My old friend Gurcharan Das recently wrote one of the great truths about which we humans need constant reminding.
The Buddha, he wrote, said “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”
Anyone who’s ever been angry (EveryMan, EveryWoman, EveryPerson) would know the truth of this.
We’ve all experienced the effects of being angry. As every wellness website will tell you, anger is one of the emotions that triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. (The others are fear, excitement and anxiety.) The ‘fight or flight’ response causes the adrenal glands to flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
The brain shunts blood away from the gut and towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and the skin perspires. The mind becomes more focused.
That’s fine if we really have to fight or resort to flight. But if it’s just a series of angry outbursts, the constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes can be harmful. Anger can cause a heart attack or a stroke. Less dramatically, it can result in headaches, depression, high blood pressure and skin problems such as eczema.
We are truly punished by our anger. That’s worth remembering in this, the age of Trump and the so-called age of anger.