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You Can't Make Me Angry

By Dr. Paul O

Available March 31, 2002

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Capizon Publishing        ISBN13: 978-0-9659672-1-1        172 pages       Retail Price $15.00

From the back cover: 

"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” You may already know of Dr. Paul’s simple yet profound wisdom in the frequently quoted passage from his story in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Dr. Paul continues sharing his experience, strength and hope in this, his second book, “You Can’t Make Me Angry”:

"By the time you put this book down, you will be convinced that people and circumstances don’t make us angry; we make ourselves angry. People can’t make us angry—unless we let them. We alone are responsible for our feelings.

A measure of the effectiveness of communication is the result it produces. If you don’t like the results you are getting when communicating with another person, there’s a great deal you can do about it. I’m not willing to let any thing or any person put my physical sobriety at risk; why should I put less value on my emotional sobriety?

For physical sobriety, we had to give up drinking, and for emotional sobriety, we have to give up blaming others. No longer can we say, “You made me angry!” Instead, we must accept personal responsibility for our emotional state. This much responsibility may seem extreme, yet in fact it is a great freedom. Henceforth, no person or situation can upset us if we don’t give them or it permission to do so. What could be a greater freedom than that?

Emotional maturity is like serenity. The first time I felt serene, I wondered what was happening, but I liked the feeling and wanted more. The more I got, the more I wanted. Serenity is addictive."

Excerpts from You Can't Make Me Angry.

I can’t prove it’s true, but I choose to believe people treat me the way I’ve taught them to treat me. This creates a big responsibility for me. It means that if I don’t like the way someone is treating me, I can alter their behavior by first changing my own. I can have a positive influence on the situation. Since I have, by my behavior, taught them to treat me the way they are treating me, I can often, by changing my behavior, teach them to treat me differently.  If I want them to change, I must change first. It is a basic psychological teaching that if we want to change the way we feel, we must first change the way we act.

* * *

If you remember only the title of this book, you will have come a long way, a longer way than many people in our society, in maintaining your serenity and peace of mind.

* * *

In 1990 I gave Max a written Declaration of Emotional Independence. It stated that she was no longer responsible for my feelings and I was no longer responsible for hers. My anger and all my feelings, I admitted, came from me, not from her. From that point on, I could no longer say, “You made me angry.” I could only say, “I chose to get angry when you did what you did.” 

* * *

All of this is what makes “victimhood” so popular. As victims, we aren’t responsible for our lives. We blame someone else. However, this statement is true for me, and it’s true for every one else: My life is my responsibility. The circumstances of my life don’t determine the quality of my life; the quality of my life is determined by my reaction to circumstances.

* * *

As we grow in the program, we realize that assigning blame is not only a waste of time, it is a serious impediment to emotional independence and peace of mind. It really doesn’t matter who is to blame. That’s not the important question. The important question is who will be the first to take a leadership role in recovery? Who will be the first to surrender, to call a truce, to bring joy and love back into the relationship?
Instead of competing to see who will win the argument, let the spirit of competition determine who will be the first to give in, the first to accept the fact of the situation and change it. In a very important sense, the first to surrender wins.

* * *

Our emotional distress often arises from our expectations of others—either expecting too much and not getting it, or expecting too little and getting it.

* * *

And one more time I realize that if I want to change my feelings, I must first change my actions and my thinking—mine, not theirs. I cannot let their behavior be more important to me than my emotional sobriety, my serenity. No matter how much I love them, no matter how much I care about them, no matter how important their welfare is to me, I must watch my priorities. I must value my serenity ahead of their behavior.

* * *

In an attempt to improve my communication with my Higher Power, I’ve recently been modifying the Serenity Prayer. I say, God, grant me the serenity to calmly accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change my attitude, and the wisdom to enjoy life’s journey.

Copyright © 1999 by Dr. Paul O.

Published by Capizon Publishing

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