Chinese Medicine and Road Rage-Healing the Anger, Anxiety and Depression Within Us!
Managing my emotions of rising road rage- anger, anxiety, depression, during a recent traffic snarl became a struggle, as I found myself sitting in a one mile lane merge on Route 80, surrounded by an environment of road rage! Sound too familiar? Living in Bergen County New Jersey, you get a first hand look at how road rage can take over your life and make it a really bad day. It all started out as a pleasant evening, (I had headed out to Parsippany, Troy Hills, New Jersey, to meet a friend for tea), quickly crumbled into chaos. With the meeting over, and the night quickly getting late, I had hoped to drive home quickly. Late night lane work shattered any future aspirations I had of making a quick getaway! The holdup was only a mile and a half, but waiting in traffic, an hour later, I realized that I had only moved a quarter of a mile. It just was that drivers did not want to yield to each other to let each one pass. Fist shaking and swearing, could be heard outside my window as finally inched towards the merge point. While I was waiting, I tried to chill out and not let the car trying to edge in on me, phase me too much. I put on the radio, opened my windows and tried to catch a hint of the breeze that wafted through the window. During my brief wait, I tried to recall some of the teachings of the ancients, on mental health. I want to share 3 tips from a famous quote taken from the Ling Shu, the Miraculous Pivot, one of the two famous books of the Yellow Emperor’s Classic, the “bible” for acupuncturists and philosophers alike.
Road Rage is a sign of underlying anger, frustration, anxiety and depression
You can’t stamp out road rage as if it were a bad bug infestation. The seeds of road rage grow inside of ourselves. Road rage is simply an expression of the anger, frustration, anxiety and depression that we face inside ourselves through unresolved issues, scheduling conflicts, and the unpredictability and inconsiderableness of fellow man (and woman) drivers! You can’t know rage unless it is triggering something deeper, inside of you! You can’t know anxiety if there isn’t an issue of anxiety welling up inside of you. So road rage is actually a metaphor for what is wrong in your own life and how it plays out when a little button is pushed and you are pushed to the limit. So working on yourself first, can then help you sort out and let road rage fall by the wayside.
The Two organs that are imbalanced in road rage!
Excess emotional states had devastating negative effects on the health and psyche of the person thinking it. Emotions that you feel were thought to affect specific organs of the body. In Chinese medicine, you are only as healthy as your organs are. For example, excess anger was said to affect the Liver organ, negatively. The Liver, in Chinese medicine, besides being the organ of detoxification, is also responsible for balanced emotional states. Excess anger, frustration, short temperedness was said to show an imbalanced liver organ. Initially, the guy suffering road rage is very volatile and angry. But as the body “burns out”, lots of low energy plague him and he feels more and more frustrated. Certain herbs and exercises to help sedate the liver were then prescribed to help this person in the excess phase. People with more fatigue were given gentle tonic herbs to help bolster the energy and steady the mood in the more deficient phase. Treatment depends on where the person is on the scale of suffering.
A second organ responsible for road rage is the heart organ. The heart in Chinese medicine is not just about pumping blood, but it also houses the mind and the “spirit”. If the heart is functioning healthily, you can judge situations better and see things more clearly. Hyperactivity in the heart can give way to high levels of anxiety, emotional outbursts and frequent bouts of crying and feeling emotional. In its extreme form, heart imbalances on an emotional level, lead to psychosis and delusions. When the heart becomes weakened, there is less blood flow to the heart and thus the brain, so patients start to feel unremitting worry and become very fearful as well as physically tired. Appropriate acupuncture points and herbal formulas can be used to address the different manifestations of these problems.
So road rage is a litmus test as it alerts us to what is going on in our minds and bodies when a little stress is applied to it. Feeling pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. What will you do to help your mind and body, stay balanced, is your personal choice.
Three ideas from Chinese philosophy that I used can be used by you too to get some zen on the road again!
1.Controlling the negative and developing your positive emotions:
In the ancient Chinese classics, emphasis was placed on controlling emotions. It wasn’t that emotions are bad but in Chinese medicine, and culture, unbridled emotions felt to an extreme were the root causes of disease. Excess anger, fear, joy, overthinking, when felt constantly, fostered physical disease and mental disorders and conditions. Sure, feel angry when the situation calls for it, but let it go! Because of the one event that caused tremendous fear for you perhaps as a child, or an adult, don’t walk around looking at everything and all situations as fearful. Feel it when it is appropriate but no more than the situation calls for.
Conversely, actively fostering and developing qualities that benefit your mind and body was actively preached and pursued. Fostering gratitude, love, and happiness in your life as a moral mission, and as an internal practice, was something that helped people avoid over-reacting by a triggering event. No one fosters this idea. In the media, we are exposed to people who exhibit the extreme behavior for entertainment purposes. We have no model to emulate and so we are unwitting victims of our emotions.
The idea that we have control over our emotions, that we have a moral imperative and a healthy imperative to develop these qualities while avoiding deleterious emotions, is idea is so foreign to our culture where we are told it is healthy to “vent”, to scream to rant and rave. We talk a lot about how to avoid feeling certain emotions. But still, there is no social imperative to develop control over our emotions in a positive sense. Anger management is a “don’t do” thing. What about positively fostering emotions of love, gratitude and happiness? Yes, you face an emotion until you actually feel it. Today, find one moment in your day to just smile and feel happy about yourself. Now do this for 30 days. It’s about cultivation and developing this mental “muscle” on the positive side of emotional development. I like to do this when I am in the car. I find one thing to feel happy about before I take off. In this way I connect with my good side, before starting on the journey.
2.Creating a tranquil place:
We have so little time to ourselves that we don’t have a “tranquil dwelling”. Developing some down time and doing nothing, is a way to center yourself. I have a lot of friends in New York City but it usually becomes an effort to meet up with them because they are so busy, every night! I’m not saying be a hermit, but allowing yourself a small time to just “sit around” perhaps some time on the weekend, after the chores are done, helps you to center yourself a bit. This was an idea fostered by the ancients. Where can you create a “tranquil dwelling” in your schedule? Can you take 5 minutes or so every night to try and relax? Why not do it in you car when the tendency is to fume? In this way you are taking the stress out of the drive by sitting in a place of tranquility. Tune into a relaxing station or at least keep the radio volume lower. Get a scented spray to liven up your car and use it to calm you by scenting the car before the trip. Start driving your car leisurely not as a race to the finish line.
3.Balancing your response to stressful situations:
Learn how to develop an appropriate response. So many of us react in an “emergency state”. That is, we react as if everything is literally a “life or death” situation. Is it really that or is it that we immediately see it as a life or death situation. Way too much stress hormones, elevated blood pressure and stress is felt as a result. When you forget to do that report, when you forget to take the pen out of the wash and it destroys your shirts (that just happened to me last night 8 casualties-all work shirts!), don’t assign it an “emergency”, but rather assign it as an “annoyance” or a “setback”, which you can fix or remedy with the appropriate response. In this way, you don’t have to ride along your day at 100 mph in your head. If you aren’t so wound up over fake emergency situations, then you calm your racing mind. If you can do this in your head, you can then do this in you drive. In fact, make it a conscious effort to drive a little slower than you really can. You can drive your car this way for a while til it becomes more of a leisure activity and not a stressful emergency ride. If you could drive it at 60 mph, think of how much less “wear and tear” occurs with you! This is just one day; imagine the effect if this was done daily, throughout the rest of your life!
Road Rage Study -the top three negative behaviors!
As I finally made my final merge into one lane on Route 80, I remember reading about the road rage study that was just released by the American Automobile Association.
“Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Jurek Grabowski, Director of Research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”
The top 3 behaviors cited in the study included:
- Purposely tailgating – 50% (104 million drivers).
- Yelling at another driver- 47% (95 million drivers).
- Honking to show annoyance or anger- 45% (91 million drivers).
Don’t worry, cutting off another vehicle on purpose, was only 12% (24 million drivers), getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver, 04% (7.6 million drivers), and best for last, bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose, only 03% (5.7 million drivers).
The study found that an estimated 8 million drivers admit to more extreme behavior. I felt better about the study’s findings than my own experiences since they all dealt with the smaller, more intense reactions cited, to my chagrin!
The same anguish that creates road rage also is responsible for feelings of anger. anxiety and depression.Road rage is a tell tale sign that something is really out of balance in YOU as a result of letting the stressful lives we live interfere with our joy and happiness. As a result, the feelings of anger, depression and anxiety come out and take us off guard, and putting us out of control. If you want help with feeling calmer, more centered and happier, consider looking into Chinese medicine, as it has the ability to help center and ground you emotionally. This allows you to choose another choice than simply road rage! You can’t control what happens to you by others but what you CAN control is your response to an aggressive situation.
If you want more help with your unique situation, feel free to call me at 201-444-7150 or email me at email@example.com.