5 simple and mindful steps to overcoming road rage.
Updated: Feb 23
Being in the driving seat of a car used to transform me into a complete control freak. The roads were mine and if anybody got in my way, all hell would break lose. Lots of honking the horn, gesticulating and shouting the high heavens down. I could not tolerate anybody pulling their car out in front of me, traffic lights turning red or the look of anybody who thought that they were better than me. I was a full-on road rage psycho.
I understand that a lot of people suffer from this affliction and I am well aware that if two such drivers encounter each other, there’s not going to be an amicable ending. As with most road rage perpetrators, it is mainly verbal abuse that ensues from an incident and fortunately very few people actually intensify the abuse to physical violence. I was in the mouthy camp and would have probably apologized profusely if somebody had actually got out of their car to remonstrate against my driving and maybe even cried a little, for added effect. The long and short of it was that driving around other cars (a very likely scenario) was not pleasurable in the slightest; especially not for anyone unlucky enough to be a passenger in my car.
My driving mindset, coupled with my cat hatred, as described in my last blog post, plus a huge number of other issues that I will explain over time, you might start to start to see why I felt that I needed to change something within myself?
I had no idea what I was dragging around with me for all those years and it was only months after taking up meditation that I realized how much emotional weight I was carrying and could observe the ways in which it was manifesting itself in my behaviour. To be consumed by an overwhelming amount of spite and hate had an incredible effect on how I psychologically functioned and it wasn’t until I started to release all of the venomous thoughts that I began to eventually feel free for the first time in my life. I was genuinely happy with myself, which I had never felt before. I am evidence that it works.
Since beginning my meditative routine there has been a real change for the good in my capacity for empathy and in my ability to respond and contribute to the world in a more balanced, positive and effective way. When it comes to driving, I’m afraid I can’t say that I have miraculously become a shining beacon of empathy but the anger and frustration that I previously felt have diminished considerably. As for my animal resentment issues, I found a considerable amount of solace in observing the peace that meditation was bringing to me.
Surprisingly, I think that my enraged driving has been the hardest of my personal transgressions to reconcile. I know that a lot of people have anger issues when it comes to driving, so here’s a brief exercise for you to try if you too struggle with road rage, or even just road frustration. I found the following points helped me a lot and I hope will help to calm even the most agitated of drivers among us. In order to dissipate and defuse the anger you instinctively discharge, you need to first mindfully observe the situation, before being able to substitute it for the peace you experience through meditation. As soon as you have acknowledged and accepted your state of mind for how it is, you have the opportunity to knowingly alter it appropriately in the present moment. If you can achieve a harmonious driving experience, you have every right to be incredibly proud of yourself for edging away from the poisonous thoughts that motivate road rage, so take PRIDE in yourself and in the way you drive.
Positivity – Manifest feelings of peace when you are driving and stay as calm as possible.
To help you to achieve this, recite these affirmations until you feel a sense of harmony within yourself:
I am peaceful and relaxed.
I can experience peace whenever I choose.
I am an intelligent adult, capable of taking care of myself.
I am comfortable in myself.
This activity calms me.
Realism – Don’t expect other drivers to be courteous.
If you drive with the expectation that you you have the right to be let into the other lane by the first driver you see, then you are likely to be disappointed. Experience has taught me that having our expectations shattered is one of the main causes of road rage. Learn to realistically assume that there will be rude, pushy and aggressive drivers and accept them as a problem for themselves, not you. Expect that others will treat you courteously where they can but, if they don’t, perhaps there is a reason other than those you can see (see E).
Inner Peace – Harness your inner peace whilst driving.
This will protect you from your own rushed reactions. It will conserve your emotional, mental and physical energies, saving you from anger, stress and anxiety. Even only partially realized inner peace will help you arrive at your destination happier, calmer and more safely than a nervous, stressed driver who lacks it altogether. By reciting the positive affirmations and nurturing them during and after meditation, you have a far better chance of achieving your inner peace.
Disassociation – Distance yourself from other people’s bad driving.
If you drive courteously, other people’s poor driving is not related to you. It is very important, therefore, to disassociate yourself from their driving in order to feel calmer. Take the attitude that it is their bad driving, so it is their problem, not yours. You didn’t cause it, so you are not going to worsen the situation by giving way to feelings of road rage. You choose which of your emotions to give way to and which to resist, so take a proactive stance and remain calm.
Empathy – Ask yourself why the other driver might be distracted
They may have recently received some bad news, compromising their ability to function. Perhaps they shouldn’t be driving under those pressures but maybe they had no other option. Maybe their partner had been rushed to hospital and there was no other way for them to get there? There are countless reasons why some people might be driving erratically, so shift your viewpoint from ‘they are inconsiderate, selfish drivers who need to be taught a lesson’, to ‘I don’t know why they are driving so badly, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt’. They may be going through a situation that is out of their control and, if you were in their situation, you might very well be driving in the same way. Help spread your inner peace by making their journey safer through your response, not adding to their problem by creating your own.
Through following the PRIDE guidelines, you can make a concerted effort to drive mindfully. Become mindfully aware of other people and scenarios that could easily cause an accident. By being mindful you are effectively one step ahead of the game and will not only be calmer but safer.
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