Driving or being driven by emotional reaction

philosophical wondering by Sharon

We all have been in the car, driving and then someone suddenly cuts us off, or turns in front of us, or brakes, or doesn’t use their car’s indicators.

Drivers here, especially, can be very reckless, and it sometimes seems like they don’t even realise that there are other people and cars on the road.  Such selfish and rude horrible people, … or are they?

Bear with me here for a second as I explain:

I, myself, am a very cautious driver, very aware of everything and everyone around me.  I have also on many occasions exclaimed various words at drivers like these but….

What we learn from Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and seen as one of the most successful Roman Emperors, is the following:  He writes

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself:  the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.  They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.  But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognised that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.  And so none of them can hurt me.  No one can implicate me in ugliness.  Nor can I feel angry at my relative or hate him.  We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower.  To obstruct each other is unnatural.  To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”

He prepared himself for what might lay ahead for him in the day and the people he might be dealing with, knowing that it ultimately does not affect him personally.

Stoicism also teaches us that what others do, does not necessarily have anything to do with us.  That person that cut you off in traffic, did not deliberately do so, they did not wake up that morning and decide that they will go out, find you and cut you off.  They do not know you, what they did had nothing to do with you, but has everything to do with them and the state of the person at that moment.

Why not, then, before getting into your car, remind yourself that there are all these types of people on the road, and that you most likely will come across one of them.  You can then prepare yourself for what might happen, and then if something does happen you would have already chosen to forgive that person because you have already recognised that the action was not a deliberate attack on you.

There are always various ways to react to a situation, but being prepared, especially when you know what might await you, always helps to give you the better choice on how you will interpret the situation and react to it.  Therefore, choose to take the happier, virtues path.  A great exercise to try every day, because let’s face it, we all have days where your ability to stay calm is 1%, but that is alright too, because no one is perfect.  Learn to forgive yourself on these days, apologise if need be and take a lesson from the situation so you may become a better and more virtuous person.

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