Road Rage and Reactivity
August 10, 2010 by Lance
Alright, so not exactly a hatha yoga post in itself, but it’s relevant to bringing conscious awareness to your everyday actions and thoughts. So enjoy!
I know, I know… damn this could feel good, right? Road rage really is the perfect example of reactivity, isn’t it? Now who hasn’t wanted to do that?? I know I have! Reacting negatively to someone who’s already projecting negative energy can get nasty really fast if we let it (take a look at example A, above) But luckily, it doesn’t necessarily have to end that way…
I had a very interesting experience the other day, and it happened twice. What are the odds? The universe must be trying to tell me something. I had two interactions with people that were much less pleasant than I’m used to. I guess I’m just so accustomed to being in the company of people I really care about and love that I tend to forget that these experiences are part of life, and do happen. It’s all a matter of how we respond and react to them.
That being said, I’m happy to report that my own ego is still very much alive and kicking. Two people that I did not know were fairly rude to me in conversation as I was meeting them. Though I didn’t react visibly, my ego instantly began reeling, egging me on in that familiar self-defeating cycle of thought…“who does he think he is? Does he really think that highly of himself? How could someone be so rude to me? Can he not tell that I’m a nice person? Damnit!! This really pisses me off! I just want to say something really nasty to him and make him cry…” and so on and so forth. For about an hour after each of those similar interactions, I was pretty irked, and holding onto the experience in my head, playing it over and over again, continuing to refuel my feelings of aggression.
Once I snapped out of it, and looked at what was happening, I realized, “this is not me.” I’m not that angry, vengeful voice trying to convince my body to react. The ego can quickly take over, like a violent alien, making us do, think, and feel things that we normally wouldn’t. REACTIVITY! That’s a hard bucket to kick, isn’t it? Granted, I feel like it’s such an innately human quality that it’s not something we can necessarily kick. But we can bring awareness to it, and even that in itself is a difficult, but really worthwhile task.
When I feel that someone has attacked me or my sense of self with sharp words, I instinctively want to react, and respond in kind to take back that little bit of control I feel I’ve somehow lost. But the reality is that I haven’t actually lost anything. If someone insults you, it doesn’t make you any better or worse of a person, and that’s the hardest part to remember sometimes. And though it’s so tempting to throw back that “mean curve ball,” it only serves to fuel the anger and aggression on both sides, sending everyone into a tailspin. Then again, who wouldn’t want to duke it out full-on in the parking lot like those two lovely ladies above, right?
So now, a tough little exercise to try:
if you find yourself in a situation with someone that makes you want to react, try to be extra aware of the thoughts that arise in your head. It doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily be able to stop them. But being aware will make you present to that moment of reaction. If you want to say something back in your defense, try doing nothing, and just seeing how it feels. It’s not going to kill you, but it might feel uncomfortable. In that discomfort, however, is a wonderful sense of freedom and space. An insult or criticism from someone else cannot change you, or who you are. Only you can do that, starting with the moment you decide to react!