Before I start, let me just state that illness happens and it is very real. I write this piece not because I want to convince you that your symptoms are purely in your mind and that you somehow must’ve done something horribly wrong or are the one responsible for being ill.
However, your emotions and mind play a big role in your overall well-being. You are more than the sum total of your parts. Modern day medicine simply doesn’t, will not or cannot account for this. We go to hospital or visit our GPs often because of physical symptoms. For some physical problems the diagnosis and treatment is clear. For example, if you have a broken leg your doctor can take an x-ray to confirm the break and put your leg in a cast. However, some health conditions are more complex and are affected by many different factors. By exploring the connection between your mind and your body you may understand yourself and your anger better.
What is the mind-body link?
Day-to-day we use phrases which describe the mind-body connection - “pain in the neck”, making your “blood boil”, having a “gut feeling” or being “heart-broken”. These examples all describe the way that the mind can affect the body.
Most of us hold the belief that our minds are somehow seperate from our bodies and function, for most part, independently. Wrong. We are big chemistry bags held together by skin. Every single thought and feeling you experience is expressed into a chemical which then travels throughout your whole body, changing the composition and working of your cells.
How does this happen?
One word - Neuropeptides. Produced by your immune system, your brain and your nerve cells, neuropeptides are chemical messengers that carry information from your mind to your body - and vice versa - via your bodily fluids. Your cells are coated with thousands of receptor sites. Each receptor site has a specific form that locks into specific neuropeptides. Once locked into place the neuropeptide downloads information through the receptor site into your cell, affecting the behaviour of your cells. For example, one of your neuropeptides is an endocannabinoid - the bliss molecule anandamide which is responsible for a relaxed state of being. That blissful state is experienced both in your brain and throughout your entire body.
In other words, each part or system of your precious body is listening and responding to your thoughts and feelings.
“A basic emotion such as fear can be described as an abstract feeling or as a tangible molecule of the hormone adrenaline. Without the feeling there is no hormone, without the hormone there is no feeling. The revolution we call mind-body medicine was based on this simple discovery: wherever thought goes, a chemical goes with it.” Deepak Chopra Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.
Thoughts and emotions have energy. They influence the things you say, do, how you act, eat, rest, move. When you’re unable to express what is happening on an emotional or mental level, that feeling becomes embodied until it appears in your physical body.
Anger is often the emotion least expressed and most repressed. Your anger could be from childhood situations, past or current relationships, work dynamics, family drama. Often anger is connected to a loss of control which is one of the main contributors to stress-producing conditions.
Anger and your liver.
Your liver is amazing and so forgiving. It is the only organ that can regenerate itself. At a weight of 1.5kg's it's your body's version of a bouncer/bodyguard. Your liver is always making sure you are safe from harm. It filters and purifies a whopping 600-700 litres of blood a day.
“In Chinese medicine the liver is known as the storehouse for anger, particularly repressed anger, which gathers here and may eventually explode outward. Too much anger is like a toxin in the body, and is often the background to addiction. Unacknowledged or unexpressed anger leads to depression (anger turned inward), shame, jealousy, or irritability, all of which further deplete your energy levels and can damage the immune system. Connected to anger are bitterness and resentment, which are seen in the production of bile, or guilt, hopelessness, frustration and hatred. The liver is also connected to deeper issues of meaning and purpose. A sluggish liver leads to depression, which makes life appear meaningless. The liver gives life. Its health reflects how much you embrace life, or how self-destructive you are. A healthy liver encourages enthusiasm, creativity, inner strength and resilience.” Deb Shapiro, Your Body Speaks Your Mind.
Signs you might have an angry liver:
1. Dry, itchy skin.
2. Insomnia, especially between 2-4am.
3. Elevated cholesterol.
4. A coated yellowish tongue.
5. Chronic headaches esp. on the right side of your face and head.
6. Water retention or bloating.
7. Red, dry eyes.
8. Irritable and grumpy mood.
9. Digestive issues incl. heartburn and constipation.
11. PMS and heavy, painful periods.
12. A sugar craving.
13. Gout and/or rheumatoid arthritis.
Your liver will give you virtual high-fives when you:
1. Hydrate your body with water or herbal teas such as nettle, parsley, ginger or peppermint.
2. Get enough rest.
3. Practice your ability to forgive - A big one and not achieved in one moment, so go gentle with yourself on this point. You are not a failure for getting stuck here. You are human - and doing your best with what you’ve got.
4. Laugh a lot.
5. Breathe deeply.
7. Take milk thistle on and off to support its function.
8. Have Nux Vomica 30c in your medicine chest - A wonderful homeopathic remedy to support for many of the liver related symptoms I mention above.
9. Drink less alcohol and coffee.
10. Eat less animal fat and refined sugar and more raw green, leafy vegetables such as kale, rocket, silver beet and spinach.
11. Drink vegetable juice daily - a combo of beetroot, celery, carrot and lemon is especially helpful.
12. Use essential oils like lemon, rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, ginger or wild orange.
No feeling is final.
Daily I remind myself that I am not my anger. I am the witness, the observer of it. This creates a little bit of space between me and it. A space in which I am reminded that no feeling or thought is ever final. A space in which I can detach from my anger and not make it who I am. A space in which I can try to accept the impermanent nature of my anger - very quickly will it be replaced by another thought and emotion not related to it - this is the nature of the mind. I am beginning to understand that if I choose to attach and identify with my anger, then I become it and my body will reflect this dense and uncomfortable truth. I am learning - learning to soften towards myself as I let go of the hurtful stories my anger enjoys telling me. It’s a process, a lifelong process. Some days are easier than others.
I invite you to be extra gentle with yourself and your anger.
With much love and kindness.