Dear Doctor George...

My wife says I have anger issues. I've always thought of myself as a mild-mannered guy, and my friends have told me that I never seem to get angry. But, I've been yelling at drivers on the road and feeling sick in the pit of my stomach. I don't know why but I seem to be getting more and more upset over relatively minor incidents. Do you think my wife is right?

... Explosive




Dear Explosive...

Temper outbursts often happen to the most "mild-mannered" people.

When we make too many sacrifices we get resentful-then one little thing can touch us off. Doctor George suspects that you've been biting your tongue in response to little things that bother you. The excuse you use for not saying anything is that the issue is so minor. But it bothers you and you haven't been admitting it. Eventually, all those little issues build up.

When people do things that annoy you, or ask you to do something that really isn't convenient, do you a find a way to tell them, or do you stuff down your feelings and act like everything is okay to avoid an unpleasant confrontation?

When you find yourself getting angry over relatively minor incidents, you can use the sensation of anger as a barometer. Those feelings are telling you something. If you learn how to respond, in the moment, they don't have to escalate into something explosive.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself: Do you express your opinion when something occurs that you feel is unfair? Are you ignoring your own needs to take care of others' needs, and then resenting it when they don't take your needs into account? As we learn to admit to ourselves and others in a conscious and caring way how we truly feel, we may find that we are less likely to have anger that is out of proportion to the situation at hand.

If you don't address these types of situations, it becomes abusive. Your anger will arise against those people whom you feel are abusing you. But, at the core of it, you're abusing yourself by allowing yourself to be treated that way and by considering your own needs to worthy of mention or defense.

When we do finally speak up, we may find that the person is unaware of how they are coming across to others, and when we point it out to them, they may actually change their behavior. As an example of an easily resolved situation, Doctor George was once teaching a class and his administrative boss criticized him in front of the students. Doctor George later brought this up with the boss and the boss apologized. This is a best-case scenario of course.

Some people don't want to face their own mistakes, so it's risky when you tell them something. It's a risk either way, because if you don't say anything and play the "good boy" or "good girl", you may blow up later. No matter what, it's coming out in one form or another. Also, holding in your feelings may lead to poor health, (heart attacks, cancer, and bad behaviors or habits that increase the chances of these diseases). The more you hold on, the more you will ultimately hurt yourself.

   Doctor George