Self-Coaching and Meditation to Cure Road Rage

I am NOT a happy driver. I get angry if people pull in front of me (note I did not say “cut me off” – simply passing me and pulling back in my lane well in front of me will tick me off). I get angry if people in front of me drive “slow” (I speed, so if you drive the speed limit that’s slow to me; I am also not a GOOD driver, even though my dad owns and operates a driving school). I get angry if people use their blinker too early, forget to turn off their blinker, or don’t use a blinker at all. I get angry if people stop when the light turns yellow when they can easily make it through (therefore making me stop instead of “running” the yellow myself).

It’s a wonder I’ve never gotten a ticket!

I took the 6 hour New York State Defensive Driving Course (DDC) a couple weeks ago, and I’m reading about Zen and Buddhism and how to use these principles in my life, and it’s starting to slowly come together. There’s a chapter in Girl Seeks Bliss called Bring Buddha to Work, and there’s a small section in this chapter about making your commute less stressful and more mindful. I’m trying to incorporate some of the ideas. Like covering the clock so you don’t stress about being late – you’re on your way, and (DDC) speeding won’t save enough time to make it worth it. So I’m trying to slow down, and keep in mind that if I want to get to work earlier I have to leave earlier, NOT speed. I’ve already started to change the view on my GPS to not show my ETA, and this morning I covered my clock with a Post-It note. With my mind off the time, I am more aware of my speed as well as other drivers.

Another thing I’ve been working on is my road rage. I hate driving, but if I can stop getting so angry at everyone else I might enjoy it more. I have to change my thoughts to change my feelings (Brooke Castillo‘s Self-Coaching 101 again, which I first mentioned here). So here’s an example snapshot of my self-coaching. The circumstance is that someone pulls in front of me. This triggers the thought that I am trying to get somewhere, and they are going to slow me down. This thought causes the feeling of anger, which in turn causes the action that I speed up so I can enter the left lane and pass them, and quite often pass others too. The result is that I am driving too fast and the potential to cause a collision is much greater. Another result is that driving fast is stressful and makes me even more likely to angry at other drivers.

I need to change my thought. An example of this is: This person that pulled into the lane ahead of me might have somewhere more important to go; maybe he has a grandmother on her deathbed that wants to see him one last time. (I know it’s extreme, but trust me it helps a lot!) This new thought causes a feeling of contentment because he now “deserves” to be in front of me. This feeling causes the action that I continue driving as I was, because the other driver has no effect on me and I am simply continuing on my way. The result is that I remain calm while I’m driving.

It may seem silly, but I have found it beneficial to keep making up crazy stories for drivers who make me angry. As soon as I feel that anger reaction, I stop and think something like, “He’s driving his pregnant wife, who is in labor, to the hospital,” or, “She’s rushing home because she’s trying to get to her own bathroom to throw up because she just had a chemo treatment.” Insane stories that are probably not true, but if telling myself these things keep me calm, that’s all that matters.

I already talked about my Spring-themed meditation on Sunday. I’ve also been attempting to use meditation to cure my road rage. Although I don’t know if meditation is the right word. It’s metta, the idea of lovingkindness. Anyway, what I’ve started doing, especially when I feel the anger reaction, is to focus on my breathing and say to that car, “Love and blessings on your journey.” And then I say it to every car that I see. And when there are too many cars to say it to every one individually, I picture my heart is a balloon and it’s being blown up and keeps getting bigger and bigger and then finally the heart balloon pops and out comes showering down glitter and heart-shaped confetti, and heart-shaped firecrackers shoot into the sky exploding into more love and glitter, and it all rains down on all the cars and everyone inside is filled with love and blessings. I really start to feel my heart growing like the Grinch’s heart, like the box holding my heart is too small for it so it breaks the box while it’s growing.

I hope that my wish to bestow love and blessings on everyone helps them. I hope that they feel loved, or blessed, or even just that something extra goes right in their day. That’s my intention. And by remembering that every car is being driven by a human being, a person like me with a life of their own and with ups and downs like my own… this helps me to not anger so quickly. And then I drive slower (which means normal).

So that’s how I’m trying to stop my road rage. If anyone else has suggestions I’d love to hear them.