Driving is supposed to be fun. It is movement and we love the feeling of moving. So much so that when someone blocks our movement we get annoyed. In the heat of the moment this can turn into roadrage and trigger actions that can have serious consequences.
Roadrage is entirely natural in a way, because anger is natural. It is a mechanism to trigger movement. It’s a primal survival-type response. But not when it hits at 100kms per hour on wheels. This is a culture clash of primal function meets a futuristic machine at high speed and the outcome can be deadly.
Roadrage can also be an expression of the cumulative frustration of experiences of obstruction in your life. A recent study found that people who seem perfectly nice and considerate in daily life, are more likely to turn into rage-fuelled drivers on the road.
Roadrage can happen in the moment, or at the end of a long day spent facing obstacles. Either way there’s some simple things you can do to trick that primal anger response into the ‘off’ position, reduce your stress, create flow and be able to enjoy the driving experience regardless of what happens around you.
The first thing to do is when you get into the car, don’t start the engine right away. Sit for a few seconds. Then place your hands on your belly with the centre of your palms about 50mm below your belly button). Take a deep breath in, expand your belly. Breathe out, and contract the belly. This instantly calms you, it takes you out of your head (which is already at your destination) and into your body (which hasn’t gone anywhere). It also creates a template of how it feels to have space between stimulus and response. Be in the car in the now, then start the engine.
Don’t listen to commercial radio stations while you drive. Ads and disc jockeys shouting at you increases aggression. Select some music you like or something that you want to hear, this helps you feel that you are in charge. Have a bottle of water with you. Take occasional sips. Water helps move chi or energy. Chi flow prevents anger. Water also cools temper and it symbolizes flow or movement.
Then, whenever someone cuts you off, slows you down or does something silly right in front of you, immediately repeat the word ‘compassion’. This activates the part of the brain that is responsible for empathy. You can only hold one thought in your mind at a time, so if you keep repeating ‘compassion’ the part of the brain that responds to threat is not activated. That’s the function you want to avoid, because it triggers action in response to stimulus, and whatever you do now will be impulsive and you will regret it later.
Be deliberately courteous to other drivers too. Let someone in, in front of you, thank someone who does the same to you. If you really want to challenge yourself take it up a notch and repeat the word ‘love’ in stressful traffic situations. Say ‘I love you’ (silently!) to the drivers of cars that annoy you. This flips a switch, it inevitably makes you smile. Apply this in all parts of your life and you’ll enjoy driving and flow past all daily obstacles.
What causes roadrage? Your lifestyle is having an impact on your liver and gallbladder
Well, that’s how you prevent or treat the symptom roadrage in the situation, but it doesn’t address the cause and this is the important part. Not everyone has roadrage and if you do, it is a sign that your lifestyle is having a negative effect on your organs, and especially on your liver and gallbladder. ‘Liver chi stagnation’, ‘liver yang rising’ and ‘damp heat in the gallbladder’ are the Chinese medicine patterns that give rise to roadrage. The last two in particular are real roadrage generators.
And what contributes to these patterns are things like eating too fast, having too much fatty and fried fast-foods (dampness), and getting stuck feeling resentful about life for long periods of time (stagnation). This creates the ‘heat’ and ‘damp’ conditions that (in TCM) not only contribute to anger outbursts, but that over a long period of time can form gallstones, and in more serious cases lead to gallbladder removal. It is as if your lifestyle is wearing out your gallbladder.
If you are quickly irritated, find everything annoying, and think everyone around you is an idiot, and find yourself suddenly furious and acting uncontrollably when some other driver does something you don’t like, it is a liver / gallbladder issue. All your organs are interconnected in TCM and if one organ can’t function properly, it impacts on the whole system. Lots of little symptoms can snowball into lifestyle disease.
But lots of little lifestyle changes can have the reverse effect. Get Chinese herbal formulas that target liver chi stagnation, try and eat calmly, take nutritional supplements. Be nice to your organs and you’ll feel less anger, be nicer on the road and have a nicer life. This is what my lifestyle medicine is all about. To find out more about the lifestyle changes that will boost gallbladder and liver health, read my book Clock On to Health.