The Ascension of the Lord (C)
May 29, 2019
Religious sisters, our heroines
May 29, 2019

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

Before bursting out of his clothes and changing into the fictional aggressive, green superhero creature called The Incredible Hulk, mild-mannered Dr David Banner in the 1970’s television series uses this line to warn people. He is aware that rage is about to transform him with dire consequences—something is going to be destroyed or someone hurt.

Clinical psychologist Reycine Mc Kenzie, explained anger can be destructive when it ends in physical and verbal aggression towards others. “Obviously when you engage in that type of behaviour it leads to regret, other people get hurt. It is unhelpful. Sometimes anger can fuel people in a way that they start engaging in reckless behaviours so maybe you are driving angry on the road so there is road rage,” she said. Road rage is harmful for the individual and others when accidents occur.

Mc Kenzie said anger can cause individuals to inflict pain on themselves through cutting or burning. Self-harm is not restricted to young people although a high percentage occurs in this group because the part of the brain which helps control emotion is not fully developed.

She clarified self-harm is not specific to adolescence or exclusively the result of anger and depression. “Anger is just one emotion that can fuel something like that,” she said.

If anger prompts you to assault someone, that is “crossing the line” and contrary to societal standards. The thought of cuffing, slapping, or throttling someone will cross our minds when someone gets us enraged because of rudeness, aggressive conduct, lack of respect for boundaries.

The Offences Against the Person Act has malicious wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm upon another person with or without any weapon or instrument as liable upon conviction of five years; and choking, attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle is also an offence.

Road rage too can land you in jail for four years if you use your vehicle “by wanton or furious driving, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, does or causes to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever…”

People who are often angry may abuse alcohol or other substances to numb or fuel the feeling. “When you are under the influence of substances, your judgement is impaired and you are more likely to do something destructive either to someone’s property… to someone else or to yourself,” Mc Kenzie said.

Self-harm also has implications in law. “Harming yourself even to the point of suicidal behaviour that also is against the law. In Trinidad and Tobago people don’t know that,” she said.

At the individual level, being in a continual state of arousal from anger and aggression can lead to hypertension and other physical disorders. Mc Kenzie said, “from a health perspective anger can be destructive in that way”.

Anger does not remain an emotion in isolation; it provides the space for hatred, unforgiveness and pessimism to thrive. The individual can rationalise that their anger has not been harmful because they are not physically or verbally aggressive and they are entitled to their feelings and opinions.

Mc Kenzie however noted being in a constant state of unforgiveness, hatred and pessimism can impact mental health and brain chemistry. “How it rewires your neural connections in your brain, how that impacts your hormone levels particularly your cortisol level which increases stress and that affects your physical body.”

She added, “You are just always irritable and angry with other people; you hate people or you are holding unforgiveness in your heart, those things can break you, not just psychologically, physically, health wise in the long run.”

Deacon Sheldon Narine at the St Anthony’s, Petit Valley outreach crusade on April 8, has seen the effects of unforgiveness.  “A lot of times you go to pray with people in the hospital, you go to minister to people and they can’t get better because they holding something in their mind, they holding something in their craw and they don’t want to let it go.”

“When you do not forgive somebody, you put somebody in a box but you also put yourself in a box. God forgives us our sins every day,” Deacon Narine said.