Recently I was on the receiving end of some road rage,
and it scared the living bejaysus out of me. Until I got angry.
I pulled up into the designated bike space (on my bike) at the front of the traffic lights. The SUV dude behind me, who was already half way into the bike lane, got pissed at me pulling in front of him into the bike lane, and a minute after I’d been sat there waiting for the lights, he unexpectedly surged forwards and tried to swerve around me, despite us both still being at a red light.
It gave me a huge fight, and he ended up with his huge truck right alongside me almost touching my knee. Lights still red, his whole car was now parked over the designated bike area.
Clearly a stress-head cyclist hater.
“Tosser”, my mind said.
My heart was hammering at the fright of it.
My ego was furious that yet another driver forgets that cyclists are not some mythical creature put there to piss off cars,
they’re just regular humans on their way to work on a very vulnerable mode of transport. Especially compared to aggressive, unobservant drivers in their giant SUVs.
Neville wanted a fight.
But I knew that trying to get a point across to such an ego-driven human wouldn’t have any effect, so I just shook my head at the ridiculousness and waited for the light to change. On the green I cycled off, still in the clearly marked cycle lane, well out of the way of the cars.
The SUV roared past me in a tizz.
10 minutes later and halfway to my destination, I realised I was still brimming with anger and agitation.
I felt like I was full of electricity, a bad, agitatey kind of electricity. Like if someone were to touch me, they’d probably get a shock.
Or I might bite them.
Neville was alternating between angry conversations with the driver and random other anger at pretty much anything.
F-ing ducks waddling over my f-ing cycle path.
When I noticed Neville getting pissed at the ducks I snapped out of it and laughed. It was high time I practiced a few Bloody Good Life techniques to bring myself down out of my snappy-troutism episode.
Firstly, I smiled at Neville and imagined him all red faced and puffed up, riling for a fight with a duck.
Then I redirected my attention into the internal sensation of the anger.
It took a while to find it, because it felt like my whole body was laced with agitation.
Also I kind of wanted to stay angry. But
I know by now that anger is addictive
and that my anger wasn’t going to solve anything or teach the long-gone driver any lessons, it was just going to ruin my day.
So I put my attention inside my hands. Then scanned up through my arms. Down my torso. Down through my pedaling legs to my feet on the pedals. Then back up to my neck and head.
I found that the agitation was an electric-y sensation running through my arms down to my hands, tenseness in my shoulders, and a heavy feeling like a rock in my chest.
The sensation in my chest was the strongest, so I held my attention there. I tried to pinpoint the centre of the sensation.
Every now and then I’d notice my attention would stray and I’d be back in my head with Neville, ranting about ducks.
Then I’d realise I’d lost focus and bring my attention back into the sensations in my chest. After a minute or so I could no longer work out where the sensation was in my chest exactly, it seemed to have spread out and dissipated.
So I moved my attention into my arms and tried to pinpoint the electric sensations.
Then I brought my attention to my whole body, and tried to take in the sensory information from the interoceptors all over my body.
I noticed that the sensations I’d felt earlier had subsided a bit.
And while I was busy focussing intently on the sensations, Neville had briefly gone for a nap.
When he woke up again, he was a lot less shouty.
I call this trick the Emotion Scanning (Anti-Troutism) technique, Emo for short –
it’s one of the foundations of the Bloody Good Life programs.
With self awareness of our emotions, we can learn to become a lot more level headed.
We can get really good at letting go of things long before they spiral into a giant volcano of emotion that ends with you erupting into shouty tears at an an innocent bystander.
Or a duck.
This technique is extremely effective for moments when someone unexpectedly triggers you into snappy-troutism.
At work. On the road. Or via text.
Because there’s always someone who’s going to piss you off.
You can either spend your life pointing fingers, or you can learn to manage your emotions so that you can handle ridiculous situations with ease and grace.
That’s what it means to be living a Bloody Good Life.