On your left! A remarkably relevant (and convicting) article from The Wall Street Journal entitled “Get Out of My Way, You Jerk!” looking at how the ‘should’ instinct informs the phenomenon known as ‘sidewalk rage’. Of course, the control-freak diagnosis applies to road rage as well, as well as a host of other issues, i.e. this is simply one of its more aggressive contemporary expressions. Wild. We’ve said it many times before: just because non-religious forms of law tend to be more subjective (in content – not ubiquity), that doesn’t make them any less harsh or self-righteousness-inspiring than religious ones. What’s most interesting here, though, is how anger appears to be so directly related to trespass. If only other people were more like us…! Now, if you’ll ‘excuse’ me:

For many people, few things are more infuriating than slow walkers—those seemingly inconsiderate people who clog up sidewalks, grocery aisles and airport hallways while others fume behind them. Researchers say the concept of “sidewalk rage” is real. One scientist has even developed a Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale to map out how people express their fury. At its most extreme, sidewalk rage can signal a psychiatric condition known as “intermittent explosive disorder,” researchers say. On Facebook, there’s a group called “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head” that boasts nearly 15,000 members. 

Ragers tend to have a strong sense of how other people should behave. Their code: Slower people keep to the right. Step aside to take a picture. And the left side of an escalator should be, of course, kept free for anyone wanting to walk up.

“A lot of us have ‘shoulds’ in our head,” says Dr. Deffenbacher. Ragers tend to think people should do things their way, and get angry because the slow walkers are breaking the rules of civility. It’s unclear exactly why some people harbor such beliefs, Dr. Deffenbacher says. Such ways of thinking are generally learned from family, friends or the media, he adds.

Ragers’ thoughts tend to be overly negative, over-generalized and blown out of proportion, leaving them fuming about how they can’t stand the situation, how late they are going to be, and how this always comes up, Dr. Deffenbacher says. In contrast, someone blissfully free of sidewalk rage may still be frustrated, but thinks more accepting thoughts such as, “this is the way life is sometimes” or, “I wish that slow person wasn’t in front of me,” he says.

Psychologists say that the best thing for a rager to do is to calm down. [ed. note: !] Anger, after all, is associated with a host of negative health consequences, including heart problems and high blood pressure. But calming down isn’t always easy. Those at the extreme end of the rage continuum, sidewalk or otherwise, may have intermittent explosive disorder, a condition characterized by an inability to inhibit aggressive impulses that lead to assault or destruction of property, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, psychiatry’s bible of diagnoses.