Let's talk about road rage.
Yes, those moments when people become enraged on the road. When all of the sudden, the driver in front of you cuts you off, or they're going too slow, or the light turns red before you made it through, and you freak out because you can't handle it.
I'm not just talking about violent road rage either. I'm talking about the type most people experience from time to time, when they're alone in their car, screaming. It's the same as the violent stuff, just to a lesser degree.
Here's the truth. When it comes to road rage, you're doing it to yourself. No one else is causing it.
It was only when I realized that I was responsible for my anger on the road, that I learned how to experience less and less of it. With just a few months of practicing what I'll talk about below, drivers that used to ruin my day are literally out of sight, out of mind within a few minutes.
Just this week, I witnessed two people freak out inside their cars because of things out of their control. When I say freak out, I mean literally, freak out. I could practically hear the screams even though both cars' windows were shut.
One incident happened on the way to work. We were stopped at a light - one of those lights that's green for only a fraction of the time it's red. As soon as the batch of cars up front managed to get through the seemingly inconsequential duration of the green light, he erupted. He took both his hands off his steering wheel and began to bash it repeatedly, over and over. I could hear his screams in my mind, even though they were deaf to my ears. It was violent, to the point of being comical.
There's nothing noble about what he did. Even if he didn't take it out on someone else, with that kind of pent up anger, it's only a matter of time before he can't handle the pressure anymore and does take it out on someone else. Imagine how he'll be with his coworkers when he gets to work. I feel sorry for them.
Another incident happened less than 30 minutes ago of writing this. I was looking for a spot in the coffee shop parking lot, when a woman seemed to be half-way backed out of her spot, but not moving at all. I stopped to wait and see if she would proceed, but there was no movement whatsoever. So I, along with another car behind me, proceeded to go around her, slowly, in case she decided to dart out.
As soon as I did this, she blew up like a volcano. Her hands started flailing every which way, slamming her steering wheel. Just like with the man, I saw her violent screams. With that kind of distress, it honestly looked like she was being unlawfully detained and trying to escape from law enforcement. Or, she looked like a 4 year old child throwing a tantrum in a toy store. Clearly, she was in an enormous amount of pain.
What's behind road rage? The tea kettle analogy
I share these two stories not out of judgement, but rather from a place of compassion. These two people, along with everyone else who freaks out on the road, are doing this to themselves. And I'm here to say, you don't have to do this.
Only when you realize that you're doing it, will you be able to not do it.
I will say it another way. Until you realize that you're responsible for all of your rage, then you'll always blame the outside world. On the road, it'll always be the other driver's fault.
Imagine you cover the opening of a boiling tea kettle. As it gets hotter, the pressure will build up more and more. Eventually the pressure can't be contained within, so it erupts.
When people get road rage, they've been covering their tea kettles for days, weeks, or years, and all that pent up anger just needs an excuse to come out. Other drivers become that excuse.
So no, in the moment it takes place, it's not their fault because they've been storing so much anger, frustration, and negativity inside themselves that it finally exploded. But the days, weeks, or years leading up to it, it most certainly is their fault.
So how do you deal with it?
You don't block the tea kettle.
The single best way to avoid road rage is to not store this anger inside. And you do that by relaxing while it tries to come up. Conversely, when you don't relax as it comes up - when you try to suppress it or you express it - that feeds the rage.
Relaxing is like opening the hole on the tea kettle. It gives way for the anger to release itself. Eventually, there won't be any more anger to release because you've gotten it all out. There will come a time when you're so used to leaving the hole open, that you won't have to consciously open it anymore. It will always be open.
So, the next time you're on the road and a driver does something wrong, a light changes color when it's not supposed to, or someone flips you the bird, just relax. You will feel your body tense up, your adrenaline rise, and your heart start to race. That's okay. They will do that. But you, you in there noticing it all, can relax. Let your heart, body, and mind do what they need to do. You witnessing it don't need to do anything other than relax. Take a deep breath, and let that anger pass.
Just like you witness the driver cut you off, you can witness the rage start to ensue inside yourself. But, unlike the driver where you might have to maneuver your car, there's nothing to do with the rage. You just relax.
Here's the thing. The anger is like the hot water vapor in the kettle. It wants to release itself, but that can't be done through suppression or expression. It can only be done through relaxation.
The long-term effects of relaxing
The more you do this, the easier and easier it will be to let go of anger. There will come a time when people will cut you off and you won't be affected by it. You'll remember when your day used to be ruined because of the slow driver in front of you. Not anymore. And you only get here by constantly learning to relax in the face of distress.
Watch it come up, and watch it go. There's nothing to do with it. Expressing it is just as bad as suppressing it. One just feeds it, the other shoves it back down only so it can come up later. Both are bad!
Driver cuts you off? Fine. Maneuver your car appropriately to stay out of danger, and relax. You've done everything you needed to do to handle the situation by staying safe on the road. After that, there's nothing left to do.
I invite you to try this for a week and let me know how it goes. Do you notice any difference in how you deal with frustration on the road?
Live with substance!
The next time someone cuts you off (or flips you the bird), don't get involved in the anger. No, I didn't say don't get angry, I said don't get involved in it. Let the anger do it's thing, while you do your thing. And your only thing to do is release the anger by relaxing.