Counseling Corner: Understanding and overcoming road rage

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Today’s streets and highways are more crowded than ever. If you’re driving almost anywhere these days you’re often encountering bad drivers, traffic jams and road construction.

The stress and anger that go along with driving frustrations is a fairly common occurrence, but when they build to the point that you become an aggressive driver yourself, it’s a real problem.

“Road rage” is generally described as uncontrolled anger at the actions of another driver. In extreme cases it’s more than simply being angry and upset. It can lead to aggressive and violent behavior behind the wheel, including intentionally hitting the car of the driver who has upset you, or getting out of your car to engage in a physical confrontation. In some cases the angry driver will have a weapon and will threaten or harm the other driver.

Clearly any such out of control actions are illegal, dangerous and likely to cause harm to you and those around you. If you have experienced a form of out of control road rage, it is vital that you seek professional assistance. This is a condition that needs anger management help. A professional counselor has a variety of techniques to help someone understand and control such reactions.

For most of us, however, the anger we feel behind the wheel doesn’t result in violent behavior but can lead to dangerous driving. You might find yourself cutting off others, tailgating, speeding, flashing your lights or honking your horn. All are signs of aggressive driving and dangerous as they are likely to provoke the other driver. And remember, none of those actions are going to change anything about how that other person drives.

Instead, it’s important for you to control your anger. Take a second to remind yourself that what is happening isn’t your fault and that it’s outside your control. Next, take action to relax yourself. Tune in to something soothing and enjoyable on the radio. Take the time to slowly count to 10. Try concentrating on individual parts of your body and consciously think about relaxing your muscles.

When your anger controls you, then you become less alert in relation to your driving and traffic situations that might occur suddenly. And if anger while driving happens frequently, even if not escalating to road rage, and you can’t control it, consider learning about relaxation training or an anger management course.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association.

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