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OPINION

The X Factor is not the only thing making people cross

I was involved in a car chase this week. It wasn’t very Starsky & Hutch. No large empty cardboard boxes to bump into, no removal men walking across the road with a giant piece of glass, just an angry man chasing me because I had merged into a single lane in a displeasing manner.

I pulled over and wondered if he was armed. I also wondered: “What are the rules of engagement here? Is this a confrontational moment or a nursing moment?”

“Didn’t you see me?” he asked quietly, perhaps realising that he had pursued a car down two streets without a clear idea as to what he would do if the car stopped to see what he wanted.

I should have thought: “Blimey, he must be having a really bad day,” but instead thought: “What a stupid car - you look like Richard Hammond without the hair care”

“Yes,” I said, “I saw you.”

“But but… I had the right of way.” He wasn’t angry. He seemed slightly bemused. “Well,” I said, shrugging, “It’s a merging lane and we merged.” He shrugged too and drove away and I went home troubled.

On reflection, I was troubled by two things. First, how close to anger so many people are these days - on the roads, in the papers. People seem cross about everything from striking public service workers to who is winning The X Factor. Second, I was troubled by my own response.

At my best, I would have simply said sorry. But I didn’t say sorry. I wasn’t confrontational but I wasn’t particularly generous. His crossness was contagious. I should have thought: “Blimey, he must be having a really bad day,” but instead thought: “What a stupid car - you look like Richard Hammond without the hair care.”

Antagonism breeds antagonism, doesn’t it? And, in the wrong state of mind, we don’t manage antagonism, anger or frustration gently or kindly; we are more likely to greet it with crossness, irritation or, at best, a curt efficient ambivalence.

I think these are times of low lying misanthropy. This is illustrated by the idea of “fairness”. There are two ways of thinking about fairness. Either it involves thinking about other people having too much or other people having too little. Modern politics is focused on other people - public servants, the unemployed, immigrants - having too much. It is a politics of moral outrage and it seems to be part of a culture of anger.

The outrage at striking firefighters demonstrates this. “How dare they go on strike when we need them,” cried the media, unsurprisingly, missing the point. And, who knows, maybe public service strikes will spread further, maybe even to nursing and the paradox of our age will be exposed further: “We don’t value you, we don’t think you deserve pay increases or decent pensions but you can’t possibly withdraw the labour we hold in such contempt because we need you!”

I think one of the things that happens when people are cross - especially when they are cross a lot of the time - is that they think less. Certainly, they think about other people less.

Crossness breeds misanthropy and it is to that backdrop nursing is having to currently function. It is for that reason that I think these are worrying times.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Glorianna

    We all have bad days, so why do we lash out at other, because we want them to know what kind of day we are having and how dare they not have a day like this.

    If we just 'took it on the chin' and moved on maybe the world would be a better place, who knows......

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  • I agree with the article and the above comment but I am no angel and on the spur of the moment I know how hard it can be to keep one's cool, but lessons can hopefully be learned from one's behaviour. I need to share my bad day with someone who has provoked me and pushed me over the brink even if they are in no way responsible for the accumulation of all the other troubles I have experienced! Now I am aware of this, however, it happens very seldom but should not, in my view, happen at all. Depending on the circumstances, pehaps not in the situation above, there are other ways to deal with this such as distancing oneself until one has had a chance to calm down or practicing deep breathing which can be inperceptible to the other.

    A friend of mine, a radiologist, long before the days of road rage were recognised and when road traffic was far lighter and slower, somebody cut in on him at traffic lights in our town centre. He rolled down his window, made some cross remark and showed his fist! When he arrived at work his first patient lying on the x-ray table waiting for a barium meal was the very same man, who on seeing my good friend got up, said 'This is too much' and walked out. This left my friend feeling highly embarassed and extremely guilty at his breech of professional conduct in the knowledge that it may have been the stress of the forthcoming examination that had led this unfortunate patient to drive without due care.

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  • Slightly off topic, but the point you raise about the general publics attitude toward all public services is absolutely spot on.

    “We don’t value you, we don’t think you deserve pay increases or decent pensions but you can’t possibly withdraw the labour we hold in such contempt because we need you!”

    Absolutely couldn't say that better myself.

    It is about time we banded together and said we know you need us, so you WILL give us the respect, pay and working conditions our necessity deserves. Has anyone else noticed how effective even a THREATENED strike by the firefighters was? Imagine what would happen if we actually did the same? Saying that, Firefighters actually stick together and have a backbone; Nurses on the other hand ...

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  • A friend of mine, a radiologist, long before the days of road rage were recognised and when road traffic was far lighter and slower, somebody cut in on him at traffic lights in our town center. He rolled down his window, made some cross remark and showed his fist! When he arrived at work his first patient lying on the x-ray table waiting for a barium meal was the very same man, who on seeing my good friend got up, said 'This is too much' and walked out. This left my friend feeling highly embarassed and extremely guilty at his breech of professional conduct in the knowledge that it may have been the stress of the forthcoming examination that had led this unfortunate patient to drive without due care.

    How many time does this happen? All the time remember why you are feeling like this, something is wrong in your life. sit back breathe 3 inhales and 3 out hales, and relax, deep breathe 3 breathes.., it will work out OK.

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  • Road rage in particular seems very prevalent these days, and sometimes a very small mistake (as perceived by the other driver only), seems to elicit a furious response that is way over the top. I have been threatened with violence by a very unpleasant man for objecting when he cut me up and nearly caused me to crash. If I hadn't managed to lock my door in time, he would have punched me. All I had done was toot my horn to warn him I was there. I was left shaking and just wanted to get home.

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  • Ashlyn  Hilger

    we all have good and bad days .. and I know many folks who get angry while driving.



    Ashlyn
    breast cancer symptoms

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