Where does suppressed anger go?

Photo credit Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Where does suppressed anger go?

How does it turn into an autoimmune disease?

Dr. Gabor Mate, a physician world-renowned on the topic of childhood trauma and stress, and their relationship with physical and mental illness, claims that suppressed anger frequently manifests as autoimmune disease. He describes how it is often “nice people” who end up with autoimmune responses in the body. Along with abundant research, he explains the mechanisms involved in greater detail in his book When the Body Says No.

Gabor probably isn’t aware of it – this echoes Daoist philosophy.

His claims are aligned with Daoist teachings and understanding of the human body and mind.

Here is how suppressed anger turns into an autoimmune response from a Classical Chinese Medicine perspective.

According to Chinese medicine, diseases arise not only from external factors such as Heat, Cold, Dampness, Toxins, Dryness, and Summer Heat, but also from our internal emotional states. The Channel Theory of Classical Chinese Medicine maps these processes with clarity. As it explains the pathogenesis (progression of a disease), it provides us with ways to reverse the process as well as increasing the body’s ability to heal itself.  

Classical Chinese Medicine also teaches us that all organs pertain to and are affected by different emotions. Anger, as many of you might be aware, pertains to the Liver Organ. Anger, when expressed fully, dissipates via the Liver Channel, its nature being to rise upwards and outwards, but when it is suppressed, it needs to go somewhere. Let’s say that you grew up being told that “you need to share your things with your siblings, because you are the big girl”, “it’s selfish to do what you want to do”, “love is expressed by self sacrifice”. Or you grew up with adults who habitually express rage, hence you associate anger with rage. Often in these cases you learn not to “feel” or “express” anger, thereby growing the tendencies of a “nice person”.

Consider this situation – You want to go to sleep but your partner keeps on talking, you say that you are tired and need to sleep but your partner won’t respect that and keeps talking. Your boundary is not respected, and this makes you angry but you are conditioned not to express it.

In situations like this, the anger that is not expressed needs to be packed away. According to Classical Chinese Medicine, it goes to your Blood system, especially that of the Luo Channel of the Liver. Any emotional reaction that is not expressed and felt, lingers and goes to the Luo Channel of the corresponding organ, in this case, anger goes to the Liver Luo Channel.

Simply put, the Luo channels are attached to the Primary Channels and act as reservoirs in which to dump pathogens and hold them in latency until they can be dealt with. These pathogens can be internally generated, eg. the Qi of unprocessed emotions, or externally generated, eg. the Qi of a virus.

The Luo Channel in each organ has a limited amount of space. When it becomes full, it spills over to the Primary Channel (the Channel that has direct access to the Organ), making one become conscious of those repressed emotions. One may not be able to recognise where the agitation comes from as it may originate from a long forgotten event. The result of the pent up emotional stagnation spilling over to the Primary Channel not only makes one become agitated and upset, it can affect the function of the relative Organ itself.

One of the primary functions of the Liver from a Chinese medicine perspective is to generate Blood and store it. When Liver Qi stagnates, it causes stagnation in the Blood that the Liver is storing. When we have a lot of repressed anger, our Blood is doubly insulted from the Luo Channel and from the Primary Channel of the Liver system. In turn, it retards the production of Blood, making the Blood stagnate even more.

When Blood stagnates, it can create Heat in the system. Heat further damages the Blood, creating a situation which from a Western medicine perspective is labelled an autoimmune response, raising the inflammation markers. Depending on the state of your other systems’ relative strength and weakness, inflammation lands on places where first it is safe for your body to hold latency until it cannot anymore thus giving rise to chronic inflammation causing conditions such as arthritis or tendonitis, until it spills over to the Blood and other Organ systems.

This is how we end up with chronic inflammatory conditions such as dermatitis, endometriosis, arthritis, gastritis, diverticulitis, and all the rest of the -itis family.

So what to do about this?

Body is a manifestation of our Spirit. When we are young, we do not have the choice to choose our authentic selves. We needed to be accepted and loved by those who take care of us. We had no choice but to eat the foods we didn’t want to eat (insulting the Stomach system), be a good child (insulting the Liver system), and learn the behaviour patterns of our caregivers (insulting the Pericardium system). This is not to blame our caregivers, but rather to give compassion to our younger selves who were conditioned to become a person who believes that she is broken.

I understand that this may sound all a bit too difficult, overwhelming, and exhausting.

But essentially, your body has the wisdom to heal itself.

Shifting the consciousness that got you sick in the first place is the first step forward to allowing your body to heal.

From “I need to just survive another day” to “I can thrive from today”,

From “My body is broken” to “My body has the ability to heal itself”,

From “I am stuck” to “I am free”,

From “I am not good enough” to “I am enough”.

The invitation is here.

If this writing resonated with you, perhaps there is a part of you who believes that healing is available to you too.

But remember that healing does not happen in a vacuum. All our emotional damage occurred in a relationship. In order to heal, we need to be held in a safe relationship where we can safely explore the deep and painful memories that formed our beliefs.  Whenever you are ready, know that the path to healing is here. Through my own healing journey and through holding space for my patients who suffer from chronic conditions, I have witnessed over and over again that you are your most powerful healer. Because you are the only one who holds your own consciousness. Without you deciding you want to heal, nothing can fix you.

Written by Yanan Kim

A healer working with Classical Chinese Medicine & Compassionate Inquiry

Where does suppressed anger go?
Scroll to top