Tires squeal. The car speeding out of the driveway almost hit you!
You feel the heat rushing to your cheeks. Anger is welling up. ‘What’s wrong with that person? Who taught them how to drive? They need to pay attention!’
A few choice words about rude people spill out of your mouth. You lift your hand to let them know with an unmistakable gesture how you feel about their behavior.
Of course, it’s normal to be alarmed about reckless driving behavior, but sometimes you may overreact. You honk your horn. You roll down the window and yell obscenities. Or you use crude gestures to show your misgivings. You may even go so far as to drive dangerously, slowing way down with them right on your back, just to teach them a lesson.
Have you completely forgotten that there’s a difference between being upset at someone’s reckless driving and reacting to it with rage?
What happened to your mind?
Mental Filters – What They Are and What They Do to Your Mind
Simply put, mental filters shape our view of the world. When you see and think through a mental filter, you focus so strongly on one aspect of a situation that your mind can’t perceive anything else, much less factual information. Often, the aspects you tend to concentrate on are the negative ones, filtering out all the positive.
But what happens when mental filters are removed or replaced? Consider a continuation of the situation mentioned at the beginning:
You lift your hand to let them know with an unmistakable gesture how you feel about their behavior…
It’s at that moment that you realize the person behind the wheel is your neighbor, the nurse, whom you admire and respect. ‘She must have had a hard day at work. It’s unlike her to drive like that,’ you reason. ‘She’s probably in a hurry to pick up her children from daycare.’
Your anger completely melts away. Instead of flashing her a crude gesture, you wave her along with a big friendly smile.
What made the difference in your reaction? – Your point of view.
Your mental filter about reckless drivers was overwritten by your filter about people you know, like, and understand. Once you recognized who was behind the wheel of the car, the rude driver turned into your beloved and respected neighbor. And suddenly, you were able to empathize with her view of the world coming from a totally different angle than yours.
How Mental Filters Contribute to Aggressive Driving
The fact that none of our filters are the same is something many people don’t understand clearly.
By instinct, you may think that everybody should have your viewpoint and be conscientious, careful, and considerate drivers. The problem is, while that keeps you from driving recklessly, your opinion of what others should be doing can cause you to feel rage when they don’t do those things.
There’s also a filter that causes you to view your cars as an extension of yourself. So when you feel threatened by other vehicles, you may end up responding with aggression in an instinctive reaction to protect yourself.
At times, some of your mental filters may also give you a bad view of yourself. When you view yourself as powerless at work or home, you may get bolder behind the wheel because it’s the only place where you can feel a sense of power and control.
In any case, by acting or reacting, your filters – your viewpoints – contribute to aggressive driving.
Your next step is to learn how to remove or replace these filters to help you perceive situations without distortion – to see the person behind the wheel, not just the vehicle. That’s the only way to equip yourself to respond in a way that won’t hurt you or others.