We often hear of the problems associated with widespread illnesses and mental health issues like depression and anxiety, but spend a single day out in the big city or some time in rush hour traffic and it quickly becomes apparent we are also in the midst of an epidemic of irritability, frustration, and anger.
Some argue that mass shootings and other extreme acts of violence are not as ideologically driven as we like to believe, but instead are symptoms of a cultural inability to understand, process and escape from anger.
Strong emotions such as anger can be clues that help detect physical illnesses before they fully manifest as serious problems. Anger has long since been linked to the health of the liver and the other organs in the biliary system, which cleans toxins from the blood and aids for breaking down fats in digestion.
If the liver is not functioning properly, or the biliary system is clogged or obstructed, then this can first be recognized in a patient’s behavior as irrational anger, fits of rage, and chronic frustration and irritation.
The Role of the Liver in Maintaining Vitality
Located on the right side of the abdominal cavity above the stomach, the liver sits just below the diaphragm at the bottom of the rib cage. Working with the gallbladder to produce bile, the gnarly green-yellowish fluid consisting of waste products, cholesterol, and bile salts, the liver is also looked at as a warehouse of sorts, controlling the flow of blood to the heart.
Ancient Wisdom for Peaceful Living
In the past, traditional cultures have had a completely different approach to diagnosing health, often reading emotional cues as clues to how the physical body was performing. If a person showed signs of being imbalanced in favor of one emotion out of the entire human range of emotions, then a closer look at physical was required. People didn’t use to have to depend on the onset of pain before knowing that their health needed to be addressed.
“The liver is associated with wood. It stores the blood and is the home of the hun spirits. Among the seven human emotions, only anger is of an intense nature. It dries up the blood and dissipates the hun spirits. The person who understands the way of nourishing the liver, therefore, never throws fits of anger.” ~From Zhang Huang, A Compendium of Illustrated Texts (Tushu Bian), Ming Dynasty
Even the English language acknowledges the connection between anger and the detoxifying function of the liver which turns toxicity into bile which is then ejected from the body by the excretory system. Consider the dictionary definition of the word ‘bile:’
- a bitter greenish-brown alkaline fluid that aids digestion and is secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
- anger; irritability.“that topic is sure to stir up plenty of bile”
As human consciousness operates on a continuum, moving between the high-end where peace and harmony reside, and at the lower end of the spectrum where negative emotions are found, anger is representative of the lower vibrational modes, which, according to Chinese medicine is one of the 7 emotions.
“Anger, as described by TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), covers the full range of associated emotions including resentment, irritability, and frustration. An excess of rich blood makes one prone to anger. Anger will thus affect the liver, resulting in stagnation of liver qi (vital energy). This can lead to liver energy rising to the head, resulting in headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms.” [Source]
The theory of a connection between liver health and the feelings of anger, frustration, and rage has been well-documented for many generations in the sciences of TCM as well as Ayurvedic medicine, referring to blockages in the detox systems of the body as a wood deficiency in the five element theory of human health.
Regarding the wood element:
What of people whose Wood is chronically imbalanced, who can’t level out? Aside from the many problems that can arise in relationship to the liver and gall bladder, imagine the perpetual anger and frustration of those who feel blocked in all directions, to whom every interaction is a confrontation. Such people are unable to experience growth and rebirth – unable to experience springtime within; they sense growth and change happening all around them, yet are stuck inside themselves, their lives so chaotic they can’t see a direction, a plan, or even how to begin. Or imagine how it is for the person who can’t see the forest for the trees, who is so fastidious that nothing ever gets started because it’s never quite right? It’s not that one would choose to be this way; but for a person in a state of Wood imbalance, there seems only one choice – this is how it must be. [Source]
The buildup of liver toxicity and resulting anger, along with the process of detoxifying your liver, is briefly described here:
“Your liver is a five-pound football-sized organ that sits in the upper right part of your abdomen, beneath your diaphragm and above your stomach. It’s an amazing, complex and intricate organ — second in complexity only to your brain.
“To a very large extent, your liver determines your overall health and vitality. You shouldn’t ignore it — and you should take care to improve and enhance its proper function.
“Your liver is the hardest working organ in your body and is connected in some manner to every bodily function.
“One of its major roles is to remove dangerous toxins from your body. Like any filter, sometimes it needs cleaning. Think about the last time you changed the air filter on your car — or your furnace. It’s full of crud, grime, dust. If you’ve been reading this newsletter for long, you know that toxins are a major cause of cancer.
“Toxins enter your body three ways: through digestion, breathing, and your skin. If your liver fails to work properly, those dangerous toxins take up residence, circulate throughout your system, and poison you to the point of death.” [Source]
An Angry Society of Gluttons
You can often tell just by looking at someone if they are an angry person, and you can also tell if they drink a ton of booze, as their face and nose are often reddish. Our society thrives on excess and over-consumption, and we have incredible access to abundant rich and processed foods, but most of all, our culture drinks alcohol and consumes sugar to the extreme. Fried Foods, processed foods, and chemical additives add more fuel to this fire.
Over-reacting is also a major source of violence in our modern world, and socially, angry adults are one of the greatest threats to peace, as noted by Slate:
“The poorly regulated adult with enhanced reactivity, impulsivity, and a constant state of fight or flight sees in every interaction the potential for being harmed and the necessity to defend himself. The angrier he feels, the less clearly he will think. His reactions will often be out of proportion to the situation, and he will be prone to violence. Because he sees the world as a constant source of danger, he externalizes blame, to his spouse, children, neighbors, government, and “others” in race, nationality, religion, or culture. Angry, blaming, aggressive, and unable to modulate his emotions, he can become a danger to others.” [Source]
“Violent crimes are committed by people who lack the ability to regulate and modulate their response to perceived danger. This is not a hypothesis; it is a fact. The individual who lacks the essential skill of using more sophisticated reasoning, perspective-taking, and emotional stabilization to regulate his more primitive fear and aggressive impulses will fall into the pattern of aggressive overreaction again and again, often with escalating levels of violence.” [Source]
As with so many health problems, the pharmaceutical industry would prefer us to believe that health and wellness is to be found at the pharmacy, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re already developing an ‘anger pill‘ to calm people down, publicizing it as strong enough to even take the steam out of the Incredible Hulk.
In reality, awareness itself is the key to better living and understanding how the body works can be the best guide to achieving healthiness and happiness.