April 22, 2002
ANGER: Control the beast. Use the power
M.J. McKeown, MD, FACOG, FACS
Anger is a powerful emotion and makes powerful changes in the way our body works. It is a basic human survival emotion that energizes age-old mechanisms of body defense. It speeds up our heart rate, it increases our breathing rate, it dilates our pupils, it shuts down our intestinal system and it energizes our basic metabolism and burns lots of energy. Anger causes our muscles to tense, and the adrenalin released leads to a feeling of anxiety and of being on edge.
Anger can be destructive to our bodies, our thought processes and our social relationships. One of the principal points of almost every religion is some discussion on how to control anger, forgive or leave the provocation and project a caring spirit onto the provocation. In these ways the destructive forces of anger can be averted in our own bodies and perhaps in our social interactions. The Eastern religions that discuss the forces of our bodies are particularly focus on quenching the fires of anger.
However anger and it's powerful forces can be used in one's achievements and in one's defense. Most disciplines that sell themselves as improving one's ability to solve problems and to achieve use the word focus. They teach one to use one's energy in a guided or focused manner to solve a problem. This is also true in all of the major martial arts. The martial art concept of focusing one's Chi to succeed in an attack is the focusing of the force of the anger of the moment. Frank Donovan, in his book, Dealing with Anger teaches one to analyze the causes of the anger and to list them and deal with them while focusing the power of the anger on them. All professions that work in an intense environment, race car drivers, combat pilots, front line soldiers, Olympic competitors, learn to harness and focus these powerful forces. The lesson to be learned here is that all of us can learn to focus and use these forces.
Numb, I don't hear, I don't comprehend
Numb, I hear, I don't understand
I am filled with comprehension and dread
White hot, coiling, uncontrolled force
Writhing, destroying like a firehose with no one at the nozzle
Power, needing control
Aim the power
Use the power
The body needs energy to survive. You need energy to have success with treatments of your problem. Undergoing therapy for a cancer is difficult. It may require surgery. It may require radiation therapy. It may require chemotherapy. All of these therapeutic routines require that one do their best to maintain energy and focus on the problem. All of these therapeutic routines use up one's physical and emotional stores of energy. These therapies can affect one's appetite and eating directly and indirectly. In a few words:
- Stay healthy
- Feed the anger
- Feed the force
Focusing the force of anger onto a clinically useful target requires one to discipline one's self and train in techniques to focus this energy into an attack on the cancer. Remember there are three major approaches to treating cancer:
- Remove it with surgery
- Kill it with radiation
- Kill it with chemotherapy
Each of these approaches to therapy has details that can be learned to better understand how the therapy is supposed to work and that can be the target of the focused energy of anger. Specialist physicians in each of these approaches to therapy will actually design and implement the specific procedure. The procedure will be tailored to you, the patient, for optimum good.
These procedures have specific aims and details of performance and these can be described to you and you can learn them. Once these details have been learned by you then you can focus the energy of the anger on these details to enhance the effectiveness of the therapy. The human mind is powerful, emotions are powerful and you can learn to mobilize these powers to help the specialists techniques to work. The specialists will teach you the details of how they believe each therapy will work and you will focus your energies in these mechanisms. If the therapy is focused on using radiation to attack some specific cancer cell function then you will learn the details of that and focus on that happening. If the therapy is focused on using chemotherapy to attack some specific cancer cell function then you will learn the details of that and focus on it happening.
Focus is the operative word and it is easily used by those instructing someone. However the one who is being admonished to focus needs motivation to do so. The combat pilot may get killed by an enemy unless he focuses. The race car driver may crash and be killed if he doesn't focus. The combat soldier may be killed by an enemy if he doesn't focus. The Olympic competitors will not win unless they focus. The martial arts combatant will not win and may be killed unless he focuses. Focus is the key and in all cases the motivation for the focus is to enter into a winning situation. In the case of focusing to fight cancer the winning situation is to live.
How to focus is the trick to be learned. The martial arts all start with teaching the student proper breathing techniques in order to focus their energy forces. It will be the same in fighting cancer. One can learn these breathing techniques and then progress to applying the focus that comes with these breathing techniques to apply the energy of their anger onto the specifics of the therapy being undertaken. You can learn these techniques of breathing because they are very simple. You can learn the details of the therapy being proposed. You can bring these two together and help yourself be an active partner in the fight against your cancer and you can increase the likelihood of therapeutic success.