The Positive Psychology of Buddhism and Yoga: Paths to a Mature Happiness

By Marvin Levine | Go to book overview

32
A Schematic, Physiological Model

Before starting the presentation of anger-transforming techniques, I want to describe briefly and schematically, the basic biology of anger. This knowledge will help us understand why the techniques work. Figure 32.1is similar to figures found in most textbooks for introductory psychology. It shows two nervous systems, the central (CNS) and the autonomic (ANS) nervous systems. The CNS, consisting of the brain and spinal cord, is more familiar. The brain, of course, is associated with perception, thought, memory, and awareness. The ANS is a network attached to and surrounding the spinal cord. It carries out much of the automatic "housekeeping," controlling the heart, glands, and arteries.

The ANS works in two opposing directions. When we are relaxed it slows the heart and the breathing, facilitates digestion, redistributes blood (away from limbs and muscles). This relaxed state is called the parasympathetic function. When we are under stress, however, when we specifically are provoked into anger, the ANS acts in the opposite direction. It speeds up the heart and breathing, inhibits digestion, and sends blood to the limbs, preparing the body for action. This aroused state is called the sympathetic function.

Figure 32.1 shows the effects of a provoking stimulus. Of course, that stimulus is outside of ourselves and must be conveyed by the

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