THE BLOG

The Power Tools to Reverse Road Rage

11/17/2011 08:52 am ET | Updated Jan 17, 2012
  • Marcy Cole, Ph.D. Co-Author, 'Living Proof: Celebrating the Gifts That Come Wrapped in Sandpaper'

Dr. Drew's "Life Changers" show on the CW network featured the topic of road rage on their two segment premier show in September 2011. I was honored to be a guest expert on this particular show and it inspired me to put pen to paper, sharing what I have come to know about road rage and anger management.

Experiencing anger is part of the human experience. It is what we choose to do with it that determines whether it will lead to a breakdown or breakthrough.

Those who experience and act out road rage are literally on the "road" to breakdown. Not only is it measurably harmful to you and your passengers' mental and physical health, but it most definitely puts your life and every person on the road with you in very real danger.

These five power tools are a strategy to transform the triggered anger, that gets evoked within you, to be a portal for a profound awakening. As with other challenges we face, this too can inspire significant insight into what beckons our attention and calls us into our higher ground. On the heels of every misstep we may take lies a road of discovery that can be both enlightening and healing.

I use the word "power" because often intensified anger and hostile outbursts originate from a sense of powerlessness or disempowerment. This method will give you your power back, in a way that is both constructive and lasting.

1): THE POWER TOOL OF COMMITMENT

With this first tool you take full responsibility for the behavior that you want to change and you make a conscious decision to do so. This is based on a keen awareness that "this behavior does not serve me:"

  • It compromises my physical health.
  • It is life threatening for myself and for everyone on the road.
  • It is disruptive to and stressful on the passengers in my vehicle.
  • It is not good for the emotional development of my children who may be driving in the car with me.

2): THE POWER TOOL OF SUPPORT

With this second tool, you call in the courage to ask for and receive support. There are so many effective techniques to deal with anger and stress management: You can easily Google a plethora of information. Here are a handful of possible methods to explore and experience:

  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing)
  • EFT (Emotional Freedom and Tapping Technique)
  • Hypnotherapy & Guided Visualization
  • Bio Feedback
  • Insight oriented Psychotherapy

3): THE POWER TOOL OF PERSPECTIVE

Here lies the realization that:

A): What's happening on the road for you is "not about them."

This understanding requires you to develop insight into the underlying cause of what is really triggering you. Whether you are explosive in a car or behind closed doors... "Hysterical is Historical." When we overreact to a current situation it is usually about something un-finished or un-healed from our past that we are projecting onto the present circumstance. Review what carries a charge for you on the road... (i.e.: "He cut me off."). Trace it to a feeling state: (i.e.: "I feel disrespected."). Then trace it to what it may remind you of in your past (i.e.: "There was never room for me in family. I felt ignored and invisible"). Gaining clearer perspective allows you to diffuse the situation at hand. It also places your focus into finally attending to past-internalized hurts that have influenced your behavior and blocked you from feeling optimal emotional balance and joy for far too long.

B): What's happening on the road for them is "not about you."

This focuses on the importance of depersonalizing whatever circumstances you may encounter on the road. Your fellow drivers are not doing anything "to" you. If they are driving too fast, too slow, or cutting you off... it's about whatever is going on inside of them. We are all responsible for the kind of energy we choose to put out there in the world. Imagine what it would be like if you replaced your defensive posture and judgment of them with compassion and good will.

4): THE POWER TOOL OF PREPARATION:

You can have all the insight in the world, but having an action plan with new behaviors and coping strategies, is what will ultimately insure a different outcome. Here you are creating and practicing new ways of perceiving, interpreting and reacting to the situation, that replaces the former assumptions and behaviors that do not serve you.

I offer you this road rage action plan to implement.

The first two steps are to be done before you put your key in the ignition.

1): Breathe: Take just a few minutes to breathe deeply, in and out of your abdomen. It will give you an automatic positive physiological response, bringing more oxygen to your brain and slowing down your central nervous system.
2): Set your intention: Create a new story: Focus on the journey versus the destination. Choose to view your fellow travelers as your allies not your enemies. Expect that it will be what it will be, with you having little control over the circumstances, only how you react to it. Set the intention to just lean into it and "enjoy the ride"... no matter what!
3): Pause before you react. Once you are on the road, when someone does something that previously triggered you, practice the power of pause and take a deep breath before you react. To further set you up for success, write down in advance the positive new actions you will take when former triggers occur (i.e.: "when cut off, I will take my foot off the pedal, I will wave and invite them to pass). Take note on how good this feels to rise above this "small stuff" and commit to being your very best self.
4): Transform your language: Replace your "freeway turrets" with friendly and helpful remarks. If someone makes a mistake on the road... instead of the negative four letter words that you have so quickly uttered in the past, say aloud "BE BLESSED." This goes for body language as well. Instead of giving them the finger, try extending them a wave or peace sign and wish them well.

5): THE POWER TOOL OF PRACTICE & PATIENCE

As with any transformational process, expect both progress and setbacks. Growth is a "three step forward, one step back experience." The great news is that we can learn from both.

Studies have shown that it takes three weeks to break an old habit and to create new neuro-pathways to the brain, and at least 40 days to alter the subconscious mind.

Celebrate the progress and learn from inevitable times when you may return to old ways of thinking or behaving. They are simply there to remind you, again, what does not work for you, reinforcing the new commitment you have made to yourself.

Once you have practiced these power tools consistently, you will someday move fully into this new zone of consciousness, on and off the road. You will never want to go back to the old way that was an unnecessary struggle all along. And you will delight in traveling on your new journey... arriving daily at your inner destination of recovery, safety, peace of mind and greater joy.

Happy travels!

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