Practising counsellor addresses recent road rage events with healthy advice on anger management


In the light of recent incidents of road rage and public outbursts, Karen Moross, a researcher and practising counsellor at the Family Life Centre in Parkwood, has offered some insight into how to manage anger-driven behaviour.

“Anger is a natural human emotion; what is important when [you are] feeling angry is responding in a healthy way,” Moross said.

Living in a fast-paced city such as Johannesburg can take its toll and contribute, along with other external factors, to built-up angry feelings, according to Moross. “The most important thing to do is to become self-aware of your state of mind and being,” she said.

“You need to self-regulate; take notice of what makes you angry so that you can learn how to respond appropriately. If you are angry about something, express it assertively.”

Watch Spur Fight Video that went viral, a classic example of anger outbursts:

When angry feelings are triggered, several hormones in the human body are produced including adrenalin. Coupled with a heightened heart rate, blood pressure, stress, residual anger, and fatigue, the human response can become destructive.

“Our primitive brain quickly moves into action and it does not allow our logical, cognitive brain to function so our behaviour can escalate out of proportion to the reality of the situation,” explained Moross. “The human brain needs six seconds – just six seconds – for those hormones and physiological responses to subside. This is why you’re taught to count to 10 when you’re upset. So take a moment to stop, think and breathe.”

Read Personalised counselling at schools

Verbal communication isn’t the only contributing factor to aggressive situations, body language can make a substantial difference as well.

“Body language carries a predominant meaning and message, so you could accidentally offend somebody when you don’t actually mean to – so reflect on how you might come across to another person.” According to Moross, the skill of controlling one’s response behaviour, as well as the ability to remain calm, can be learned. “Even if you have a genetic predisposition to be angry, you can learn this skill. You first need to become self-aware and acknowledge your emotions.”

She explained that feelings of anger were completely normal but the key is to learn how to express that anger in a proactive way without humiliating consequences. “When somebody wrongs us, like showing us the finger in traffic or cutting us off, we want to fight the injustice and be in control. But we cannot control the other person. The only person you are in control of is yourself and if you don’t, it can escalate into something that you will later feel embarrassed about and regret. Remember to ask yourself, ‘is it worth it?’.”

Road rage can lead to injury, reckless driving, a licence suspension and lawsuits. Public outbursts can also lead to social humiliation as bystanders can film the incident and post it online.

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What are some of the methods you use to remain calm in a heated situation in public? Let us know by emailing [email protected]

Nikita Fernandes

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