For years I suffered from road rage.
Yeah, I admit it. Every time I got behind the wheel it was like Mr. Hyde took over.
(Get the f—- out of the way, you idiot! Oh, thanks for signaling, a-hole. How can people drive so slowly? It’s f’ing painful!)
I wanted SO badly to stop, but it seemed impossible.
One wrong move by a fellow driver could send me into a tailspin. I’d rehash the ‘incident’ over and over in my mind, often setting the tone for a day full of crappy internal complaints.
Rationally, it made no sense.
I knew these were mothers and fathers, grandparents and children of other people. I knew they were all human beings, many of whom I would probably really dig. But when I was in the car, they were the enemy.
(Can you relate? If not, um… boy is my face red.)
Anyway, I had read somewhere that being angry in traffic was acting out ‘historical anger’. That is, anger from your childhood, anger over unresolved issues in past relationships, anger over things you could no longer do anything about.
I sat with that concept for awhile, and yep, I could buy that. In fact, I could see that I had an issue with someone being ‘in my way’, or impinging on my freedom.
But I couldn’t figure out how to do anything about it.
A car would cut me off in traffic, and I would try to remind myself, You’re just pissed because you don’t want anyone to get in your way, Helen.
But then I would answer myself back, Damn right I’m pissed! Get out of my way, asshole!
Clearly, something had to give.
I’m all in favor of getting comfortable with your ‘shadow side’, but I was wallowing in mine. Rollin’ in it like a pig in mud. Like a fly on shit.
Here I was, a total peace-loving hippie (in great shoes of course) who truly believed that the answer to every question in life is L.O.V.E., and I was poisoning my energy every single day with this ONE shitty habit.
And then one day, I picked up a brilliant book.
I’d seen it before. I’d even bought it before, leafed through it, thought, Hmm… yes, this looks interesting, and put it back down. Then donated it to charity. (I’m never going to get around to reading this one.)
But another (completely unrelated) painful experience happened in my personal life that led me to pick the book back up again.
I can’t even tell you why the book floated back into my consciousness. I just had an incredibly strong intuitive urge to go to the bookstore and get that book.
The book is called Loving What Is, and it’s by a woman named Byron Katie.
I’m not a preacher, and this ain’t Sunday morning, but if I were (and it was) I’d be hollerin’ at you to run-don’t-walk to your nearest bookstore and get that book.
Here’s what happened for me about halfway through reading this amazing book.
(Side note: this post could go on for days if I told you everything that happened to me while reading it. So I’m gonna stick with the road rage thingy here.)
I wrote down all the beliefs I was holding about driving. Here’re a few:
- It is possible for me to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- My speed is the right speed.
- People should observe the correct rules of the road.
And then I ran ‘em through the ‘meat grinder’ of what Byron Katie calls ‘The Work’. The Work is a 4-question sequence and a turnaround. Keep reading and I’ll explain.
Here’s how the dialogue went for the last belief I just wrote about driving (I’ll spare you the other two for now). I would encourage you to read slowly and absorb each question and its answer(s), asking yourself if there is any similar issue for which you could apply this process yourself.
You may not have a problem with road rage, but if you have a pulse, I’d bet my vintage Isabella Fiore bag that something has upset you at least once in your life.
People should observe the correct rules of the road.
Question #1: Is it true?
Yes. Yes, indeed, people should observe the correct rules of the road.
Question #2: Can you absolutely know that it’s true that people should observe the correct rules of the road?
Yes, they really should!
Okay, maybe I can’t *absolutely* know that they should, because I can’t absolutely know anything, really. But if I’m honest with myself, it really feels like they should, dammit.
Question #3: How do you feel, what happens, when you believe the thought, People should observe the correct rules of the road?
I get super pissed when someone doesn’t follow the rules of the road. My blood pressure rises, I can literally feel cortisol racing through my veins, my heart beats faster, my head feels like it’s going to explode. I often let out a string of expletives.
And then I feel horrible about myself. I feel like I’ve completely betrayed myself, like I’m a bad person who secretly wishes evil on others. I feel conflicted, at odds with myself. It often casts a shadow over my entire day.
If my son is in the car with me, I don’t let out the expletives, but I call the other driver a jerk or whatever, and then I feel like I’m setting a HORRIBLE example for my son.
Question #4: Who would you be without the thought, People should observe the correct rules of the road?
(Long pause while I imagine who I would be if I were incapable of having that thought.)
I guess I would be just another driver on the road… um… driving. And not caring whether other people follow the rules of the road. I would be calm and peaceful while driving. I’d probably be a safer driver. I’d feel good about myself as a person and as a mom. I would feel like I was in integrity with myself.
The turnaround. Turn around the thought, People should follow the rules of the road so that it feels as true or truer for you.
People *shouldn’t* follow the rules of the road. Because in fact, they often don’t! Why would I argue that they ‘should’ if they don’t? That actually seems insane, to cause myself all those horrible feelings when it doesn’t even change a single other driver’s behavior.
*I* should follow the rules of the road. I should stay in my own business, sit in my car, and just drive, instead of hopping into all those other cars and doing their driving for them.
Since shining the light of understanding on that and about six kazillion other beliefs and thoughts I’ve had, my life has literally been transformed.
Please don’t mistake my enthusiasm for hyperbole.
This shit works.
Not only do I drive peacefully in traffic, but I am a safer driver.
I do feel like a better person and a better mom. And my son’s frequent ‘moodiness’ which I thought was genetic? Vaporized. This road rage habit was coloring parts of my life I wasn’t even aware of.
This shit works.
I’m not sure whether I’ve adequately expressed the power behind the process of The Work, but I felt so compelled to share it that I thought I’d better listen, once again, to my intuition and share this story.
I hestitated for awhile, as it’s a little scary to share the kind of thoughts I shared above. But the truth is, those were my thoughts, peeps.
And the other truth is, they’re gone. Yes indeed, there is no trace of those painful thoughts in my being anymore. They’ve vanished like a sock in a washing machine. Mysterious. Inexplicable. Spooky, even.
If it helps ONE reader understand that there is a simple, elegant alternative to habitual emotional suffering (even the kind that’s been entrenched so long you think you’ll never escape) then it was worth the writing + the soul-bearing.
There’s more (oh so much more) to share on this topic. If you have any questions you’d like answered right away, shoot me an email. Or go to this page of Byron Katie’s website (lots of free resources there).
But for now, I’m off to run some Saturday afternoon errands. Thank God the holiday traffic will be heavenly. (wink)