Two ways to deal with road rage are to learn not to take things personally and to identify the automatic thoughts that arise from the situation. The first thought for road rage usually is, “That *** cut me off!” Our initial interpretation usually defines how we will respond to the situation. What if instead we use curiosity instead of judgment—”I wonder why they cut me off?”
- I wonder if they didn’t see me?
- I wonder if they have a crisis going on and they need some help?
- I wonder if someone cut them off and they are transferring their anger onto me? I don’t know them so why am I taking it personally?
- I wonder, when under the influence of road rage, what effect it is having on other members of my family who may be traveling with me?
- I wonder what will happen to my family if, from the road rage, I kill or injure someone else and end up in jail?
- I wonder what will happen to my family if I am injured?
- I wonder if …?
The more possibilities we can come up with using curiosity, the less we are likely to take being cut off personally and to respond with rage. The reality is that the other driver does not make us angry; they give us an invitation and it is our interpretations of the event that make us angry, fearful, or depressed. If we change our automatic thoughts, we can change our behaviors. Our automatic responses have been learned and habituated. When we identify the automatic thought, we can reprogram our responses to get different results.
What are some other examples of events that make you angry, fearful or depressed? What is your automatic response? How many alternative possibilities can you come up with using curiosity?