DEAR ABBY: I am becoming more and more irritated with people. My fuse is short and I'm prone to bursts of anger. Today I watched another driver run a red light, and I proceeded to honk my horn, lower my window and give the guy my middle finger. (Yeah, I know it was risky, but I couldn't resist the impulse.)
I am sick of people! They are, in my opinion, self-centered, inconsiderate jerks who need to be smacked. Stupid questions also set me off. I have been snapping at my wife and kids, which is not something I intend. What can I do to get a grip on my temper and not act out the way I have been doing? Is something wrong with me? -- REALLY A NICE GUY IN MICHIGAN
DEAR NICE GUY: The "Season to be Jolly" has always been stressful, as is its aftermath, when it's time to pay the bills. This last holiday season has been more stressful than most for any number of reasons.
Anger is a normal emotion. Everyone experiences it from time to time. But lowering one's car window, playing the horn like a musical instrument and giving other drivers the finger is not only unwise, but dangerous. These days it could get you killed. For the record, a bad mood is not a valid excuse for taking it out on someone you think has asked a stupid question. If a query is sincere, no question is "stupid."
Your loss of self-control -- if recent -- could be related to frustration or misdirected anger at something out of your control. Does experiencing these feelings mean there is something "wrong" with you? Not necessarily, as long as you find ways to manage your emotions before exploding. We are all human. We all make mistakes.
My booklet, "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It," offers suggestions for directing angry feelings in a healthy way. It contains suggestions for managing and constructively channeling anger in various situations. It can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus a check or money order for $8 to Dear Abby Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.
It takes self-control and maturity to react calmly instead of striking out in anger. Recognizing what is causing these negative emotions can go a long way to help you avoid taking them out on others. I sometimes wonder whether anger management should be added to school curriculums to help the next generation learn to communicate in a healthy manner, rather than simply reacting.