David E. Loftis, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Monday, March 28, 2011

Road Rage -- Who suffers?

There really are a lot of people on the road that are either incompetent, distracted, inconsiderate or entitled. Or to be a bit more generous, some of them are just lost and ended up in the wrong lane in unfamiliar territory. The ones that get my goat the most are the ones that race up ahead of a long lane of traffic, passing all of us that are waiting patiently. They are in what is obviously a left hand turn lane only, but they don't want to wait in line, so they push their way in causing the lane I am in to move even more slowly. I have fantasized that I had the power to cause all four of their tires to go flat at once.

During one of those days it occurred to me that I was getting all worked up, ruining what might have otherwise been a decent mood. I had ignited all kinds of juices in my body that would keep me negatively charged for many minutes after the incident had occurred. I realized that I had let this stranger have the power to mess up my day. That didn't sit well with me.

Since I don't have that power to make all his tires go flat, I could blow my horn, shoot a bird, yell and scream, race to catch up with him and cut him off, get on his tail and make him angry. I also realized that any of these actions could result in escalation and who knew how crazy that other guy might be.

So I decided that I would reclaim my power and not let these A holes get to me. Yes, they are often just that, but my getting worked up doesn't serve any productive purpose -- it just makes me feel bad (and I now know that those juices are not good for my health). Who really suffers here? Me! Not the other driver because frankly I am just unwilling to escalate the situation to a point of putting myself and others in physical danger.

I now work at keeping my cool for my own sake. I have no doubt that I am better off and I can get in my car without spoiling my day. The temptation is still there at times, but it really isn't too difficult to stay calm when I look at it as keeping my power. I remind myself in those moments that I am not going to let these guys cause me to lose control.

For me, I also find that listening to a book or music or a radio program helps to keep me in a calmer and unpressured state of mind. I work at allowing myself plenty of time to get to my destination and to not get stressed if delays are out of my control.

Can you become a more laid back person? Absolutely -- it's all about attitude and practice.

Enjoy the ride!