We have all been witness to variants of this scene. On a recent flight, the calm in the aircraft was broken by a loud voice “This is my seat! You should not touch it.” This person was shouting at the passenger in the row behind him, as the latter had dared to put his hands on the seat in front and leaned in a bit. When the offending passenger protested saying that the angry person was over reacting, he got an even more angrier response, “If your hand even touches my hair, I will squeeze all the happiness out of you!”.
Most of the other passengers were left bemused by such unwarranted outbursts of anger. I was struck by the choice of his words – squeeze the happiness out of you.
What does that mean? Does it mean that while I am unhappy, no one around me has the right to be happy? Interestingly, this is the original definition of anger. People get angry when they feel inadequate and meet others who feel settled, adequate and happy. Both these conditions are necessary for anger to occur. This is the “I am not OK, You are OK” quadrant as described in transactional analysis.
The most common manifestation of rage happens on our roads. Road rage as a phenomenon has been noticed and commented on a few decades now. However, with explosion in stressful situations in Indian cities, most of this rage is now spilling over to the roads. I have friends who swear that the choicest and long forgotten abuses and curses automatically spill out of their mouths only when they are driving. In retrospect, the words they uttered, invariably shocked them.
It would appear that most road rage instances happen when you are yourself disturbed by your current state. The source of disturbance could be you having to suffer such bad traffic, you having to put up with wariness about the drivers around you, and you are stung when someone steals a distance over you by overtaking you on the wrong side or by coming in too close to you. Watch closely, all such instances have your inadequacy as the trigger followed by someone else’s displayed superiority fuelling the rage.
There are clearly 3 antidotes to road rage:
- To leave your place with lot of time to reach your destination adequately in advance. We are all in a hurry to pack as many activities as possible in the same hour and have not bargained for the eco system around us not permitting such packing. When we have adequate time on our hands, we can afford to sit back and smile indulgently at those around us who seem to be in a tearing hurry to get somewhere.
- Today’s cars are built for total silence and calmness once the windows are up and the air conditioning is on. Like a Zen monk, this gives us the opportunity to revel in the serenity and the privacy that such silence brings. Playing our choice of music carries us further into our own world and ensures disconnect from the chaos around.
- Visualizing a positive end to the task that we are headed for makes sure that we don’t lose our cool enroute. If you are constantly angry with your co-travellers on the road, it is impossible for you to arrive in the best possible state for the meeting, or day at work. A person with jangled nerves on arrival is most likely to say / do the wrong thing and then it is downhill all the way from there.
Road rage is just a micro chasm of the larger problem called, Life rage. Even without having to pass through traumatic traffic conditions, there are people who land up at work with imagined slights and sighting dark shadows where there are none. In this fast paced world, it is difficult to believe that anyone takes time off his own life to injure or pull down another. We have mental models and perceptions about insults and biases from a world working against us. We unwittingly bring this toxic baggage into the work place. This is highly inflammable and at the first instance we let go, disconnect, ignore or sulk. The very same antidotes that we discussed for Road rage, apply admirably for Life rage.
Try this. It works.