DEAR ABBY: I am 28 and I'm disgusted with myself about how I talk to my mother when I'm stressed out. I know it's not her. It's me.
My other issue is road rage. When I'm behind the wheel and the cars ahead of me are going too slow or the drivers make stupid moves, I'm annoyed to the point that I sometimes take risky chances to get away from them. I know it puts my life and the lives of others at risk, and I don't want to be like this.
I sometimes wonder why my parents didn't teach me ways to tone down my anger when I was younger. I'm lucky they still love me, even when I snap at them. Do you have any tips on how to control my temper? -- SIMMERING IN SUBURBIA
DEAR SIMMERING: If you think you are alone in having these issues, you are mistaken. We are living in increasingly stressful times that have affected most of us in one way or another. If, however, you continue allowing your stress to dictate your behavior, it may eventually drive a wedge between you and the people you care about.
It's important that you realize anger is a normal emotion. At one time or another, anger is experienced by everyone. Recognizing what is causing your stress and anger can help you to avoid taking it out on others.
It takes self-control -- and maturity -- to react calmly, instead of reacting angrily. Being able to identify what's triggering the anger and causing you to verbalize it can help to prevent an outburst. Instead say, "When you do or say that, it makes me angry." Or try saying, "Mom, I'm stressed right now. Can we discuss this later?" Or, "I've had a really rough day. I need to be alone for a little while." Then go for a walk to help you to regain your perspective. Developing the ability to do this will not only lessen your guilt, but also earn you the respect of those with whom you interact. My Anger Booklet contains many suggestions for managing and constructively expressing anger in various situations. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $7 in 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. As to your "over the top" reactions when you are in your car driving, try to remember that we are all human and make mistakes. I have made them, and so have you.
If you must drive during rush hours, try listening to music or an audio book. And count to 10 before you hit the accelerator. Avoid blasting the horn or making rude gestures. (Screaming is permissible as long as your windows are closed.)
People who lose control not only can get hurt in a variety of ways, but also hurt others -- including innocent bystanders. That's why it is very important to be able to express anger in healthy ways.
We are living in a time when the anger level in our society has reached new heights. As we have seen all too often in news reports, explosive anger is the most dangerous of all. Perhaps constructive anger management should be taught in schools to help people more effectively communicate in a healthy manner.