How I Cured My Road Rage

car-155789_1280 (2)Dangerous drivers. People who cut you off, with just inches between your car and theirs; people who sit so close to your bumper, if you popped the trunk they could drive in! People who drive dangerously used to really get to me. I couldn’t understand the mentality of someone who was prepared to risk the lives of others in addition to their own through driving aggressively.

 

The problem was: no matter how angry and frustrated I got, and no matter how “right” I was, my reaction was never going to result in the other driver saying:You know what, you’re right; I’ll drive more carefully in future.” In fact, my reaction was only resulting in a negative experience for myself. The other drivers were completely oblivious to what I was thinking and feeling!

 

Not only was my anger and frustration not providing a solution; it was actually causing damage to me.

When we are feeling angry, frustrated, indignant, or any other negative feeling, not only does it feel bad, it can cause a knock-on effect. It causes a biological reaction in the body; it affects our judgement, our choices and decisions, our reactions, our communication, our reflexes… in fact, it can jeopardise our own driving! So, considering all of this, I really wanted to change my reaction to dangerous drivers.

 

The problem was: the reaction was automatic. I didn’t think about it. As soon as the incident happened, I immediately felt angry, frustrated, and indignant; and that feeling stayed with me. Naturally, the more I thought about the incident, the stronger the feeling became, and the longer it stayed. So, I needed to find a way to reprogram that response.

 

Here’s how I did it:

Whenever we have a thought, a connection is made between specific nerve cells in the brain. The nerve cells that connect will depend on the thought we’re having. When we have the same thought over and over, the same connection is made over and over; and this connection eventually becomes more permanent in order to allow for the information to transfer more quickly. This is how we learn, intellectually.

 

The thought is accompanied by a chemical reaction from the limbic brain. This causes the sensation of the matching emotion. So, for example, an angry thought will cause the limbic brain to produce the chemicals that cause the feeling of anger. When this is repeated over time, in response to a specific trigger, that reaction becomes programmed into the reptilian brain – the seat of the subconscious.

 

Who’s Driving?

The reptilian brain is the part of you that enables you to drive home for 30 minutes, and not remember the journey. It was not your conscious brain doing the driving; it was your reptilian brain – driving on automatic. When you react in anger to a trigger, over and over, eventually your reptilian brain takes over – in order to improve efficiency. This means that from that point onwards, when that trigger occurs, you don’t need to think about your response; the chemical reaction happens instantly… and then your thoughts follow that feeling. This is often referred to as having your “buttons pushed”.

 

Reprogramming the Automatic Reaction

So, in order to change my response to dangerous driving, I needed to reprogram my subconscious with a different reaction – to produce a different set of chemicals, which would cause a different feeling.

 

Since I know the power of unconditional love and compassion, I decided to replace my anger, frustration and indignation with compassion. The truth is, how I reacted was not going to improve the other person’s driving, it was only going to affect my own experience; so it made sense to choose the reaction that would benefit me most.

 

I started by becoming fully aware and conscious each time I reacted to an incident. And in that moment, as I felt the familiar chemicals of anger, frustration and indignation, I would deliberately put myself into a physiological state of compassion and unconditional love using the Superpower exercise.

 

It is, of course, VERY important I point out that once you have mastered the Superpower exercise you no longer need to close your eyes
– this is an essential clarification when it comes to tuning in to your Superpower while driving! 😉

 

Now, when you choose a different reaction in the middle of an automatic reaction, you are firing different neurons in your brain, and producing different chemicals.
away-509965_1280 (2)Think of a field of long grass. When the incident happens (the catalyst to the automatic response) you have just arrived at the edge of that field. The automatic response is represented by a well-worn path to the matching emotion.

 

So, in my case, the well-worn path was from a driving incident to anger. These neurons had a permanent connection in the neocortex of my brain; and the automatic response was programmed into my reptilian brain. This meant that every time I “arrived” at a dangerous driving incident, my reptilian brain would automatically take me onto that well-worn path to anger.

 

In order to change this programming, I needed to stop in the middle of the situation, and CHOOSE to walk a different route – choose to walk across the long, overgrown grass in the direction of compassion instead of staying on the existing path to anger. This is not an easy thing to do; but it is perfectly possible – especially since the Superpower exercise means you can choose compassion physiologically, without changing the thinking at first.

 

When a neural pathway is no longer being used, it begins to disconnect – and the new connection becomes more permanent. As you choose to take the new route each time, over the long grass, instead of taking the existing path; eventually, the new route will become the well-worn path, and the old route will become overgrown.

 

As each incident happened, I would feel the sensations of anger – the automatic reaction of those chemicals coursing through me, and I would – right in that moment – choose to tune in to unconditional love and compassion instead (even though my old thought patterns were ranting at the same time). And I would immediately feel the “feel good” chemicals replace the stress chemicals. As I did this, the connections changed. The old connection became weaker, and the new connection – the connection between dangerous driving and compassion – became stronger.

 

Eventually, the repetition resulted in the new connection being programmed into my reptilian brain, making it automatic. The new path to compassion was now well-worn, and the old path to anger, overgrown.

 

Today, when someone is sitting on my tail, dangerously close, I look in the rear view mirror and automatically feel a surge of compassion. This does not make the other driver back off or slow down; but it does affect my own state – which in turn affects my health, my mood, my choices, my own driving, and the rest of my day! 😉

 

The Science

For full details on how this works from a neuroscientist’s point of view, Dr. Joe Dispenza does a brilliant job of explaining it in an enlightening and entertaining way in this video: Dr. Joe Dispenza on Changing Habitual Reactions

 

This method can, of course, be used for any habitual, automatic emotional reaction you wish to change. :)
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

 
Love and Light and Magic
Odille xxx