Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome is an official condition now…
Grant J Everett
So say you’re taking a stroll somewhere, and you’ve decided that you want to test if some random person on the street has anger management issues. Luckily, you’ve got a lot of options: you can walk really slowly in front of them, quickly stride past and cut them off, block them from getting past you, or bump into them without an apology.
It looks like “sidewalk rage” (technically known as Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome) is officially a thing now. It’s a condition closely associated with road rage, and just like road rage it has the capacity to escalate some people all the way to an intermittent explosive disorder (“going off”). Researchers are currently trying to figure out why some people manage to remain calm in certain situations while others will totally lose their religion to the exact same stimuli. It’s also hoped this research will provide more effective ways for people to manage their anger, instead of going nuclear.
For those of us without explosive tendencies, sidewalk rage may seem hard to understand. After all, you can just speed up a bit to overtake a slow individual, right? Problem solved. So why do some of us get so utterly infuriated?
Well, the way you interpret a situation is at the very core of how you’ll respond to it. Ragers of all flavours tend to think that everyone should all do things their way, and get angry when these unspoken rules are broken. Like most people with anger management issues, people who have sidewalk rage can perceive things in an unrealistically negative way and blow them way out of proportion. This can leave them feeling extremely wound up about a situation that literally does not exist, such as blaming a slow stranger for deliberately stressing them out, or assuming that someone meant to bump them.
Strangely enough, though, people with Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome are quite happy to do the exact same things to other people!
In addition to the behaviours we’ve already mentioned, other hallmarks of sidewalk rage include:
•Having bad thoughts about other pedestrians
•Feeling competitive with them
•Acting in a hostile manner (such as making a face, or invading someone’s personal space)
•Feeling stressed and impatient in crowded areas
•Walking way faster than everybody else
•Deliberately walking against the flow of pedestrian traffic
•Muttering at other pedestrians or making insulting gestures
•Not apologising for rude behaviour (such as bumping somebody)
Please note that some seemingly benign management techniques – like thinking insulting stuff about a slowpoke – may seem harmless, but if you habitually respond to certain situations in a specific way, over time this response will inevitably become more deeply ingrained. This pretty much means you’ll be programming yourself to get angry at this kind of stimuli.
Even if someone doesn’t have anger issues, the best of us can still get frustrated at irritating and selfish behaviour, but won’t reach the point where they lose control. The difference between the reactions of a rager and a non-rager is all in the way our responses are formed. It sounds so simple that it’s almost insulting, but psychologists say that the best thing a rager can do is to choose to calm down. Of course, calming down isn’t easy for a lot of us! People with intermittent explosive disorder often have great difficulty in controlling their impulses at the best of times, and this can lead to fights or property damage.
If you have ongoing problems with controlling your emotions, then seeking some form of anger management treatment – such as cognitive behavioural therapy – can help you learn how to view stressful things differently. By consciously altering the way you perceive stressful things, you can also change the way you respond to them. It’s impossible to erase all stress from your life, of course, but you can certainly learn how to shape your response to it.
“Get Out of My Way, You Jerk!” (Shirley S. Wang, 2011)