Dear Abby: I am 21 and I have an anger problem. Sometimes when my friends, roommates or my boyfriend do something that annoys me, I feel so mad that I can't concentrate on anything I have to get done.
I'm having that problem right now because one of my roommates was mean to me tonight. I think I'm owed an apology, but I know I won't be getting one. I can't talk to her. I know if I do I'll just feel worse and we won't get anywhere. I can't even concentrate on writing my paper because I'm so ticked off!
Is it normal to get this mad? How can I control my anger better? Taking a deep breath and counting to 10 just makes me feel angrier. I'd feel better if I punched the wall, but the last time I did that I bruised my fist. Do you have any guidelines? – Consumed By Anger in Herndon, Va.
Dear Consumed By Anger: Anger is a normal emotion. Everybody has experienced it at one time or another. Most people have been trained to suppress anger from early childhood. But it's even more important to learn to express anger in ways that are constructive rather than destructive. Punching a wall falls into the latter category and can result in injury to you and possibly the wall, as you found out.
If it is channeled in the right direction, anger can be a positive emotion. Uncontrolled, or suppressed, it can be extremely harmful and even a killer. The challenge that everyone faces is how not to deny the feeling but to express the anger – or diffuse it – in ways that are productive.
In a situation like yours, saying out loud in a controlled manner that something has made you angry can be like releasing steam from a pressure cooker. It's certainly more productive than making a bullying gesture; hitting a wall with your fist implies that the next punch might land on the person who pushed your buttons. In my booklet "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It," I offer many suggestions that can help you manage your emotions in a more constructive way. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $7 (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. Please understand how important it is that you learn to manage and channel your emotions more constructively than you currently do.
Step one in managing your anger is to recognize that the emotion is building before you lose control or become so angry that you can't concentrate on what is most important right now -- and that is your academic studies. I know that if you learn to manage and control your anger, you will benefit greatly as you move forward in life. I have faith in you!
Dear Abby: If a couple has been dating for a long time and are sexually active, do you think he has a right to have sex with her while she's sleeping? My sister and I disagree about this. I feel it's abuse. My sister isn't quite sure what to think. – Cathy in Kingston, N.Y.
Dear Cathy: If someone has sex with you without your consent, it isn't abuse. It is rape. P.S. If the boyfriend in question is so inept at lovemaking that his partner snores right through it, then it seems to me that only the boyfriend is sexually "active."
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.