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While the 'gokai' - the Five Reiki Principles - do indeed constitute a set of Moral Admonitions, many people, it seems, tend to overlook the fact that at least two of the Five Principles also - on a far more immediate, practical/material level - present as guidelines which are intended to be applied as basic 'preventative medicine'....

Do not anger (- and do not anger others)

Anger is essentially a function of our primitive, inherent self-preservation mechanisms - the confrontational aspect of what is commonly referred to as the 'fight-flight' response. Anger triggers a series of hormonal (endocrinal) changes intended to ready our body and senses for overt physical response to a potentially life-threatening situation:

When someone becomes angry, their heart rate usually increases; as does their rate of respiration - which also becomes more laboured. Blood pressure rises, the digestive processes are suspended; and as blood is drawn away from the liver, stomach and intestines to flow to the central nervous system and the muscles, the individual's surface temperature rises and they may feel flushed. Their muscles tense, they become agitated, restless - to varying degrees, hyperactive. They may find they are grinding their teeth, clenching their fists, they raise their voices, feel like their are 'fit to burst' - but also they can feel (in true Incredible Hulk style) that they are somehow stronger than normal, and full of energy.

This build up of tension, if not released (i.e. as rage/violence - be it physical or verbal) can have serious physiological impact on the body. However, it also seems that 'letting it all out' - be it by ranting and raving, punching pillows, or verbally/physically attacking others - also has a detrimental impact on the individual's own body systems (aside, that is, from any damage caused when you miss the pillow and hit the wall, or when the individual you are venting your anger on retaliates).

As we will see below, anger - whether expressed or suppressed - can make you sick.

An up side to anger?

However, modern psychology would have us believe that anger isn't all bad.
Anger can (temporarily) give the individual a sense of confidence, and the motivation to take action in an attempt to resolve the problem seen to be the cause of the anger. (But anger tends to impede an individual's clarity of thought, so while they may indeed be motivated to take action, the action they take may not always be either appropriate or effective).

Admittedly, some people do respect - even admire - what they perceive to be 'righteous anger' in others - viewing it as a mark of 'backbone', confidence and determination.

Anger can often get you what you want, but usually at the cost of alienating others.

Intimidated people may be obliging, but as an old Oriental proverb has it:
"Winning with the Heart is the best way"

A Buddhist Perception of Anger

In Buddhist thought, anger is perceived to be an 'unskillful' mental state, and categorized as a 'poison'.

The concept of 'Righteous Anger' is contrary to Buddhist belief - anger is not considered to be justifiable under any circumstances. The 'poison' that is anger causes the individual to lose perspective - they are unable to think clearly. Also, one who acts from anger will most likely trigger an anger-response in others.

Where anger is seen as a 'poison' - an 'unskillful' state of mind, the 'antidote' to anger is seen to be the 'skillful' state of mind that is Loving-kindness.
(Is it mere coincidence then, that the gokai (the Reiki Principles) begin with 'do not anger' and end with 'be kind to others'?)

Anger can make you sick: the physiological effects of Anger

While tensions arising as a result of isolated, and relatively short bouts of anger can manifest as parietal headaches, backache, or other aches throughout the body, frequently recurring bouts of anger can lead to physical symptoms ranging from dizziness and tinnitus, to hemorrhoids, to high blood-pressure, digestive disorders, and ulcers.

More intense, prolonged bouts of anger can cause far more serious problems as well as impacting badly on illnesses/diseases the individual may already be suffering from.

The Gall Bladder and Liver are particularly vulnerable to the effects of anger and can be severely weakened by it.

During anger episodes, the body increases production of Cortisol, which has the effect of suppressing the immune system, and likewise there is an increase in Adrenaline levels (both Cortisol and Adrenaline can apparently adversely affect the cardiovascular system); thus frequently recurring or prolonged bouts of anger can result in potentially irrevocable overload and breakdown of various bodily systems.

The cardiovascular system is particularly susceptible to the negative effects of anger - which include:
an increase in heart rate
rise in blood pressure
constriction in blood vessels (including coronary arteries)
thickening of the blood (which means the heart has to work harder to circulate it)

Chronic exposure to the effects of anger can ultimately result in the destruction of the heart muscle.

In a seven-year study, undertaken by Dr. Ichiro Kawachi (from the Harvard School of Public Health) involving approximately 1,300 men with an average age of 62 - results showed that the likelihood of developing coronary disease was about three times greater for those in the study-group exhibiting the highest levels of anger than for those who were prone to the lowest anger levels.

In a 1995 article from the American Journal of Cardiology entitled "Prognostic implications of stress-induced silent left ventricular dysfunction in patients with stable angina pectoris." the authors (D. Jain, M. Burg & BL Zaret) state:
"Anger is the effective state most commonly associated with myocardial ischemia and life-threatening arrhythmias. The scope of the problem is sizable-at least 36,000...heart attacks are precipitated annually in the United States by anger"

And according to the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Leo Maddow:
"Someone who stays angry long after the particular incident that caused the anger may be committing slow suicide."

Apparently, cerebral hemorrhages are commonly the result of a combination of arteriosclerosis and hypertension, and according to Dr. Maddow, anger can frequently produce the hypertension, which causes the diseased cerebral artery to burst, in turn causing a stroke...

* * *

The secret method of inviting blessings,
the spiritual medicine of many illnesses:

Just for today:

Don't get angry ...

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