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Article:   Get a Grip on Anger to Avoid Road Rage

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
July 20, 2007

Anger and aggression have no place behind the wheel. Each year, thousands of motorists are killed due to road rage. What people don't know about anger can kill them. Take a few moments and read this. It could save your life.

Last year, a woman was driving through a parking lot in Florham Park when a male driver cut her off. How many of us have had this same experience?

In this instance, however, the woman became so irate that she approached the other driver and threw soda at him. He exited his vehicle, and an altercation ensued. Shortly thereafter, the man suffered a heart attack and died. He left behind a grieving family who face a future without the man they love and admire. She faced criminal charges, fines and a lifetime of remorse and guilt.

An insignificant incident turned fatal because neither party knew how to conduct themselves in a manner that would ensure a safe outcome for both parties.

One bad choice can have devastating consequences for everyone. Too often, we react to a situation, rather than think about the most intelligent way to handle it.

One of the most critical mistakes we make is that we take a personal affront tothe incident.

We "personalize" it. "How dare he do this to me?" His poor judgment or bad behavior is not about you. All drivers make mistakes, even you and me. Let's give one another permission to be human. Give him a break. If no damage has been done, let it go.

In the whole scheme of everything that is important in your life, where does this fit in? It isrelatively insignificant, and yet we blow it way out of proportion.

Switch your focus to something such as, "Thank God I was paying attention and avoided an accident." A simple shift in perception (the thoughts we have about the incident or the driver) will change how we feel. Rather than feeling indignant or wronged and wanting to get even, we feel relieved and grateful that nothing serious hashappened.

And since we act out what we feel, the latter emotions will prevent us from making a foolish decision that could have deadly consequences.

Be careful not to let your ego take over and get in the way of your intellect. When one feels disrespected, as is often the case in a situation such as this, it is so easy to become defensive and feel the need to "teach the other person a lesson." "She's not going to get away with this. I'llshowher!" That is not your job. Your primary responsibility at all times is to keep yourself safe and to ensure the safety of those around you as well.

Drive to stay alive. That's my motto. If my focus (thought) is on safety, then I will make choices that will keep me free from harm. And isn't that so much more important than "proving" myself?

I could care less if someone thinks that they've gotten away with something. Let them think what they want. That is of no concern to me. My only concern is safety.

Remember, what you think determines how you feel, and we act out our feelings. I alone decide what I want to think about the situation, the driver and myself. Judging the other driver to be an idiot will only generate feelings of anger and arrogance within me. I run a serious risk of acting out my anger and exacerbating the situation. Consequences follow all choices and those could be deadly, as was the case with this woman.

Janet Pfeiffer of Oak Ridge is a "fresh voice" columnist for the Daily Record.

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