I know that, because I'm riding alongside him: watching the rage creep upwards and overtake his face, voice, eyes, muscles, nerve endings. Even his clothes show their irritation: hot wrinkles are forming along the sleeves and neck of his shirt.
He wants to proceed, and the traffic is stuck, stopped, unmoving. It's more than he, a mover and doer, can bear; he has by now lost all sense of self and is simply a unit of frustration, searching wildly for an outlet. If he could heave the steering wheel into the mass of cars pinning him to one spot, he would. It's safely attached, however, so the issue doesn't come up.
My mood, on the other hand, is untroubled. But I take no credit for that -- it's the way I'm wired. Standing still in a line of traffic doesn't happen to bother me, even if I'm late. Still, I know perfectly well what he's going through - I have other buttons equally charged. Buttons that wouldn't even flutter your eyelash can send me headlong into high-level irritation. Push them and I'm lost. So I'm no better, it's just that I'm missing the more popular traffic button. Lucky for him: because at that moment in time I was able to sit still, breathe deep, and spray a little quiet on his wave of angst.
Of course, eventually we escaped the stuck place and ended up cruising along without worry. My friend said, "I hate it when I get that upset." and I said, "Yes, me too -- it's a prison." And he indicated he would like to liberate himself. At that, I chuckled, and said we all would. Escaping our various mind-prisons is a life-long adventure; all of us want to be free of our sore spots. Some of us even want it enough to do something about it.
Right after that, we began talking about some of the time-honored methods for neutralizing reactive buttons. There are multiple techniques for deactivating explosive impulses; all of them involve jumping onto a different train of thought -- one that is headed into pacific territory. And then staying on it.
An obvious first step, of course, is to notice you are overheating. At this point you are still captain of your ship, and in a position to choose a cool-down. You remember you are a good and decent person, and that inflammation nearly always leads to regret. You remind yourself that your spirit is way, way larger than any moment of crisis.
As a practical step, you can take a breath and count to ten, for instance. Or close your eyes and visualize a cool moving mountain stream, thickly bordered by trees. You can recall the face of a loved one, think about a well-cherished food, think about a favorite sport, think about anything at all except whatever is setting your gut on fire.
It helps to lose yourself in the new thoughts; if you have chosen a sport to distract yourself away from hell, do a job of it. Revisit the most exciting game you ever saw; dwell on the moments of victory; rerun the plays that made the game famous; picture the faces of your heroes. If, for example, you are sitting in traffic, suffocated by immobility, run the game you love across your mind until it has won your full attention. By the time you have finished with the game, your gut will be returned to a more normal state, and quite possibly - the traffic flow will be breathing again. In any event, the five-alarm excitation you were entertaining will have paled and shrunk. As for you, you find yourself plucked out of hell and seated in grace.