DEAR ABBY: I have a problem I just can't identify. I suppose it's a combination of a lot of issues. I live with my boyfriend and work from home. When it comes to patience about almost anything, I have the shortest fuse. Simple things trigger me, and I flare up quickly.
If I see someone driving faster than me on the road, I resent it. Something on TV or even the wrong food will trigger me. My boyfriend takes the brunt of it. Other than my lack of patience and flying off the handle, everything is going relatively well. How can I get a grip and stop overdoing it when I get angry? -- SHORT FUSE IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR SHORT FUSE: You need to deal with two separate issues. Your tendency toward competitive driving is dangerous to your health and others you encounter on the road. Our streets and highways are dangerous enough without motorists treating the privilege of driving as a competition.
The purpose of driving is to arrive at one's destination safely rather than to compete with other commuters. When your stomach starts to tighten, ask yourself: "Could something other than road conditions be what's bothering me?" Then give yourself a pat on the back for your insight and ease up on the accelerator.
Although your boyfriend may have the patience of a saint, unless you learn to control your impulses, you will drive him and others away. There, too, it's important to identify what may really be making you fly off the handle. "The wrong food" or "something you saw on TV," while frustrating, are excuses -- not necessarily the cause.
I publish a booklet, "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With it." It contains suggestions for managing and constructively channeling anger or frustration in various situations. It can be ordered by sending your name and 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.
It takes self-control to react maturely without exploding. If the suggestions in my booklet do not help you overcome your problem, consider discussing it with a licensed mental health professional. Becoming more in touch with your emotions will help you not only calm yourself without losing it, but also maintain the respect of others.