I went on a long, long ride yesterday. 110+ miles from Portland to the Oregon Coast. I was out there on the highways and by-ways, mixing up with cars, trucks and RVs. I waved at a few cops along the way and happily got where I was going on-time and in one piece.
But along the way, I got honked at, crowded, jostled and nearly cut-off a few times too.
I’m sure any of you reading this have had your share of run-ins with cars, seemingly aggressive drivers and people that seem to have it out for us runners and cyclists. My question today: do they really hate us or is it just in our minds?
Think about your reaction when a car jams down on the accelerator as they go by you or cuts closed enough that you feel the wind of their side-mirror go by your shoulder. How do you feel? Do you feel angry, mad, scared — or maybe a combination of all three? Those a strong feelings and I’d like us to think about where those powerful feelings come from.
In psychology there is a model that looks at things like this. It lays out four elements: an event, your thinking about the event, your feelings and then your behavior or reaction to the event. Let’s simplify and just refer to this as “Event – Thinking – Feeling – Behavior.” In our case, the event is say a car cutting close to you. The feeling is anger or rage. The behavior could range from yelling at the car to making an angry gesture, but is most likely something anti-social because it is stemming out of your feelings of anger or rage.
But the key element here is really the “thinking” piece of the equation. Why do we feel the anger or the rage? This stems from a thought that the driver “did that on purpose” or “was trying to scare me” or “is an a-hole” or “meant to hit me.” The list could go on and on, but all of these thoughts stem from our own internal thinking that the other person meant your some harm.
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