A while back, a strong wind caught my car door as I opened it in a grocery store parking lot. Before I could grab it, it hit the door of the car parked beside me and, I could tell from the sound, I'd put a nice-sized dent in the paint. And wouldn't you know it? Like a tightly wound jack-in-the-box, an older gentleman sprang out of the car, waving his fist, and screaming various profanities at me specifically and women drivers in general.
Irate customers. Finger-shooting drivers. Angry protesters. Door-slamming teenagers. All, varying degrees of anger, hostility, and rage.
Pamela Jett, who writes a blog entitled, Words Matter
, posted on Facebook recently that "Rage is proportional to a person's sense of powerlessness. It is impossible to rage out of control and be connected to your source at the same time."
Our natural human reaction is most often to see rage from another as a threat to us, inciting us to rage back in an effort to protect or defend ourselves or as an invitation to fight to the finish... may the best, most articulate, fast-thinking man win... you know, the one man left standing. It rarely ends well, with both parties feeling satisfied.
As Gandhi said, let's be the change we wish to see in the world. If, like me, you'd like to live and participate in a world with less rage and more calm dialogue, then let's learn some ways to neutralize the rage and be the peace we wish to see. Here are a few suggestions I've picked up lately that have helped me.
- Upset and rage are an internal argument with reality and a feeling of helplessness over that reality. Remember that while you might be a player in the event (as I was in the parking lot incident), you are never responsible for someone else's rage. It has nothing to do with you. It has to do with their interpretation of the event and their perceived ability to positively manage its effect on them. So to the degree that you can help them see a positive outcome and release them from the battle as well as their feeling of powerlessness, you both experience a reduction in the rage.
- Disconnect yourself from the battle. You'll rarely convince a raging person of your point of view anyway so don't even start to try to defend yourself. And you don't need to win, to win anyway.
- Pull yourself into your calm center, the place where we sense everything will be alright in the end. Then, meet their angry statements with a calm response asking what they want, need, or how you can help. They'll likely continue for a while but most reasonable people who find themselves in fits of rage won't continue indefinitely screaming when you continue to meet that rage with calmness.
- Remember that by giving them a sense of power (or lessening their sense of powerlessness) you reduce their rage. It's actually the most powerful thing you can do.
In the case of my parking lot incident, the more I continued to repeat, "I know. I'm truly sorry. Can I give you my insurance information?" over and over... the more he calmed down, the quicker we were able to move past it, and sooner I was able to get on with my shopping.
I still don't know what his rage was about. I know it was disproportionate to the small dent I caused in his door. I know it was unintentional on my part and that it was the wind, not my sloppy female driving habits that caused it but all that really didn't matter. What mattered was not getting pulled into the battle, meeting his rage with calm, continuing to give him back his sense of power... all the while knowing deep in my center, that by doing all of that... I was the most beautiful and powerful woman driver on the planet!