Psychology: A guide to handling road rage

General stress on all fronts confront Lebanese divers -- finances, jobs, high bills, safety, social upheaval, negative changes, water, electricity, garbage, and political corruption.
by Dr. Maram Hakim

12 July 2017 | 16:15

Source: by Annahar

  • by Dr. Maram Hakim
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 12 July 2017 | 16:15

Heavy traffic fills a highway leading to Beirut airport December 4, 2013. (Reuters/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Road rage has recently crawled its way back into the limelight, by reading the headlines across various media outlets, or by just driving on the highway it would seem as if everyone from grandmothers to young men is either raging or being raged at by other motorists.

In a number of unfortunate incidents, local drivers have been assaulted, injured and in one recent tragic case, killed. Yelling, cursing, honking, beating and worse are all manifested on a daily basis.

In this case, what are the true reasons that lie behind road rage; the following are some factors, not necessarily placed in order of importance:

1- General stress on all fronts that are accompanied by confronting Lebanese drivers, finances, jobs, high bills, safety, social upheaval, negative transformation, water, electricity, garbage, and political corruption.

2- The rule of lawlessness. Yes, Lebanon does have laws but… you got it, no one dares or cares to apply the law of the land. This goes back to the political corruption and nepotism that are decimating the country.

3- Overpopulation and that includes cars with the absence of adequate road and parking spaces.

From a psychological perspective, the following will include a number of factors in addition to the tsunami of stressors that people suffer from:

1- Basic pathological narcissism is and has been common along with a feelings of entitlement.

2- The slow demise of the family leading to almost a disappearance of normal upbringing; children are thrown in schools prematurely and are allowed to imbibe their values from other school kids or TV, social media and pop culture and movies.

Nothing relevant to real life, while parents are busy at work or away.

3- An increase in abuse and neglect sharply following the stints of conflicts in Lebanon due to various war traumas, near poverty, displacement, and inequality.

The parents themselves are blighted with anxieties, mood disturbance, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and multiple psychiatric conditions which in result, are unable to provide proper parenting. Exceptions exist of course, but the ratios are not encouraging, or at least the trend.

4- Accumulated rage lodged in both individual memories and the collective memory of the population. Though originating years and decades ago or transmitted inter-generationally, this reservoir of rage is ready to flood over anytime an altercation or confrontation occurs.

So, in addition to actual catastrophic traffic conditions and disorganization said stored rage is behind the more tragic and destructive incidents of this shocking phenomenon.

5- General increase in mental illness and drug use leading to inappropriate behaviors, more disinhibiting of anger and feeling of superiority and entitlement.

6- Lack of actual or effective punitive measures for bad driving thus simple driving errors increase in frequency and in riskiness lead to increased confrontations and quick escalations.

7- General downward spiraling of health conditions, water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, foods of unknown origins and genetic makeup and numerous infections.

8- In addition to a general lack of punitive measures, there are little or no venues available for driving rehabilitation.

9- Worst of all, most people are still reluctant to get any proper therapy for their emotional and mental ills.

People usually prefer to adhere to sleeping pills or anti-depressant “prescribed” by someone unqualified like their neighbors, grandmothers or the newly found coffee buddy; while no commitment is given to psychotherapy due to stigma and to core narcissism and deep denial of any trouble.

Thus people coming to therapy are in the minority.

Medication doesn't have the ability to cure or fix such symptoms, they just work when you use them. On the long run, however, people who shun therapy may end up with long-term or lifelong medication dependency along with several side effects that can occur frequently and seriously.

Yet people remain in denial of the necessity to obtain a psychological therapy on the long-term.

Nonetheless, this is not a call to quit medication, but to consider therapy along with the meds for better synergistic and long term results.

In this circumstance, a question is raised; what to do if you are involved in a road rage altercation?

If you are a raging victim, try to cool down and relax immediately if possible, the person raging might have a gun or political backing.

 This is Lebanon.

Say as little as possible and even tell the person raging to calm down, apologize while highlighting that you didn’t intend for the incident to happen. If you have a gun or friends of your own, then still refrain from escalating as the opponent’s “credentials” may trump yours.

If you frequently rage on others, then definitely get some therapy, deep reservoirs of anger, and frustration needs draining frequently. And keep in mind that what triggers your rage and prepare yourself to de-escalate by frequently doing anti-stress activities and maneuvers until they become a constant part of your lifestyle.

Anger and frequent raging can be signs of an illness more serious than just stress and frustration.

At least get an evaluation by a professional.

Even if your anger is normal, we suggest you deflate it and de-escalate in a situation of road altercation as things can get out of hand and become unpredictable, fast.

No one deserves to die because of an argument on the highway.


Dr. Maram Hakim is a Beirut-based physician and clinical psychologist with a blended approach including therapeutic bodywork, hypnotherapy, and trauma resolution. He is a graduate of the AUB Medical School and received his Masters in Psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology.

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