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Mastering Anger/Burned Out, sort of Anger


My name is Alex, and I'm 20. I guess I'm feeling angry because I think maybe I'm feeling burned out.

First I never had a job. I really wanted to get one the day I turned 16, but the only stuff I could get was fast food. My mom was really against that. As a result I've never had a job, or the experience of one.

My mom is a hypocrite in my eyes. When it's just me and her, she's like me. She wants to get stuff done, and move on to something else. But like this one time I mowed and it wasn't absolutely perfect, so I got in trouble. I asked why he (her husband) had such a dick in his ass about it, and she gives me this lecture on the difference between doing things right, and doing things fast. I'm like "It's just a lawn. I'm not curing cancer, it's a lawn that's going to grow back."

I never got along with either of my father figures. My real dad has been an alcoholic since I was about 4. My mom didn't divorce until I was 17, so I don't consider Ray her new husband as my stepdad. I'm not saying he's a bad person, but he has the biggest stick in his ass of anyone I've ever met. No lie just a bit before writing this, I got chewed out. The reason? I put a remote on the couch, and oh gosh someone might sit on it, and change the channel. When he gets in rant mode, he combines raising his voice, with talking down to me, like I'm a 5 year old.

Back to my mom. She alternates between doing everything for me, and then tearing me down, telling me I need to get a job, and then telling me I can't get a job because I have no experience. It's really confusing.

I guess I'm just feeling lost, and burned out. Can you help?

Hi, Alex,

Please forgive my delay in responding to your question. I was out of town for my Granddaughter's birthday celebration, unavailable to check e-mail.

You're in a very difficult situation. I'm sad to hear of your distress. Let me cut to the chase in answering you.

The bottom-line issue is that you're ready to grow up and you haven't really started doing that, yet. From reading what you've written, I hear more about your mother, father figures and the lawn than I hear about what you are doing in your own life. I don't believe a lot of this will clear up for you until you begin to make a life of your own.

How old do you need to be to get a job? At 20, do you still need to ask your mother's permission to go and apply for a job and start working? I say "no." And I believe a lot of the source of your anger is because you're "stuck" and not going forward with your life in a way that is right for you. My advice is "get going"!

What happens in our family as we're growing up is powerful and important, but it doesn't have the power to mess up our adult life unless we allow it to. It's easier to move toward our adult wholeness when we're thinking about our own selves, and not others. Ask yourself:  "What do I need or want right now?" "How can I create this for myself?" "As an adult, who makes decisions for me?" "What have I come to this planet to offer to the world?"  When you discover answers to some of these questions, you'll start feeling better. And you don't have to have the whole answer all at once. The most important thing is to start asking them, then start listening, then start taking some action.

It also seems that one of the difficulties for you is that you're still living with your Mom. How about getting a place of your own? If you could stay with a friend for a few weeks, or get a job and save money so you can pay for renting your own room somewhere, you're going to be better off. It's really difficult to be a grown up when you're being dependent upon others--almost impossible!

Anger results when we have an idea of how things are supposed to be in life, and they don't go that way. It's reasonable and natural for you to be angry about all that has transpired with your mother and her partners (especially as that affects you), but staying angry with them and with what has happened only hurts you! When we stay angry, the energy of that anger eats us up inside. It can destroy self-esteem, keep us from being successful, and even make us sick. Instead of staying where you are and staying angry, start moving toward what you want to BECOME (and stop obsessing over what you want to overcome--like the issues with your mom and her husband). It's your life. You and you alone are responsible for it. Start deciding what kind of a life you want to have now that you're grown!

I think you have a lot of work ahead of you, Alex, on an emotional basis. When you get established on your own, I also think it would be a great idea for you to get some psychotherapy, so you can release the anger and pain you have inside of you. I had a LOT of anger and pain in me when I was your age. A wise person told me that the sooner I could change those patterns and release the anger and pain, the better my entire life would be. I took her advice. Boy, am I glad I did. It made a huge difference to release all that junk and start creating the life I really wanted to have. If I can do it, BTW, so can you!

Please rate this answer before leaving this site.

Thanks, Alex. My best to you in your coming of age!


Mastering Anger

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Ilene L. Dillon, M.S.W.


As a "Recovering Angry Person" and psychotherapist, I have thoroughly explored Anger and its related emotions, hurt, fear, depression and guilt. I'll give a free half-hour of coaching to anyone who can ask me a question I cannot address!


36 years as a family, individual and group psychotherapist. 15 years of teaching for California Probation Officers and Psychotherapists. Author of "Exploring Anger with Your Child" (now "The ABCs of Anger in its updated version). Personal, clinical and group work with anger, including in the parenting arena.

C.A.M.F.T. (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists) N.S.A. (National Speakers Association) Professional Member since 1984

Magazines: Woman's Day, Personal Excellence, Care Notes Newspapers: Marin Independent Journal, The FAX, San Francisco Chronicle, in-house publications for therapy organizations Books and CDs: Total of 17 published works (

M.S.W. from University of California in Berkeley Two California Licenses: Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker Lifetime Jr. College Instructor License in California Host of Internet radio program (since 2004)Full Power Living, focused on "awakening the world to the power and importance of human emotions"

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