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I Use Mindfulness To Deal With My Road Rage

by Steve
(Richmond, VA)

My road rage problem is something that I have to be aware of every single time, and every moment that I'm in a vehicle.

I can't approach this problem by saying that if I start to feel irritated, I will do this or that to calm myself down. My road rage is explosive, and it slams me in the face in an instant without the slightest warning.

By the time that I start to notice feeling angry, it's already too late. Once I calm down, I go into a state of self loathing that is just as harmful and ugly as the rage itself.

The way that I've been handling this problem is what I've come to call mindfulness driving. Many years ago I studied Buddhist meditation, and mindful practice during mundane every day tasks like washing dishes or even walking. The idea was that when we allow "stories" to take over our consciousness, the stories soon move from thoughts to action.

So if I see a person throwing a cigarette butt out the window, I immediately start to create stories in my head about this person. If I allow the stories to continue, I run the risk of allowing the negative thought to move from my head to my words, and probably then to action.

I haven't meditated in a long time, but I decided that I would try mindful driving. That is, driving without creating stories in my head about the people around me, or what they are or aren't doing as a driver.

Now when I drive, I try very hard to "just drive". I feel the wheel of the car, notice the movement, I see the car ahead of me - not the driver, just the car. I focus on the road and try to keep my attention there.

When I look in my mirrors, I just look at the position of the cars. I don't look at individuals. If someone is tailgating me, I try very hard not to even look in the mirror. If I do look in the mirror, I only see the car, and only for an instant before I bring my attention back to my driving.

During meditation, I was taught that when our thoughts start to wander, we should gently bring our attention back to the breathing. Now, I try to do the same with driving except that my driving is the anchor point - not the breathing.

This way, I don't get sleepy by focusing on my breath all the time. When I start to look around at the people who I might pass judgement on, I force myself to bring my attention back to what I am doing at the moment on the road.

Also, instead of choosing the open fast lane, I force myself to select the "slower lane". I do not listen to music. Soothing music would be fine, but it tends to make me sleepy. I have to keep a peaceful and calm atmosphere in the car as much as possible. Fast, or upbeat music tends to make me feel more aggressive. For me, mindful driving works better when I'm in silence.

It kind of feels like I'm driving in a bubble. Of course, I'm aware of other cars around me, but for the most part, I don't allow my thoughts to leave my vehicle.

This probably is not the ideal solution to my problem, and I'm aware of the fact that there are still several other issues that I need to work on besides the rage. But so far, it's been a very helpful way to keep myself safe on the roads.

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Aug 28, 2015
Great Insightful Discussion
by: Anonymous

This is the first story I read and it is very well done and helpful because I too tend to focus on what I "think" of another driver I know nothing about.

Once I've sufficiently "villainized them in my mind" I "strike" with outrageous behind-the-wheel behavior that I think will upset and intimidate them. I realize that I'm going to kill myself and/or somebody else if I continue this kind of narcissistic B.S.

Good point about the music - my heavy metal only tends to make me more angry and aggressive.

May 18, 2015
Thanks, I'm Glad I'm Not The Only One
by: Anonymous

Your situation is like mine. Explosive anger and rage, then the self-loathing (I have contributed my story). I will try the mindful driving method and appreciate the sharing.

Oct 07, 2014
Excellent Approach
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hi Steve

Thanks so much for sharing your story here. I greatly respect the focus and clarity of your mindfulness driving practice. I think others will benefit from what you've written.

All the best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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