on road rage

for someone who drives so little, the most pointless of behaviours. and my struggle to conquer it.

passive-aggressive

I don't drive much. If teleportation was a thing, I'd be happy to never have to drive places anymore. I understand that's sacrilegious to some people - just like how if there was a pill you could take to be strong, I'd still rather try and lift weights.

For someone who drives as little as me - my commute to work is about 2 km - road rage is just stupid. While I don't yell or shake my fists, I get rather annoyed and passive-aggressive. I've been known to give the finger occasionally.

When I am driving to coach classes at 4.30 am in the morning, one thing I learned was apparently there are no rules. One-ways and traffic lights come into play only after dawn. I have to drive through a one-way (where I go in the right way) for a 200 metre stretch on the main road and pretty much every day, there are vehicles coming down the wrong way. This riles me up and I get rather passive-aggressive about it. I'll flash my lights, I'll drive in the right lane and get rather close to them and force them to slow down. I behave like a complete jerk, basically.

unhealthy and pointless

In one of my chats with my therapist, I was chatting with her about how before I work on larger issues, whatever they might be, shouldn't I be able to rectify silly issues like this pointless road rage? She agreed and thought it'd be a concrete but small thing to tackle.

And then, well, Covid-19 happened and I didn't fancy Zoom sessions with her. Plus, my driving became zero and so the road rage was solved by not being on the road.

But it was one of those things that I had in my head, something I'd like to rectify. I don't think any of us do anything sensible when we are stupidly angry. I've read stories of elite athletes who use anger to motivate them and I've seen a few friends do that as well. But it has never worked for me. Anger only makes me double stupid. I think my stupidity does not need a multiplication factor.

A quote I loved was Thich Nhat Hanh's.

The red light is your friend.

Brilliant! Instead of being annoyed that I didn't sneak in through the yellow, how about I just chill while stuck at a red light? And remind me of what I am trying to work on. Using the red light as a trigger to remind myself was actually an interesting exercise because it kinda worked.

back to traffic

The real complication arose once the lockdown was rather fully over. Until a couple of months go, traffic was rather light. Which made it easy to start this off. But now, with traffic back to normal, I was sceptical about how it would go.

Because while I can be conscious about it, it is not dissimilar to gobbling a delicious sweet that's just sitting on the table before you realise you are on a diet and today's Monday afternoon and maybe you should wait at least until the evening.

It just happens too quickly.

maybe pointless, but ...

It might not seem like much, to try and get over this road rage. Especially when I am not getting into fist-fights or randomly crashing my car into someone. But I just felt it is a weakness, or rather, a way to conquer thoughtlessness. If I could tackle thoughtlessness in this defined space, then I could extend it from here on out.

I mean, do you like feeling out of control? Do you enjoy it when your emotions get away from you, in a bad way? And you say or do something sub-par? Of course not.

no honking

About 5+ years ago, I used to get a ride with a friend to go play Ultimate. And I realised something crazy - my friend did not honk his horn. At all! In Madras. What?!?!?!

I couldn't believe it. But here we are, travelling 5 km and back in traffic and this fellow was not using his horn.

I obviously dismissed this outrageous behaviour. It was so far away from normal that I could not even relate to it. I mean, c'mon, are we in the frickin' mid-West and its sparsely populated towns?!

But years later, as this topic was broached by me in my therapy, this memory came back. As I read that quote, it came back. It finally did not seem as outrageous as it did. My friend's extraordinary behaviour made my goal seem rather accessible and possible.

work in progress

To you, this might seem an unnecessary exercise. I mean, why bother? Especially if we can hire a driver or take an Uber. But that is not the point, for me. There was an obvious and unnecessary exhibition of not being in control. And if this happens in such a trivial place, then how can I expect to be in control when larger uncontrollables happen? I will only lose my shit.

This has been amongst the harder exercises that I've put myself through and a few reminders to myself about when I do this well vs not seem to be about recognition, rather than anything else.

  • drive slower. If I can brake less and tailgate less, it seems to be a good thing.

  • telling myself that saving 5 minutes by driving fast doesn't solve anything. It is rather easy to start 5-10 minutes early and get somewhere earlier.

  • When (not if) I get annoyed by someone's behaviour on the road, I try to remind myself that I too have done things like that. And I probably did something like that not too long ago - I was probably oblivious to it that it didn't register.

  • use the red light as my friend, to remind myself what I am trying to do.

  • work on my breathing and posture, and staying physically relaxed when I am driving.

While I am nowhere close to a 100% success rate, the amount of road rage and anger and frustration when I drive has come down noticeably. And this has definitely played a huge factor in my mood going into wherever I am headed to. Whereas previously I would still be a bit annoyed or preoccupied or day-dreaming about how I should've broken that idiot's taillights, well, I seem to be a wee bit calmer.

As an unnecessary stressor in my life, road rage has always featured. Having the occasional small-win here has shown me that it is possible to chip away at any problem. It requires awareness and it seems to require a process. There will be a failure and that's the way it is.

For those of you who made it this far, how about we go a bit further? Is there anything, like my road rage, that you have and that you'd like to work on? It doesn't have to be big or important - in fact, the smaller it is, the better. I'd love it if you wrote back and shared, but even if you don't, if the thought has sprouted in your head, that's great.

Chip away! I certainly will continue.