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Jul. 25th, 2017

Anger nation

Jul. 25th, 2017 09:52 am
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While I was on my work trip to Seattle last week, a news article popped up in my social media feed that caught my attention. Actually, the first thing that I saw was a notice from the Alexandria Dash bus service that they were unable to provide service to Eisenhower Avenue because of a police investigation. Only a little later did I see the article about the apparent road rage shooting. This all caught my attention because my daily commute to work includes a ride on a DASH bus along Eisenhower Avenue, and the shooting occurred at the intersection that is basically where I catch my bus in the morning. I was actually quite relieved that I was in Seattle that day, even though the shooting took place almost two hours after I normally would have been at work.

According to another story about the incident, this shooting appears to be the culmination of an encounter that began on the Beltway. According to witnesses, the shooting victim swerved in front of the shooter's vehicle and jumped out of her SUV, screaming at the other driver. The articles I've read suggest that the shooter has a history of anger management issues, although I would venture to speculate that the shooting victim was acting in a less than fully rational manner as well (jumping out of a car in rush hour traffic to confront another driver not being the safest or most efficient tactic). I don't see any indication as to what or who initiated this encounter, but quite clearly it quickly escalated to the point of violence.

I'm finding myself reflecting on this shooting a lot over the last week, perhaps because of its proximity to my commuting route. And (to my surprise), I'm finding myself less focused on the shooting than on the amount of anger displayed by everyone involved. I can't help but think that we, as a nation, could benefit from some sort of massive anger management therapy session. Road rage is just one (highly visible) example of how angry we seem to be these days.  We also see it in so much of what masquerades as political discourse of late, and it certainly felt like anger was a significant factor that drove the election last autumn.

I am not an expert in anger management, and I certainly have had my share of moments when I've blown my top. But I'm coming to realize that such outbursts are unhelpful and frequently are counterproductive. I'm learning that it is often better to take a deep breath and step away before I respond, to give me time and distance to calm down. Often I come to see that I was on the verge of a massive overreaction, and I can sometimes even manage to put myself in the other person's shoes, in an attempt to understand their actions. All of this leaves me feeling less stressed and better able to cope.

I have no idea how we convince others to take these steps, or even if they would work for others. But it seems to me that unless we find someway to reduce the amount of anger coursing through our society, things won't get better anytime soon.

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