DEAR ABBY: I am a 16-year-old girl, and I’m pretty popular in my high school. I’m blessed to have several close friends, and we always have a great time together. My grades are good, and I get along well with my mom, dad and little brother. So what’s the problem, you’re probably wondering.

I had an argument with my girlfriend “Amber” recently. It was over a “guy issue.” I won’t go into details because we did end up working it out, but Amber said something during the blowup that has me worried. She said that sometimes my anger gets out of control and concerns her. Two other girls who were with us at the time agreed with her. That floored me.

Abby, this is the first time I’ve heard about this. I mean, Mom sometimes calls me “Tammy Temper” – and has accused me of “throwing fits.” But my friends never called me on it. In the fight with Amber, she said my fists were clenched and she was afraid I might hit her. (I didn’t think so.)

I don’t want to scare people. I value my friends. I look forward to going to college and making new friends and having new experiences. I don’t want to have a reputation as a hothead. Can you help me? – “TAMMY TEMPER” IN HARRISBURG, PA.

Anger is a normal human emotion. Everyone experiences anger at one time or another. When primitive humans encountered a threat, they would react instinctively with either fear or anger, which gave them a jolt of adrenaline enabling them to fight or escape. It was a survival mechanism.

Infants show frustration by beating their heads against the side of their cribs, screaming or holding their breath until they turn red. Young children throw tantrums, yelling, kicking or hitting. But as we grow older, we learn to recognize what is upsetting us BEFORE we react, and learn to handle the emotion in acceptable ways.

My booklet “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It” contains techniques for handling anger effectively and constructively. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby – Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in this price.

Anger is an important subject. While many people have been taught from early childhood to suppress it, it is also important to learn how to express it appropriately. Admitting our anger verbally is one way. It’s like releasing steam from a pressure cooker, which is both appropriate and healthy. Mature adults express emotions without “throwing fits” or making bullying gestures. Because your mother calls you “Tammy Temper” and your friends are voicing concern, the time has come for you to take control.

DEAR ABBY: When saying the Pledge of Allegiance, should you put your left hand at your side or behind your back? – WONDERING IN NEW YORK

I was taught that your left hand should be at your side.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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