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Road Rage, Hate and Disconnection

by Vivienne Silver-Leigh(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 104 - October 2004

I was slowing down as the lights turned to red; the man driving behind me hooted, wanting me to jump the lights, enraged that I had not done so. I could see him in my mirror, shaking his head and talking frantically to himself about the idiot in front of him; presumably I was delaying him from reaching an important appointment. Road Rage sat fuming behind me. Does it ever strike you as sad and ridiculous that people sit in cars, full of boiling emotions about other car drivers, building up tension and high blood pressure problems?

In car-jammed cities, people are desperate to get to work, to make money and meet all the commitments they have. The fun of having a good job, excitement of travelling and socializing are the pluses; the downside is the build up of tension to and from work. We can see how hate is created, perspective lost and why there are cases of people leaping out of cars and attacking others who may have clipped their mirrors and pushed them over the edge of restraint.

Remembering We Are All Human

Losing sight of what life is about can happen to any of us; forgetting that we and the 'others' are human is the end result. When Catholic hates Protestant and Jew hates Arab and vice versa, then you have loss of the connection that keeps us all human. There is little humanity left in the one who wants to wipe out an entire ethnic race or to hurt little children on their way to school. Hatred has taken its place.

We can feel threatened by the strangeness of the foreign, the different. I can remember the first time I saw a woman in Fulham market wearing a black burka leaving only her eyes showing. I was very shocked, because I had just survived the feminist movement and she seemed to encapsulate the opposite of what I believed in; women's freedom. It took time for me to discover that many women prefer to wear it and feel naked without it. Tolerance and acceptance grow slowly, I am hopefully less narrow minded than thirty years ago.

I also remember when a highly educated and sophisticated Afghan work colleague announced she was going to have an arranged marriage and stunned me by talking about the young men being paraded for her by her parents each weekend. She enjoyed rejecting the unsuitable ones; finally she made a selection and married him. She seemed to have made an excellent choice as it turned out. I had to do some re-thinking about arranged marriages after this.

Tolerance and Acceptance of the Other

Meeting people from other cultures means you need to keep an open mind, listening carefully to what they say, not rushing in with your own views. But how can we jump from being fearful and irritated, or angry and unreasonable, to a greater tolerance?

It boils down to having a sense of the 'other' as a human being, of understanding they have different backgrounds, but perhaps similar ideas, pains and worries about life.

Each of us will have a particular way of re-connecting to a space within which we can feel tolerant and loving. For me, flowers seem to speak volumes, bringing me back to beauty and nature, having a soothing effect on me. Reading certain poetry can also take me straight to this inner awareness. An example of this is Wage Peace by the American poet, Mary Oliver, who wrote this poem after the 9/11 New York disaster. I have twice heard it read aloud and seen audiences deeply moved.

Wage Peace

Wage Peace with your breath
Breathe in firemen & rubble,
Breathe out whole buildings,
And flocks of redwing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists & breathe out sleeping children
And freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion & breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
And breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening;
Hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools;
Flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, & make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
Imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
Or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh & precious.
Have a cup of tea & rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't waste another minute.

Getting Back to our Spiritual Consciousness

Today for a second I held a baby's tiny hand; it was soft and floppy, and miraculous to feel. The baby had a fantastic smile and we smiled joyfully at each other. Then I dead-headed rain-washed roses, enjoying the smells and the beauty. Later I watched a TV Sunday service held in an Evangelical church in Brixton; the music and the smiles and the wondrous hats of these joyful people uplifted me.

Lighten Up

Candles have always been symbols of connection to light, to the spirit. Shops now display many different shapes, scented candles, etc; just lighting them can help reconnect us to ourselves. Most religions have some rituals connected with candles.

A good Yoga teacher can bring a class to awareness of personal inner space, helped by using incense and tapes of chanting, ending with the class sitting in quiet meditation. Yoga is then not just exercise and stretches, but encompasses the totality of the whole person. Yoga classes without this element seem to me arid and dull. Yoga offers a great opportunity to work on every aspect of the body, mind and spirit. It is worth trying different classes until you land up in the one which focuses on breathing, stretching, relaxing and includes a meditation at the end.

Your Church, Temple, Mosque or Synagogue

People find solace in the Bible, the Koran or different holy writings. Singing in choirs can also bring a sense of peace and oneness. Maybe you find your inner peace in gardening, painting pictures or reading great literature.

To stay connected to a state of oneness, of inner peace or awareness of higher consciousness is definitely not easy in a frantically busy world where this kind of thing is not given much consideration. It helps to have other people around you who feel the same way about life; there are meditation and spiritual groups now in all sorts of places; libraries and private homes and Buddhist centres.

I particularly enjoy the Sunday silence at my Quakers meeting house, which gives me much restoration of spirit. It resonates with something within me which appreciates the individualistic element, the openness and acceptance and lack of dogma or priest.

Transpersonal and Humanistic Counselling and Psychotherapy

Some types of counselling and psychotherapy also focus on inner spiritual awareness, creativity and self-expression. In the freedom of the counselling relationship it is acceptable to talk about deeper feelings, letting go of superficiality and blocks to living more creatively. The psychologists Jung and Carl Rogers recognized that psychotherapy and religion had an overlap, both are concerned with the need to become a 'whole' person.


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About Vivienne Silver-Leigh

Vivienne Silver-Leigh had a career first as a speech therapist, and then became a lecturer in English and counselling. She trained counsellors for five years, and now has a private practice, working as a psychotherapist, from a humanistic/integrative perspective. Following a strong interest in spirituality, she learned yoga and various forms of breathwork and meditation. She can be contacted on e-mail:


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