Healthy Anger And Your Health: Transforming The Warrior Spirit Into The Spiritual Warrior
by: William DeFoore
Each of us developed a warrior spirit soon after our birth. Your first anger development occurred after the first few months of your life, coming to a head around the age of two, which is how the idea of the “terrible two’s” developed.
THE BIRTH OF THE SWORD AND SHIELD
The warrior spirit in general develops because the child self within needs protection. The child and the warrior both represent examples of Jungian archetypes, which are well illuminated in the work of Carol S. Pearson’s Awakening the Heroes Within. The child is innocent, open and vulnerable; and needs the protective energy of the warrior for its safety in the world.
A useful way of understanding the development of your warrior spirit is by working with the imagery and energy of the sword and shield. The sword projects, penetrates, pierces and protects against anything that threatens or opposes you. The shield deflects, conceals, separates and distances you from the perceived threat or opposition. Both are natural and highly useful.
You can see that the sword and shield are metaphors for the defense mechanisms of anger and withdrawal. The metaphor and mythology of the warrior’s sword and shield will ground your understanding and take you further into the healthy power of these natural processes.
This world does not respond well to the warrior’s sword. The piercing, penetrating energy of your anger was most likely punished, overpowered or ignored, causing you to withhold your sword and put it somewhere that it could not be seen or heard. So you either became withdrawn and quiet never showing anger, or you became aggressive and outspoken for your own survival. Your sword is either hidden inside you, or it’s out for the world to see, hear and feel. No matter what, it didn’t go away completely.
ILLNESS, VIOLENCE AND THE WARRIOR GONE AWRY
· The sword in our bodies. The American Heart Association has sponsored research that indicates, “people who are highly anger-prone are nearly three times more likely to have heart attacks than those who aren’t.” Metaphorically, we might conclude that when your sword is out of control, it might just pierce your own heart. Other ways that the misguided sword can injure us are reflected in this quote from a health care professional with the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness program. “Anger impacts us physiologically, making itself known to us through muscle tension, headaches, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, stomach distress, elevated blood pressure and even flushing of the skin.”
· The shield in our bodies. The effects of shielding, or complex unconscious psychophysiological defense mechanisms are diffuse and multi-faceted. It is clear that chronic tension in large and small muscle groups throughout the body can lead to a variety of acute and long-term physical ailments. Gastro-intestinal disorders, upper respiratory illness, and cardio-vascular problems are all related to and effected by hypertension. We are looking at interactions between emotional and physical processes here, not implying specific cause and effect relationships.
When we look at the problems in the world, the warrior’s sword and shield are not hard to find.
· The sword in the world. The piercing, penetrating energies of angry words, sarcastic cuts, racial slurs, bullets, missiles and bombs are all too prevalent in today’s world. With war, terrorism, hate crimes, workplace violence, school shootings, domestic disputes, rape and child abuse occurring on an ongoing basis in various locales across the planet, we don’t have to wonder about the seriousness of this problem.
· The shield in the world. Stoic faces, no eye contact, awkward silences, cold flat voices, uncaring responses and miles of distance between people inches from each other are but a few of the manifestations of the warrior’s shield in the world.
THE DESTRUCTIVE PROTECTOR
The warrior spirit who is disconnected from love and wisdom becomes the destructive protector.
All of the compulsive-addictive disorders can be seen as the destructive protector at work. These behavior patterns create a “high” or “rush” or reward that gives temporary relief (protection) from pain, and yet create far more pain than they ever relieve. In the effort to protect, they become destructive.
Other forms the destructive protector may take include:
· The inner critic. That voice in your head telling you what is wrong with you, reminding you of your limitations and flaws, is actually trying to protect you from harm.
· The inner tyrant. Also known as the taskmaster, this aspect of the destructive protector will never let up on you until all of the work is done. And all of the work is never done.
· The cynic. That voice in your head that tells you what is wrong with the world and everyone in it was originally developed in an effort to keep you safe. Yet if allowed to run its course and have its way, it will cause you to become isolated, withdrawn and non-functioning.
· The fear mind. This aspect of the destructive protector will convince you that it is just not safe out there. In a misguided effort to protect, the fear mind can create absolute paralysis.
· The angry victim. Constantly convincing you that your problems are those other people’s fault, the destructive protector in this form can actually lead you into abusive and violent behavior.
THE LOVING PROTECTOR
When your anger becomes healthy, your warrior spirit is intimately connected with the power of love. The protection of your precious inner child is therefore always a matter of love more than fear-based anger.
The development of your sense of faith and optimism are a natural and essential part of this process. A belief in positive outcomes and an overall attitude that “things are going to be okay” will bring stress relief and comfort to your inner child. In extensive research conducted over many years, Herbert Benson, M.D. found that individuals with a strong sense of faith and optimism recovered more quickly when they became ill, and were less likely to get sick in the first place.
THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR
So how does this look to the world outside us? As the loving protector develops within, the spiritual warrior begins to develop in our relationship with the outer world. To get a sense of what a spiritual warrior is, think of the people you admire the most. You can use historical figures, celebrities, fictional characters or someone from your own life experience. What do these people have in common, and what sets them apart from others? Here are some of the qualities that come to mind:
· They are comfortable with who they are and where they stand.
· They go their own way, led by an inner knowing of their purpose and mission.
· They enjoy life and all of its little daily pleasures.
· They are at home in nature.
· They are creative, in their own unique way.
· Children are naturally drawn to them.
· They laugh heartily, often.
· They have a vision of their own place in life.
· They manage their finances well and successfully.
· They are aware of the beauty in other human beings, and treat each one with respect.
· Their physical health is robust.
· They are aging beautifully and gracefully.
· They realize their own greatness and insignificance.
The spiritual warrior has the courage to be creative and to express abundant positive emotion. Set your vision of the spiritual warrior you choose to become. See yourself already there, as you go about your daily activities.
Healthy anger fuels effective action. Healthy anger may not look, sound or feel like anger as we have come to know it. It is purely and simply the raw energy of emotion channeled into action to accomplish the desired outcome. It shows up as determination, enthusiasm, clarity, focus, energy, drive, consistency, fortitude, guts, courage, commitment, persistence, and resilience.
Healthy anger grabs the store clerk’s attention so that you get better service. All it takes is an enthusiastic, “Excuse me, could I get some help here?” with a smile, a clear voice tone and a lot of good energy. Healthy anger incorporates a tremendous set of skills.
Use your healthy anger to say “No!” to the messages you have received about aging. See yourself right now aging like you would like to. See yourself strong, fit, vibrant and well ten, twenty, thirty or more years into your future. Make up your mind you’re going to fulfill that vision. Write out a plan to make it happen. Use the healthy power of your anger to stick to your program and don’t let anything stand in your way.
You can live the life you have always dreamed of, and the pure, powerful energy of your healthy anger can help you get there.