Play: The Antidote to Anger

What’s up world!? Here’s your weekly dose of happy and healthy.

This week is all about PLAY. This post is inspired from my favorite book again, Back in Control. When I spoke with the author Dr. Hanscom a few weeks ago, his stories sounded too good to be true. I asked him what the biggest obstacle usually is for people when it doesn’t work. His reply, “Almost 100% of the time, when a patient is not experiencing a full recovery, it’s because they are still holding onto anger in some way.” The ways that anger is commonly manifest or disguised will be covered in a future post. Today’s post is more concerned with how to deal with anger. Dr. Hanscom believes that PLAY is the most powerful antidote to anger. It’s often the piece that I see missing most often in my patients as well. I consistently hear stories like “I used to have fun wrestling and goofing off with my spouse before the pain started” “My wife and I used to go rock climbing together everyday” “I used to really love running”. But now they are in pain so they aren’t playing anymore. We also see a decline in creativity, social interaction, and memory when people have been in pain for a long time due to the effect that adrenaline (stress hormone) has on the brain (decreased blood flow). Here’s a short snippet on the powerful benefits of play from Dr. Hanscom’s book.

“I think that play is the most powerful way out of the Abyss. It is a complex, creative pursuit that lights up an immense part of your brain. As your brain is engaged in this degree of widespread and stimulating activity, the pain pathways will quickly become uninteresting and eventually, dormant.” I experienced this effect personally during Dr. Hanscom’s workshop when I was laughing while trying to juggle scarves and then had fun listening to music while learning a new dance step. My mind and body felt great, I was smiling and enjoying being engaged in a playful group activity. He goes on “Playing with your family is an activity many have not considered for a while. We get used to being in survival mode, and playfulness and creativity disappear. What can you do on a daily or weekly basis to create a household that everyone looks forward to hanging around in? Are you treating your friends better than your family? Are you critical of your family? What gives you the right to be that way? If you met your spouse or partner today, would you act the same way you do right now? Is it important for you to be attractive to your spouse or partner? Are your children excited to see you or are they on edge because they don’t know what to expect? Play will defuse the energy behind these questions.”

“Play is critical to pulling you out of the social isolation that so many of my patients experience. There are hundreds of research papers looking at the effects of social isolation. It is devastating. It’s a catch-22 in that you don’t feel like going out with your friends and you may not be the best company. That gives you even more time to think (obsess) about your pain, making it worse. Purposefully re-engaging with friends and getting out of the house is another effective way to LEAVE your pain pathways.”

“Humans evolved by interacting with other humans, and both forgiveness (blog post on forgiveness coming soon) and play represent deep interactions with others. As powerful as they are in allowing you to enter a new life experience, unwillingness to engage with them will keep you pinned against the proverbial wall. I have long said that processing your anger is the continuental divide of successfully solving your pain. Anger disconnects; play connects.”

Good stuff. If this was helpful to you, please share this with your family and friends, and pick up the book for more information. And then get out and PLAY!

In happiness and health,

Dr. McKay Murdock, Pain Specialist


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