Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You just had a soothing, tranquil experience with a pal, your life coach, at a Reiki share, or some other place and you feel calm, cool, collected and in love with the whole world and everything in it.
Then you get behind the wheel of your car.
Before you even make it to that first red light, you’re already swearing and screaming at the putt-putt driver in front of you or some junky jalopy that just cut you off. All that calmness, coolness and love has somehow flown out the window with the coffee cup you hurled in the direction of the jalopy’s back window.
What the heck happened? Why is it so tough for some of us to remain serene when we’re driving our cars?
Since it happens often enough to me to actually make it the topic of my art therapy project on aggression (pictured above), I decided to dig further into this embarrassing and annoying phenomenon.
What is road rage?
First, let’s look at the definition of road rage, with which I’m being pretty loose. For me, road rage can be defined as a frenzied state of mind that usurps all other feelings and thoughts while making me act like a big jerk on the road. And it can probably get us shot if we keep it up long enough.
What causes road rage?
In my case, I was able to trace it back to a small handful of causes.
- Sense of entitlement: The feeling that it’s my road and everyone else is put there for the sole purpose of getting in my way.
- Sense of power and anonymity: Just like internet trolls act out behind the anonymity of the screen, some folks act out behind the anonymity of a tinted windshield – from the safety of a big, metal protective cage, to boot.
- Crankiness: When I do leave the house, it’s sometimes to go somewhere I don’t feel like going at a time I don’t feel like going anywhere. That means I enter the scene with crankiness already brewing in my head.
- Tucson drivers: The drivers here in Tucson are far worse than any others I’ve seen anywhere, ever. Even in Brooklyn and Manhattan. They actually SLOW DOWN when they see a green light. I’m not kidding.
How to deal with road rage
My favorite option for avoiding road rage is simple: don’t drive. Since I work at home and pretty much only leave the house when hell freezes over every other Wednesday, I use this option a lot. But it’s not as much a solution to road rage as it is plain ole avoidance.
If you must drive to get somewhere, I found a few tips that can help quell the road-raging monster inside. For me to even make it to the first red light without a tantrum, it’s essential to remember a few key things:
The road is not mine alone. Other people can use it, too.
Cars are NOT there just to get in my way. Well, at least most of them probably aren’t.
Other drivers are people, too. When you strip away the anonymity of the vehicle, it’s essential to remember there’s a person inside. A person just like us, who has hopes, dreams, places to go, things to do and the annoyance of driving in Tucson to get there. Give them a break. Heck, maybe even let them in ahead of you (as long as they don’t end up putt-putting along).
One last tip came from my art therapy session on the topic of aggression, where I shared my Road Hog Javelina artwork along with my road rage discussion. The doc who runs the group offered another dandy way to look at things.
He noted that every time I react in anger to another driver, or alter my behavior to show that anger, I’m essentially giving that driver my power. Just giving it away and letting THEM dictate how I act. Hmmmmm. While I have yet to give this one a whirl in action, it does sound wise and promising. It may even work extra well if I learn to leave my coffee cup at home.
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