Anger Management, Balance, Cognitive Reframing, Cognitive Restructuring, Health & Wellness, Hypnosis, Magic, Mind-Body, Positive Attitude, Professional Counseling, Reiki, Self-care, Stress Management

How to Manage Your Anger – Part 3

( . . . continued from Part 2, where The Deadly M.O.A.N.S were discussed as a tool to help identify the seeds of anger.)

Taking Responsibility

Gary L. Flegal, Ph.D.

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Dr. Gary Flegal
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Of course, cognitive restructuring requires something that many people don’t want: responsibility. How does it make you feel — what does it make you think — to consider that you have the ability to choose the direction of your thoughts and attitudes? Learning that having control over attitudes and thoughts means that you have responsibility for how you think and feel. Practicing this thought process means recognizing that others do not cause your thoughts and feelings. Are you willing to accept responsibility for yourself?

When I was an elementary school teacher, it was my custom to welcome my sixth graders on the first day of school in the following manner. “Welcome to sixth grade! I know we are going to have a wonderful year because I know that each of you is here because you have chosen to be here.” This caused an uncomfortable rustling and raising of hands.

“Mr. Flegal, we are here because our parents made us come!”

“Well, yes,” I would agree, “but you could have chosen to pretend you were ill so you could have stayed home. Obviously, you didn’t like the consequences of making that choice, and so by not making that choice, you have accepted the choice to be here.” This still didn’t sit well.

“But Mr. Flegal, the law says we have to be here!”

“So it does,” I agreed. “But after the bus or your parents dropped you off out in front of the school, you could have chosen to go out behind the school and play hooky in the woods all day. But you didn’t care for the consequences of making that choice, and so you chose to come in, sit down, and get ready for this great school year. You are here by your choice, and we are going to have a great year!”

A moment of silence. “This is going to be a long year, isn’t it.”

Taking Responsibility For Your Life

You are in charge of You!

As adults we do much the same thing. We give up responsibility for the choices we make and the outcomes that result by saying (and thinking) things like, “I had to do it. It was required. I didn’t have any choice.” And so on.

The reality is that there is almost nothing that you have to do! You do not have to get out of bed if you are willing to accept the consequences of your choice. Every choice has consequences. You do not have to eat — people can live for weeks without eating. You don’t even have to breathe — people make this decision every day, and we read about them in the news. Please note that I am not advocating these choices as healthful options. This is only a discussion to press the point on what must be done in your life, and there isn’t much if you are willing to accept the consequences.

Not taking responsibility for your own actions is a mark of immaturity as well as a symptom of distorted thinking. But if we choose our actions, then we can take credit for the outcomes, good or bad. When things go wrong, as they will simply because we are imperfect human beings, we have the opportunity to grow and progress. The lessons we learn are the basis of experience.

If taking responsibility for yourself is a new thing, welcome it. “Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them” (See Proverbs 18:15 in the NLT Bible). See yourself as growing and expanding your options as an accountable and mature person.

Responsibility is a key in cognitive restructuring and anger management. The reason is simple. Until you are willing to say, “Yes, I did that!” and to own the feelings that go with the event, it is not possible to be mentally balanced. Accepting justified responsibility is one of the marks of a mentally balanced individual. On the other hand, it is unbalanced to take ownership of things that are not really yours; for example, thinking that if my child failed a class, I must be a really bad parent. The key is just responsibility.

You now have a basic understanding of one of the major tools being used today in the field of anger management. Practice applying it to your own life so that it will become easier to teach to those in the groups in which you work and live. Begin by making it into a game to take the threat out of it, and then have fun “playing” with the idea of managing anger.

Are You Type-H?

Gauging chronic hostility isn’t as simple as measuring blood pressure. But your answers to these questions could indicate if you are at risk for heart disease.

  1. If an elevator you’re waiting for stops for too long on another floor, do you quickly feel annoyed?
  2. Have you ever been so angry that you have hit or shoved someone?
  3. Do you remember irritating incidents and get mad all over again?
  4. In line at the grocery store’s “ten items only” checkout, do you count to see if anyone ahead of you has more than ten?
  5. If your hairstylist trims too much, do you fume for days?
  6. If the toll collector gives you the wrong change, do you assume he’s trying to cheat you?
  7. Do little annoyances add up during the day and leave you frustrated?
  8. When someone cuts you off in traffic, do you flash your lights and honk your horn?
  9. Have you dropped close friends because they didn’t live up to your expectations?
  10. Are you often irritated by others’ incompetence?
  11. When your spouse cooks, do you watch to make sure nothing burns?
  12. If someone doesn’t show up on time, do you find yourself planning an angry speech?

Three or fewer “yes” answers: You’re one cool customer.

Four to eight: normal range.

Nine or more: Your hostility level is high.

—From Anger Kills: Seventeen Strategies for Controlling the Hostility That Can Harm Your Health, by Redford Williams, and Virginia Williams. Harper, 1998.


(On Monday we will get ready to take a vacation . . .)

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:




  1. Pingback: Today Is Monday — The Days of the Week . . . « Gary L. Flegal, Ph.D. - November 5, 2012

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