When You Can’t Say No
Written by: Seada and Nadrah
When we make statements such as “I never get angry,” it is an example of a psychological defense mechanism called denial.
Dr. Gabor Mate studied the relationship between emotional distress, physiological disturbance, and immunological disease. The inability to say ‘no’–even when saying ‘no’ feels right–is linked to the paralysis of “negative” emotions (anger). This kind of emotional shutdown is associated with the development of various diseases, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Sufferers from asthma, psoriasis, and a host of other conditions also exhibited similar inhibitions.
People laugh at the notion of self-care because it seems incompetent to focus on one’s emotional health. But there seem to be connections between the brain regions that process emotions, the hormone-secreting glands, the nervous system, and the immune apparatus. What do you suppose happens to your body when you suppress anger? Your body in turn suppresses the immune system, thus creating internal, chronic pain. Imagine the results of decades of suppressing emotion.
Dr. Mate confirms what happens when we repress anger–it leads to the chronic secretion of stress hormones, which is known to suppress the immune system. When we are unable to process the emotion of anger in a healthy manner, hormonal imbalances can induce the immune system to mutiny against the body.
Anger can be repressed for months, years, even decades. Consider that incident six years ago, when your mother crossed an emotional boundary and made you feel violated. Or maybe you’ve had repetitive incidents with you sister, who takes your things without seeking permission. What about the time your best friend decided to leave you for someone else?
Holding onto pain disturbs the immune system. When the body abosorbs out supressed ‘no’s, our health pays the hefty price.
A hadith mentions that a man approached Prophet Muhammad (s), seeking advice in a rather rowdy manner. Muhammed (s) responded, “La taghdab-do not be angry.” The man repeated his request and the Prophet emphatically repeated, “Do not be angry.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5765)
Sp how do we cope with emotions? How do we express ourselves without anger and prevent the development of chronic disease?
Part 2 of this article will be up shortly!
Seada & Nadrah