The Chinese developed a system of relating various phenomenon together such as the elements, the seasons, organs of the body, emotions and colors, just to name a few. This is called the Five Phases or Five Element system.
The Wood element is associated with the season of spring, the color green, the liver and gall bladder organs and the emotion of anger.
Anger, when associated with the Wood element, also includes feelings of frustration, bitterness, indignation, wrath, rage and fury.
Anger often arises in the mind quickly, like it has been whipped up and flamed by the wind. The wind of spring sets the Wood element on fire.
Anger catches us unaware. It clouds and disturbs the mind and affects our decision-making. It colors our thoughts and masks our clarity and wisdom.
When it arises, unless we are very skilful, we grasp it tightly with our mind. We can take one tiny piece of anger and make it last for minutes, hours, days, weeks and even years.
If we are honest with ourselves, as human beings, we often experience anger. Some of us are skillful enough to be able to work with it, but many of us aren’t. Sometimes we can work with it to a degree, and sometimes not at all.
Holding onto our anger, or being unable to express our anger in a healthy way, creates an imbalance in the body-mind. It can lead to dis-ease manifesting as physical and further mental suffering.
On an energetic level, anger causes qi and yang to rise up to the head, causing us to lose our center. We seem to exist only in our head, losing the connection between our mind and body.
If we have strongly recurring anger, we often find self-destructive ways to avoid the feelings and manifestations of anger. We may try to distract ourselves with alcohol, drugs, by over-working, doing excessive amounts of exercise or by withdrawing. None of these work however, they just push our anger “under the carpet” and compound the situation.
Luckily, we have a choice: we can either let our anger cause us more problems, more suffering, or we can try to work with our anger in a constructive way and even use it for our own personal development.
Some think that anger has an upside in promoting growth and development. I think this has an element of truth to it; most of us only develop through suffering of some kind, and most human suffering involves anger on some level.
There are a number of ways that we can all work with our anger. The following quote is by Pema Chodron, on using patience as an antidote to anger:
Patience has a lot to do with getting smart at that point and just waiting: not speaking or doing anything. On the other hand, it also means being completely and totally honest with yourself about the fact that you’re furious. You’re not suppressing anything—patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. If you wait and don’t feed your discursive thought, you can be honest about the fact that you’re angry. But at the same time you can continue to let go of the internal dialogue. In that dialogue you are blaming and criticizing, and then probably feeling guilty and beating yourself up for doing that. It’s torturous, because you feel bad about being so angry at the same time that you really are extremely angry, and you can’t drop it. It’s painful to experience such awful confusion. Still, you just wait and remain patient with your confusion and the pain that comes with it.
A number of clients have come into the clinic in the past few weeks with strongly arising anger.
The first thing I do is work with the anger, even if this is not the reason the client has come in for a treatment. Acupuncture can be very useful, but if the anger is too strong, then other methods may also need to be employed. I often utilize a body relaxation technique that has the power to synchronize mind and body, thus producing a grounding effect. This technique is based on my experiences gained from practicing yoga and Goenka-style Vipassana meditation.
I ask the client to investigate a particular body part, observing if there is heat, cold, hardness, softness, movement or stillness. There is no mental analysis or judgement, just feeling. I then suggest that the client allow that particular body part to relax completely. We work through the entire body together, from head to toe.
Sometimes, I also ask a client to simply feel and be with their anger. This is an application of the practice of patience, as mentioned above. Being with strong emotions isn’t an easy thing to do, but I find personally that if I can just sit with anger or other strong emotions, then the potential harm that could be caused to others and myself can be minimized or avoided.
I also like to apply an essential oil, such as lavender, on the soles of the feet to assist in the grounding process. Being aware of the rising and falling of the lower abdomen (hara/dan tien) with each breath can also be helpful to re-connect our mind and body.
When we are feeling angry, frustrated or depressed, we may find that there is a hard or stuck feeling in our chest. When this happens, I sometimes try doing some gentle activity, like house cleaning. This can move the qi in my body and in the environment, (I believe that the body-mind is a reflection of our environment) and has the power to dissipate anger, frustration, depression and other strong emotions.
Lee-Anne Armitage is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, practicing in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Acupuncture) and has also undertaken studies in Japanese Meridian Therapy, Esoteric Acupuncture, Five Element Acupuncture, IVF and pregnancy support. Lee-Anne is a committed Buddhist practitioner and has extensive experience with Asian meditative disciplines, including meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and martial arts. Follow Lee-Anne on Facebook here.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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