Monday, February 9, 2015

Seven Deadly Sins - Wrath

Envy was an easy one. It's one I think we all naturally experience from time to time, perhaps without even noticing. Choosing a second is harder, as I experience the rest less frequently to rarely at all (I may have experienced "sloth" when I had a bad bout of Epstein Barre in 5th grade and it may have been the one and only time).

For this second blog, I've chosen wrath. Because I wanted to distinguish wrath from just every day anger, I looked up the definition.

Wrath: strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire

Basically, wrath is anger with a few shots of Red Bull. Now that I know the definition, I realized I was wrong. I do experience wrath, more than I thought. I experience wrath when I hear ignorant stigma against mental health. I experience wrath when someone uses my condition as a scapegoat (You're the crazy one, it must be your fault, why should I listen to you?). I experience wrath when people call me lazy because I can't move in a depressed state, or a baby because I'm crying over an emotional pain that they can't possibly understand because they aren't depressed. I experience wrath when people tell me I just need to "look on the bright side" or "adjust my attitude". I experience wrath at myself, when the fog clears after a particularly hypomanic state and I see the way I've acted. I experience wrath at myself for not controlling it, despite knowing that there's a good chance I can't. 

Wrath is dangerous. It's one of the most dangerous of the deadly sins, in my opinion. I've seen and experienced people act ways in a wrathful state that they'd never act otherwise. I've watched it transform good, loving, caring people into monsters. They key, I believe, to controlling wrath, other than just not letting it occur, is to recognize it. Understand that it is a normal emotion, anger, taken to the next level, and that in order to contain it, it must be brought down to that normal emotion again. Studies have show that anger is an automatic emotion for the first 90 seconds, and after that, it becomes a choice. We choose to drop it (or at least to start to let it recede), or to escalate it. At some point, it once again seems to go out of our control again - it takes on a mind of it's own, and I think it's at this point that it turns into wrath. 

When we feel this, we need to talk our selves down from the ledge. Back away, instead of act on it. Stop, breath, take a walk, get out of the situation that's making us angry. If you know you tend toward this type of feeling, choose someone trusted, who won't abuse the power, to let you know when they think you're in danger. Have them suggest stepping away, or doing something else until you feel better. Have them remind you, or remind yourself, that this type of anger never leads to something good. If you need to get the built up energy out, go somewhere soundproof and scream, hit a heavy bag or a pillow (these are therapy-approved tactics, by the way). Do whatever you need to do to release the energy in a way that's not harmful to yourself or others. 

Things such as normal sleeping, eating, and exercise habits can help us to keep from getting angry unnecessarily, and therefore can ultimately help control wrath. Tactics like meditation and mindfulness can help us to react more calmly when and curb that anger after the initial involuntary 90 seconds. While anger can be used as a motivator, nothing good happens when it gets to the wrath stage. At best, we work ourselves up and hurt someone's feelings. At worst, we hurt someone else or ourselves. 

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