DEAR ABBY: I really, really need your help. I have serious anger issues. Almost every day I lash out at my mother, and it makes her very sad. Recently my mom went through a bout of depression. She has relapses sometimes, yet I am unable to control my yelling at her. I am 13, but I realize that I am already an abuser and I don't know how to stop. Little things set me off on a screaming frenzy at my poor mother.
Please help me. I'm afraid I will hurt her one day because of this, and I would never forgive myself. And please don't print my name and address. We live in a small town, and I don't want people to know. -- 13 AND SCARED IN VIRGINIA
DEAR SCARED: It is important that you pinpoint exactly what is making you so angry. If it is something other than your mother, then you're making her a scapegoat for what is really bothering you. If it IS your mother, you must find healthier, more constructive ways of expressing your anger than screaming at her because, as you have pointed out, it may escalate.
I have a booklet that could help you to understand and control your outbursts. It's called "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." It can be ordered by sending a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus a check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
Among the suggestions I offer in the booklet are:
"Recognize that you are getting angry. Admit that your buttons are being pushed and that you're about to 'lose it.' (By losing it, I mean expressing yourself emotionally, without control.)
"Some healthy, acceptable ways to express anger:
"Express it calmly without being abusive or calling names. Say, 'When you do ( ), it makes me angry.' And then explain why.
"Take a walk. Remove yourself from the source of your anger until you cool off.
"Write a letter to the person who has angered you, expressing your feelings. You may never deliver it; in fact, you probably shouldn't -- but you'll feel much better once you get your emotions down on paper and out of your system.
"When all else fails -- have a good cry. That, too, will lessen the tension."
But whatever you do, do NOT raise your hand in anger against your mother. If your anger is truly out of control, ask your mother to make an appointment for you to discuss it with a psychologist so he or she can help you form the tools to control it or channel it in a constructive way.