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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Armor for the Soul

Can you eliminate all anger? Perhaps not, but you can come awfully close.

I am going to illustrate the insanity that is anger using road rage as the conduit. Road rage is almost always exclusively anonymous- at least initially- and generally it comes about almost always, unexpectedly.

Years ago, I was following two cars while riding on my motorcycle. We were approaching a very narrow bridge at about 60 MPH. Suddenly, the pickup truck directly in front of me started to pass the car in front of it, just prior to the bridge. At about that same time, an oncoming commercial truck came into view in the southbound lane. What unfolded in the next three seconds was almost unbelievable. Trapped by the concrete walls of the bridge, the passing pickup had no choice but to floor it. The car he was passing slammed on the brakes and started smoking tires. I was grabbing all the brakes that I could but anyone that rides motorcycles knows that stopping time on a bike compared to a 4 wheeled vehicle is very difficult. The pickup completed the pass, the commercial truck got to the shoulder and I very narrowly avoided slamming into the rear of the car ahead of me. I was so enraged at the completely insane pass, that I followed the pickup driver 40 miles to his house, knocked on his door, and chewed his rear up one side and down the other. Dangerous, to say the least. But then, I thought I was entitled to anger.

Over the years, I probably "refereed" well over 100 road rage incidents. Absolute insanity.

So what emotional precursors must exist in order for full blown road rage to achieve maximum intensity?

The "victim" driver must always take the incident personally. They perceive someone else's driving as so self centered, callous, and stupid that it jeopardizes their safety or life. Lives of their loved ones. Perhaps it simply hinders or impedes them. But make no mistake about it, "victim" drivers always see themselves as victims.

Many people are simply unconscious. They drive like they live their lives, completely self absorbed and unconscious, concerned only with their needs and rarely do they show courtesy to others. I accept that those folks dwell amongst us. I also accept that these drivers are going to cross my path. I expect them. I also refuse to be victimized emotionally by their actions, knowing full well that these self absorbed individuals are simply living their lives. And if I allow them to anger me, they can ruin hours or even a whole day as I dwell on the incident. I cannot be happy allowing someone like that in my head. I give them no free space.

By emotionally risk managing myself in advance, and by refusing to accept my "victim" status when harrowing incidents do occur, I've been able to deal quite effectively at eliminating my anger.

It was put to the test yesterday, when a gal rolled up to a stop sign, looked my way, and pulled out in front of me- with less than 100 feet between us. As I geared down, hit my brakes, and switched lanes in a 35 MPH zone, I passed her. She was texting. I am not talking texting on the interstate- I am talking about texting in heavy traffic with signs and lights while cornering and running stop signs. To my credit, I was hardly annoyed. These unconscious and inexperienced drivers dwell amongst us. I know this. I had nearly forgotten about her by the time we reached the next traffic signal.

Family members cause us the greatest angst. Your ability to risk manage their hostile intentions well in advance- is your greatest asset. Family can say some of the nastiest and most diminishing things you will ever hear. Some will even tell you that they did it out of "love." Those attacks never come from love. They always come from fear and self centered ness.

By knowing and anticipating those people in your life who may cause you negative emotions, whether it is attack speech, diminishing or caustic speech, or unconscious texters operating motor vehicles...just let them behave as insanely as they want to. You can't do anything about their behavior anyway. All you can do is accept that such people exist, unconscious, fearful, and selfish...whether they exhibit that at a family barbeque or turning a corner while texting. And while you cannot control them- you can control whether they will impact you negatively or not.

Emotional freedom is armor for the soul.