I saw a video on Facebook. Two drivers, apparently contesting a parking space, were ramming each other’s cars. They were using their vehicles like bumper cars at an amusement park. But there was nothing amusing about the video.
Below the video, people had left thousands of comments. Many decried the stupidity of the combatants. I don’t think low intelligence had anything to do with it. I saw rage.
And I’ve been there.
I’ve never rammed someone else’s car with my own, but I have felt like it. Wanted to do it. Fantasized about it.
It Takes Two
Scenes like the one caught on video, in which so much physical damage is done, aren’t commonplace. But that’s not because the impulse is rare.
Usually at least one participant manages to grab hold of their last scrap of rational thinking and hold on tight.
Either that, or fear gets in the way. Fear of immediate harm or later punishment.
Statistics don’t favor both opponents letting go of reason and caution at the same time. One normally ends the madness by restraining their behavior.
Even When You Win…
I’m ashamed to say I’ve been involved in unfriendly disputes with strangers before. No matter what the outcome, I always feel like a loser afterwards.
When I let a stranger’s poor behavior influence my own, I lose my sense of being an okay person. For the rest of the day, I’m stuck on a skewer of shame for having participated in something ugly.
Whether you win or lose a rage-fueled contest with a stranger, you lose.
That’s why I feel sorry for the women (both drivers turned out to be women) in the video. They both drove away in cars that were wrecked. But I suspect the damage went deeper than that.
The real culprit in this story is rage.
Rage takes no prisoners. It tries to destroy everything and everyone, including the rager.
I think rage comes from two places:
- Chronically suppressed anger
- Childhood emotional injuries that have become triggers.
In my case, I have a trigger. My anger tends to take over when others “assert themselves at my expense.”
I put quotes around that because those words have burned themselves into my psyche, I’ve repeated them to myself so many times trying to figure out my reaction.
There’s something about someone asserting themselves at my expense that takes my anger from zero to sixty in no time flat.
I suspect it has something to do with having had an older sibling who took my toys. It’s that basic.
When we suffer injustice early in life, a pattern of emotional reactivity can be established in our brains.
Overcoming irrational impulses fired by that trigger takes time and effort, yes. But mostly it takes awareness.
If I physically attack someone because they’re being an a-hole to me, that person is NOT the problem.
The real problem is that I can’t handle myself around people who are acting like a-holes.
Rage steps in, urging me to pillage and burn instead of taking a step back.
I don’t know the stories of those two aggressive drivers on the video. But I know it was rage that made them do what they did.
And I can imagine how they felt afterwards.
The words, “There but for the grace of God go I” come to mind.
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