Aggression in Traffic – How to Act Calm

Today I met with Tom. Tom isn’t his real name but it’s easier to write about ‘Tom’ than about ‘a man’. Tom wants to respond in a more neutral manner to the things that happen in his life. He finds himself a bit too passionate especially while driving his car through busy traffic experiencing that other cars and drivers are getting in his way.

Not everyone is as good a driver as Tom. It is frustrating for him, to say the least, that Tom needs to be out on the road for work a lot and is being confronted with the incapable drive style of other road users. If only everyone would drive like Tom – it would save him a lot of precious time and energy.

Change

Tom wants to be more neutral about things that frustrate him. He feels that anger doesn’t help him on the road. He wants to act calmer. Ultimately he wants to feel more positive.

Suppression

The way he tries to accomplish the new neutral behaviour is by suppressing feelings of frustration, anger and aggression. He just acts as if they aren’t there. Meanwhile Tom feels unhappy and ‘bloated’ – he feels that he has gained a couple of kilos. Being a little vain, this isn’t helping.

He knows no other way than to suppress what he dislikes. His intention to act more neutral and to control his anger is a noble one.

Many people who want to change certain undesired behaviour at first simply try to suppress the old behaviour and overrule it by the new, desired way of being. It tends not to work. The old keeps popping up. The old strongly resists being pushed away.

Acknowledge the old

I tell Tom that to act more neutral, it is important to still acknowledge the old emotions that pop up. He prefers not to have these anymore. He understands that by suppressing them he still has them. He gets that in order to throw something away, you must first take it in your hand. The same goes for emotions: if you want to get rid of anger, you still need to first ‘take it in your hand’, meaning you first need to ‘welcome’ it, ‘allow’ it into your consciousness; simply recognise that you feel anger – embrace it, so to speak. Once you have ’embraced’ it, you can decide to either suppress it, express it, or to let it go.

Letting go of an old attitude

To be able to take control of his anger, Tom will need to recognise the angry feeling first – ‘welcome’ it, ’embrace’ it – before choosing what to do with it. He doesn’t want to express it any longer. He doesn’t want to suppress it either. He wants to let it go. By letting it go he will feel lighter, relieved, slimmer and even more attractive.

Adopting the new attitude

Tom gets all this. ‘It makes sense,’ he says; ‘I cannot just put a new attitude over an old one. I’ll have to let go of the old attitude, to be free to replace it with a new one.’

Compassion

We also talk about compassion. Practising compassion will help a lot while driving through busy traffic. And driving through busy traffic will help a lot while practising compassion! Congested traffic is one of the most stressful situations to be in, and if you practise feeling compassion for your fellow human beings under such stress, you’re a true hero.

To be continued

I’ll ask Tom next week how he experiences traffic jams now.

To positive change; to the power, the love and the wisdom to make it happen,

Miriam van Keulen

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