DEAR ABBY: I'm a 15-year-old girl. I'm a fun person to be with, and I love spending time with my friends and family. But one thing sometimes ruins it. I have a bit of a temper and some anger problems. I'm wondering if you have anything that could help me control my temper and be nicer to people? I get into disagreements with people I care about because of my attitude. Can you give me some guidance? -- TESTY TEEN IN WISCONSIN
DEAR TEEN: If you think you are the only person with anger issues, you are mistaken. We are living in increasingly stressful times that have affected most of us in one way or another.
It takes self-control -- and maturity -- to react calmly instead of spouting off angrily. Before you can deal with your anger problem you need to be able to pinpoint what makes you lose control. The problem with a hair-trigger temper is that those who fly off the handle sometimes shoot themselves in the foot.
While anger is a normal emotion we all experience at one time or another, most people start learning to control it during childhood. Uncontrolled anger is destructive because it drives others away, making it impossible to maintain healthy, successful relationships. The trick is learning to express anger in constructive rather than destructive ways. My booklet "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It" offers suggestions on how to recognize you are angry before you lose control and how to channel it appropriately. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to Dear Abby Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. I hope it will be helpful for you. It takes maturity to identify and verbalize negative emotions rather than lash out at others. Being able to calmly say, "I'm having a bad day today," or, "When you say (or do) that, it makes me angry" will earn you the respect of others. And it is the key to defusing anger before you lose control.