With all due sympathy for those who find themselves trapped making a living from government grants, corporate funding or university purse strings, so-called scientific research is a wank. Research generally is a hollow, after-the-fact exercise providing data best used to win an argument or acquire more research funding. A friend once said to me, in derision of research, “Give me a million bucks and a university lab and I can prove anything.”
That’s pretty much the way it goes. Research results usually reflect the viewpoint of the person or group funding the project. How else to explain research examining the same issue and coming up with contradictory results? Funnier still is the perception that research somehow leads to original ideas. In fact, research is usually undertaken to “prove” or “disprove” something that has been going on for a long time already. My friend referred to universities now researching the benefits of grass fed beef, something centuries of common knowledge already supported. In one of many examples, after most of his contemporaries were already practicing rotational grazing, a university thought it necessary to spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to research it. Why? To prove that something that was obviously working was obviously working?
Mama said there’d be days like this. One sad reality is that many people find it difficult to observe and think for themselves. We think we need numbers gleaned by academia or think tanks to direct our lives. We give grace to data and analysis more than intuition and common sense.
So it is with anger and forgiveness. Moms often told us not to get mad. They coached us to “Take a deep breath and count to ten.” Most of us grew up knowing anger takes a toll. Yet the contention that it’s sickening to hold on to anger seems airy-fairy or metaphysical unless some science paper proves it to us. Well, if you need the research, it’s there.
Various studies tout that anger or hostility increases risk of stroke, atrial fibrillation, pulmonary dysfunction. Angry young men are three times more likely to develop heart disease later in life. Anger suppresses the immune system, makes cancer more likely and leads to many other health issues.
Another study linked the very act of getting angry to imminent heart attack, that even thinking about getting angry can cause deadly changes in the electrical impulses that control the heart rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Ever hear someone caution, “Calm down. You’ll give yourself a heart attack?” Turns out you didn’t need the research done at Yale University after all, did you?
“You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside.” — from Heart of the Matter by Don Henley. The word forgive comes from two Anglo-Saxon words meaning “let go of.” The meaning is so deeply associated with a debt that our attention is focused very much on the action, thing or wrongdoing we are asked to forgive. But the most important part is the letting go, itself. And the release that is required for true forgiveness is the release of judgment.
Judgment is a function of the conscious mind, not the subconscious. The conscious mind is the critical, filtering and analytical mind that is always judging. The subconscious accepts without judgment. To forgive is to let go of judgment.
The common idea of forgiveness is mistaken. The way most people look at forgiveness is usually like this: “You did something wrong; you wronged me, but I am going to be magnanimous and ‘forgive’ you. That is the misconception of forgiveness. Actual forgiveness admits no wrongdoing was committed at all. If we are still holding on to a belief that there was a wrong committed, we are not forgiving. Our minds cannot resolve a conflict such as that. If we believe a wrong was committed, the analytical mind requires that we exact revenge. With that as a benchmark of our belief system, the conscious mind can think in no other way.
However, if we realize that who we truly are is a spirit that cannot be harmed by the physical acts of another, forgiveness is natural. And healing can occur at once. Form follows thought, not the other way around.
Forgiveness requires only release of judgment of the action of another. Often, we become discouraged by thinking that we have to come up with an alternative way to look at someone. We don’t. We simply have to be willing to let go of what we’re thinking about them. For example, it’s daunting to try to think of someone who really did, say, steal something from you, as a nice person. We don’t have to think them into an angel; that may be a stretch. We have only to be willing not to hold on to the idea that they are bad. Nature fills a vacuum. When we let go of the feelings of anger and judgment, love will enter automatically. That is healing.
Everyone knows the feeling in the body that is present when we are angry. The heart races. It’s hard to take a deep breath. Our stomach tightens. We can feel our blood pressure rise. And those are merely the gross physiological symptoms that we notice. Consider the subtle changes to body chemistry and the immune system. Everything. None of it’s good. Instead of holding on to a perceived grievance, let go. It’s healthier for you.
Heartland Healing examines various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information, not as medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Access past columns at www.HeartlandHealing.com