Road Rage: Learning to Respond Instead of React One Traffic Jam at a Time
So, I’ve got a kind of embarrassing confession to make: I get terrible road rage. If you haven’t ridden in a car with me this might come as a bit of a surprise. But, for those who have… I’m seriously SO sorry.
I spend a lot of time driving up and down a busy (and often gridlocked) highway, filled with other equally irritated and distracted drivers. People going too slow, people cutting me off, people riding in my blind spot — it all drives me absolutely crazy.
I’ll curse, I’ll yell, I’ll flip them off. And if some unlucky soul is in the car with me they’ll probably have to suffer through me ranting about whatever horrible thing another driver did for the rest of the trip.
To me, when I’m in the safety of my car, and I have no true interaction with the recipient of my negativity, I feel like I’m free to react however I want. And because of that, I turn my guard down.
I think I’m free from repercussions, but I’m not. That negativity I create gets carried with me throughout the rest of the day. And I establish a habit for myself of letting negative emotions determine how I handle situations that aren’t going my way.
Seeing Traffic as an Opportunity
The more I’ve been working on practicing mindfulness in other areas of my life, the more this bad habit of mine has bothered me. Even if no one’s there to see, even if it’s just me sitting my car blowing off steam by yelling at cars, I’m still letting those feelings control me and my actions.
Every time I curse at a car for going too slow, I get my mind a little more comfortable with allowing myself to react instead of respond. When I catch myself getting visibly irritated with a friend or the checkout lady or any other frustrating situation I find myself in, I think back to my moments of road rage. They conditioned me to react like that.
I’m working on breaking this habit by using it as an opportunity to practice responding instead of reacting. Reacting is letting your emotions make decisions for you. Responding is based instead on logic. It’s pretty clear, I think, how being skilled at this can tremendously help not only your relationships but your personal wellbeing.
When I feel that gut reaction to start yelling at cars, I’m working to remind myself to instead refocus on my breathing and to let the immediate situation pass without me reacting. Generally, when I do this, I find that it really doesn’t bother me as much as it did when I let my emotions think for me.
I’m not sure why I have this habit. I hate admitting this but I think it’s because it kind of feels good, at least in the moment, to give into those negative emotions. All the pent up frustration from the day from when you couldn’t let it out finally has a chance to be free with seemingly no repercussions. But road rage shouldn’t be your coping mechanism for every other tricky situation. It’s not sustainable and it’s not good for your mental wellbeing and happiness. Anytime we invite negativity into ourselves we push out a little bit of our happiness.
Do you have road rage or any other habits that impact you in ways you maybe didn’t realize?
How do you work on becoming more mindful?
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