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How to Manage Your Anger – Part 2

(. . . continued from Part 1, where a case is made for the importance of anger management.)


Gary L. Flegal, Ph.D.

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Dr. Gary Flegal
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There are a few words that show up quite often in distorted and angry thinking. Learning to recognize and hear these words in our thoughts and speech will (almost) make working with cognitive distortions fun. This is probably the most fun of all the awareness tools and actually makes it into a game. The game employs an acronym to help you remember five words. The acronym M.O.A.N.S. is useful because the words that it represents are some of the most commonly used in stressful automatic thoughts that can lead to anger. When you hear yourself using one of “The Deadly Moans,” it will help you identify that some stinkin’ thinkin’ is going on and that you now have an opportunity to do something about it. Here then, are the M.O.A.N.S:

  • M ust
  • O ught to (Got to, Have to, Need to, etc.)
  • A lways
  • N ever
  • S hould
The Deadly Moans

Pay ATTENTION to the Deadly M.O.A.N.S. !!!

These words are not new to you. You have seen them throughout your life and have probably used them on many occasions. Presenting them as The Deadly Moans is simply a way to make them easier for you to remember.

Remember that there is almost nothing that you “Must” do (you do not have to get out of bed in the morning and go to work – it is a choice because you like the consequences of getting paid better than the consequences of staying home and not having income). The same applies to “ought to, have to, need to, and should.” And very few things are “always” or “never.”

Now begin playing with the MOANS everywhere you go. Start trying to hear these words in your thoughts and conversations. When you hear one of them, chuckle to yourself at your self-discovery. Instead of yelling at yourself, gently laugh at your awareness and playfully think, There’s one of those words. Recognition of the MOANS will help you to recognize a great many of the distortions in this very playful manner. Then you can gently rework the thought and try it again in a more positive format. Here is an example.

The Game of Life

There are rules to the game. Begin to play . . .

I am thinking to myself, Boy, I really shouldn’t have eaten that whole pie! Here is an opportunity for me to get really mad at my own lack of self-control. Whoops! “Shouldn’t” is one of those words! (Chuckle with delight that I even recognized it!) Let’s see. How can I rethink that? Okay. It would have been nice if I hadn’t eaten that whole pie, and so next time my goal is to only eat half a pie (or one piece, or whatever makes sense to your situation).

Or try this one. This elevator is taking forever! Other people are so rude! They shouldn’t take so long getting on! They are making me late! There are quite a few things to catch here. Is it really taking forever? How does this person know it is taking other people a long time to get on? Should all the others readjust their daily schedules to make life easier for this person? Are other people “making” him late, or could it be that this person simply didn’t allow enough time to travel from one place to the other? Perhaps it is difficult to take responsibility for his own actions and easier to blame someone else.

This becomes a model for how to deal with many stressful thoughts. When you recognize the stinkin’ thinkin’, simply replace the thought with, It would have been nice if I [did or didn’t do whatever it was], and so next time my goal is to [whatever seems to be positive goal for your behavior next time]. This model simply acknowledges that we are not perfect (it would have been nice if . . .), and sets us up to improve the next time around (so next time I will . . . ).

This model also offers you the opportunity to question yourself when you recognize one of the Deadly Moans. Ask yourself, “Is it true that they must do what I want them to? Is it true that I always get in the slow line at the grocery store? Am I catastrophizing? Is it really as bad as it seems? Is this an opportunity for me to practice slow, deep breathing?”

(concluded in Part 3, where the question is asked, “Who is responsible for making Anger Management work?” . . .)

Copyright © 2012 by Gary L. Flegal, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Flegal is a Behavioral Medicine and Health Specialist with a doctorate in “Health Education and Human Performance” from Michigan State University. He is an exciting and accomplished presenter and keynote speaker, presenting seminars for groups and companies on location and at conventions. His advanced training in stress management came to him while working in affiliation with the original Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard under the direction of Herbert Benson, M.D. and his staff. In addition to corporate presentations, Dr. Flegal keeps a busy schedule working with individual clients for a variety of stress-related issues, including anger management, quitting smoking, learning to relax and manage stress, and learning self-hypnosis.

Dr. Flegal’s other passion is magic. He has been a professional magician for over 30 years and continues practicing his art at every opportunity. These two passions work together beautifully as he illustrates stress management concepts with fun, visual, and “magical” demonstrations in his stress management workshops and seminars. It also allows him to share stress management with his magic audiences wherever he goes because “Laughter is the Best Medicine!” Gary also possesses Master level training in Reiki, a hands-on healing therapy. Gary Flegal is also a Certified Consulting Hypnotist, certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists.

Dr. Flegal’s specialties include stress management, anger management, positive behavior change, insomnia, smoking cessation, and exercise physiology. For individual appointments, speaking engagements, or more information, contact Gary at Professional Stress Management Services in Nashville, Tennessee, at (615)812-7280 or through his Web site:



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Posts by Dr. Gary Flegal

October 2012


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