Anger and Your Driving: Using Self-Talk to Create Safer Vistas (Part 2)

Jun 10 21:00 2004 Dr. Tony Fiore Print This Article

Date: January 28, ... Fashion Island, Newport Beach, ... ... Jane, a middle aged ... woman had an ... with another woman who accosted her after she refused to g

Date: January 28,Guest Posting 2001
Place: Fashion Island, Newport Beach, California
The incident: Jane, a middle aged professional woman had an altercation with another woman who accosted her after she refused to give up her parking spot.

Jane clearly reached the coveted spot first, but the other woman asked her to move, explaining she was 20 minutes late for a doctor’s appointment. At first, Jane thought it was a joke, but before she knew it, the two women were tussling on the concrete.

Most people feel angry in situations when someone making outrageous requests of us. This is because our brains are ‘hardwired’ to react with anger when we are frustrated or when obstacles prevent us from reaching our goals.

Aggressive driving behavior is due, in part, to a breakdown of an individual’s internal control of their emotions in public places.

Other common driving frustrations and irritations that often cause angry feelings and weakening of control include being:

-Stuck in traffic while late for an appointment

-Delayed by a driver going 10 miles an hour below the speed limit

-Threatened by driver trying to intimidate you

-Getting cut off by a driver

Gaining control of our emotions – and more importantly, our behavior – is often a matter of finding a way to change our perspective or vista of the situation.

Frequently, what we tell ourselves is so automatic that we don’t even realize what it is we are thinking; yet, our thinking patterns are what make us more angry or calm us by changing how we experience that which is frustrating us.

Example 1: Getting cut off. Someone triggers anger by cutting you off in traffic; you automatically tell yourself things like ‘What a jerk; he has no right to do that to me; I’m going to get even; he did that to me on purpose; why does he disrespect me like that? How dare he do that to me, etc.

Self-talk alternatives: Instead, try changing your self-talk to:

-I can stay calm; he might be a dangerous threat to me.

-I’m sure it is not personal; he is cutting me off because he is stressed and in a hurry.

-I’m not going to radiate and stoop to his or her level; there are many reasons for his or her behavior; maybe he just phoned his boss who said he would get fired if not in the office in the next ten minutes or he may be reacting to family responsibilities.

Benefits of your new perspective:

-Increased tolerance and more understanding of possible reasons for the other driver’s bad behavior.

-Resolve not to make his or her problems your problem. (Remember: it doesn’t have to be!)

-Understand that getting even to right the wrong of another driver is not justified or rational.

-Remember that maintaining a hostile attitude on the road is harmful to society – innocent drivers, their families and their loved ones.

Example 2: Slow driver:

You are late to an appointment but stuck behind a gray-haired lady going 15 miles an hour below the speed limit. Your automatic thoughts: ‘Why does this always happen to me? She is doing this to make me late. Why can’t she get out of my way? How inconsiderate she is! She shouldn’t have a driver’s license.’

Self-talk options:

-She is not driving slowly to make me late; she probably isn’t even aware of me.

-Maybe she is old and impaired and doing the best she can.

-Perhaps she just came from the doctor’s office with bad news and is on the verge of tears.

-I can’t control how fast she drives so why get upset?

Angry feelings are a normal response to driving frustrations. Unfortunately, our ‘automatic thoughts’ may increase these feelings and cause us to lose control.

Learning different ‘self-talk’ gives us a powerful tool to control our negative emotions on the road so we can avoid death, serious injury or legal problems.

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Dr. Tony Fiore
Dr. Tony Fiore

Dr. Tony Fiore is a So. California licensed psychologist, and anger management trainer. His company, The Anger Coach, provides anger and stress management programs, training and products to individuals, couples, and the workplace. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter "Taming The Anger Bee" at and receive two bonus reports.

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