle-aged people, those with the highest self-regulation abilities were over 50 times more likely to be alive and without chronic disease 15 years later than those with the lowest self-regulation scores.
In the book Pranic Healing, there is a more subtle look into how our thoughts and emotions affect our well-being. The following is a quote from the book on this:
“Anger and intense worry devitalize the whole bioplasmic body so that the body becomes susceptible to all kinds of diseases. Negative emotions cause disturbances in the bioplasmic body so that the whole physical body becomes sick. You may have experienced that after intense anger or an intense altercation, you felt physically exhausted or became sick. This is because both the bioplasmic and visible physical bodies are drained of prana and become susceptible to infection.”
How to Heal From the Effects of Bitterness and Anger
There are a number of ways you can heal your body if you have become bitter or angry for too long. One effective method I often teach about involved deep breathing.
Deep breathing is the simplest of all tools, yet the most important. Breath is life. Without it, our bodies cannot usually survive for more than a few minutes. Deep breathing is incredibly beneficial in a variety of ways, one of them being the dissipation of the feeling of anger or some other negative emotion.
Here is a good starter technique for deep breathing:
- Breathe in and out deeply for one minute
- Take a deep breath
- Hold your breath for four seconds
- Breathe out
You can time yourself or leave it untimed if that would cause you anxiety. It’s not important to have it exactly a set amount of time, but to just ensure you are able to breathe deeply long enough to feel a state of inner peace. Holding the breath at the end for a few moments is the icing on this cake of calm.
This method will bring you inner peace, and there will be much less of a desire to respond to a situation negatively. Try this out for yourself and see the results of this simple, yet powerful, technique. It’s a quick way to deal with a difficult situation in the moment, and if you have been feeling anger or bitterness for a long time.
Non-physical thoughts and emotions both affect the physical body. That is why becoming mindful and expanding your awareness will help you avoid suffering from the consequences of letting anger linger for too long, as well as avoiding the poison pill that we call bitterness. When you practice deep breathing, you can heal your body and ensure your body stays in its optimal state of being.
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