Taming anger with Oxytocin

February 19, 2015

It’s a mad, mad, mad world. Right? Well, thankfully not all the time. But it’s an issue, granted, for some more than others. If you are one of the “others” that seem angrier than your friends, spouses, boyfriends, colleagues, other drivers on the road, on line at Starbucks, etc. then maybe this blog is for you. 

Let’s start out by defining anger. No, I’m not trying to make you mad by insulting your intelligence by defining a word that we all know the definition of. Ok, maybe I am just a little, because then you will be on track to feeling the word, just a little, so that when I define other words I believe will help you to sort out your triggers you will be able to feel the real meaning of them as well. Check: empathy, but more of that later. 

Anger: its either a noun like rage, vexation, exasperation, displeasure, irritation, indignation . . . or a verb as in: fill someone with anger, provoke anger in “She was angered by his terse answer” or to infuriate, irritate exasperate, vex . . . 

There are varying levels of anger. Irritation is the mildest form of anger and has the shortest duration. Irritation is inevitable in everyday life. All of us have our little triggers. Often, little hair triggers to minor irritation: dogs barking, baby’s crying, secondary cigarette smoke, if left unchecked these can escalate into full blown rage with destructive consequences. 

A critical key to maintaining our inner peace during such irritation-triggering situations is to 1. Maintain a proper physical distance from the source of the offender and 2. Be mindful of your tone as you 3. Gently confront the source of the trigger with your issue. That is a hard one. I know because I tailored a solution personally after several years of trial and error. I have been going to a meditation spa in Los Angeles located in the heart of Korea town for 26 years. It’s a beautiful place with an underground artesian source of hot mineral water that is relaxing and therapeutic. It has plants and skylights filtering in indirect light sources, and waterfalls that give the beautifully tiled space a hidden grotto feel. I love the place. It has been the source of much soul, body and spirit recalibration in this big bad city. Not just for the water but also because the proprietors insist on silence in the spa area and have posted signs to the effect all over. Nevertheless, newbies, men, often in pairs, from some office or wherever walk into this, (my!) sacred space and immediately start talking as if they were at some happy hour. Very irritating! My sacred silence was ruined. When I was young, I would “Shhh” them with an irritating hiss. If they didn’t take the hint I would close in on them and tell them there was no talking. Sometimes they were apologetic and settled right down. Sometimes they didn’t and would shoot rejoinders like “Who are you? The talking police?” in full street voice. Then I would have to grab my towel and go prompt the management to handle the situation after which I would return to the 103 degree water in an attempt to cool off. Ironic, huh? Then I had an epiphany. What if, I conjured up a big smile and pointed to the sign on the rock wall that said SILENCE IS GOLDEN, please, no talking. Then gave them a non-confrontational thumb up hand gesture accompanies by an affirmative nod of the head? 

Wadda ya know? It worked like a dream—except for once; the guys must have been from Germany, France or Hungary where the thumb up sign is actually some kind of insult. Hey, can’t win them all. 

What I was doing is giving the offender the benefit of the doubt by gently reminding them of why we visit the place, to relax, get away, if ever so briefly, from the noise of modern life and to try to harness a little of the power of silence. We humans have stamped our authority all over the planet and I was attempting to stamp silence in the same manner. By empathizing with the probability that these men didn’t want to consciously annoy me or any of the other patrons, but were merely too focused on themselves to think about how they were affecting others. By coming to the realization that no real harm was coming at me, that they were probably just mirroring an aspect of myself that I distain—ignoring some of the world’s rules—I was able to empower myself to rise up to a whole new level of communication that didn’t release more bile in my own body. Bile? That’s a good word. Let’s go to the dictionary. Bile: a noun. A bitter greenish alkaline fluid secreted by the liver an stored in the gall bladder. 2. Irritability or peevishness 3. Either of two bodily humors, one of which (black bile) was thought to cause melancholy and the other (yellow bile) anger, probably of Celtic origin. Ut, oh, with a last name that is spelled McMullen I think I am trying to overcome hundreds of years of anger, no? 

Still on days when I can’t get to the therapeutic hot springs I can get to the same place with a few sprays of a homeopathic oxytocin for empathy I need to rise above life’s noise by understanding it.