As a highly sensitive person, you don’t want to take everything personally, but you do.
Everything includes driving, or more specifically, the other drivers.
You take it personally because you know the cars are not simply cars – inanimate objects operating independently of emotion and feeling.
There’s a driver inside … and that driver is making decisions that affects not only the vehicles, but everyone in and outside of vehicles nearby.
You Are a Highly Sensitive Driver When …
As an HSP, you might have begun driving later than most.
Or if you began driving as soon as you could get a license, you likely feel the heavy responsibility that driving is.
The fact that you’re steering a vehicle capable of murder – or at the very least, manslaughter. It might sound morbid, but it’s true. And a highly sensitive person has pictured what this might mean .. probably more than once.
About a year after I began driving, I was taking a free right turn on a street I often travel. The street’s sidewalk is bordered by a tall hedge, beyond which I couldn’t see anything.
I’d driven this route repeatedly on the way to my parents’ house, so I simply slowed to a rolling stop, ready to keep on driving.
And I almost hit a man on a bicycle who sped into sight from behind the hedge.
I stopped quickly, he passed, and nothing bad happened.
But I replayed that in my mind time and again, playing the “What if” game again and again.
I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t stop it.
- What if he had been going faster?
- How would it have turned out if I hadn’t stopped in time?
- What if I hadn’t seen him until it was too late?
A non-HSP might just breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Phew, close call. Lucky for him.”
I pictured the guy’s family, the hospital, or worse, the morgue, the police officers … the undying guilt.
I don’t like driving, and if you’re a highly sensitive person, you probably don’t like it either. The responsibility is simply too great. You drive because you have to, not because you like to.
Dealing with Non-HSP Drivers
That was a tangent. The main point of these field notes on driving involve other people – the driver behind the wheel of the other car.
As mentioned above, you know there’s a person in the other car, a person just like you – except that by their choices, they are clearly not a highly sensitive person.
In short, their aggression grieves you or brings you anxiety, sometimes both.
You’re driving a two-lane road and see the sign ahead … you know, the sign that brings you sudden anxiety because when you turned onto that road, you turned into the lane you need to be in, in preparation for the next turn.
- You hate having to veer into another lane last minute.
- You don’t want to inconvenience the drivers in that lane.
So, you’re in the left lane, for instance, and you see the sign:
“Road work. Left lane closed ahead.”
Within half a second, you’ve turned on your blinker, even if you don’t yet see the place where the road narrows into a one-lane. You check your rear-view and your side-view mirrors (although you already know from frequent checking and heightened awareness what is behind and near you).
Within ten seconds – if at all possible – you’ve turned into the right lane and you breathe a sigh of relief. You’re safe. You’re in the proper lane. You didn’t crash into anyone.
And there it is ahead – the road narrowing into a single lane and cars filing toward that.
In your mind, it’s like a line leading toward an amusement part ride. Or a line in a cafeteria.
No cutting allowed.
You wouldn’t want someone to cut in front of you, and you wouldn’t dare cut in front of someone else.
It’s the basic Golden Rule at work, which Jesus so aptly coined by stating, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
So, you’re driving in the right lane, and traffic is slowing down. It’s slowing down more than it should be.
It’s easy to see, but it bothers you … Every. Single. Time.
Vehicle after vehicle speeds ahead in the left lane, passing dozens of cars, and swerving into the right lane at the very last minute before it becomes one lane.
Most of the time, they don’t even use their turning signal.
It’s not necessarily the inconvenience it causes you and the other cars.
After all, you didn’t end up late to work because of the choice of one driver.
It’s just one car length.
And that’s the core of why it bothers you – not just in the above example, but pretty much every time you’re behind the wheel.
It’s not that you drive slowly. You keep up with traffic, but invariably every time you’re behind the wheel, someone speeds up, cuts in front of you, and then often slows down (and slows you down) so they can turn into some lane or other road.
Why, you want to ask the driver?
“Why not just remain at the same speed you were instead of cutting in front of one more car? It’s just one car length, after all. What does it matter?”
As an HSP, you wonder why it matters to you. Why it bothers you. But it does.
It bothers you because you know that’s a person behind the wheel. A person who probably wouldn’t, under normal circumstances, push in front of you in a line without saying a word.
They wouldn’t do that in person, so why do that in a vehicle?
It’s all the same in your mind, after all.
Whether in or outside of a two-ton hunk of metal capable of murder, the person is a person.
So, what kind of person allows the vehicle to change who they are and how they would otherwise act and react?
Road Rage and HSP Anxiety
You’ve heard of road rage, and if you drive, you’ve likely experienced it too. You know you’re not insusceptible to behaving rudely just because you’re safe behind the wheel.
But in the rare occasions you do attempt it, your heart races and you feel guilty just for speeding up to catch up with that person who cut you off.
The anxiety and trembling, the racing pulse, just aren’t worth it.
So, you let them pass, but you still want to understand.
If you could, you would step outside of your vehicle and knock on their driver’s window.
You’d say, “Hey, I was the one you cut off on the road a minute ago without using your blinkers. I’m just curious, why would you cut in front of someone without indicating?”
After all, to you, the blinkers are like “Please” and “thank you.” They’re manners on the road.
You’d want to know why the person was in a hurry.
This is what you want to ask:
“Are you late for work? Did you have a stressful day and you just aren’t thinking about the drive? Are you listening to hyped up music and is it affecting your mood?
Do you play a lot of driving video games so that, when you get behind the wheel, you’re just in that mode? Did you even think about it? Did you even think about me?”
As a highly sensitive person, that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?
You’re so highly attuned to people, to what they do and how they act, to what they feel and how they respond to those feelings. If you could, you would try to make a connection.
If you could, you would try to make a friend.
But you can’t, so you just stay in your lane and leave a few car spaces between you and the vehicle in front of you.
It’s your way of saying, “If getting ahead one more car length is that important to you, go ahead. You’re welcome to it.”
You don’t understand this aggressive mindset, but you try to navigate as best you can among and around them … because as a highly sensitive person, that’s just what you do.
Photo on Foter.com
5 thoughts on “HSP Field Notes on Driving”
I seem to have an interest in the car racing in general.
(Didn’t quite find any info about sensitive people on that path) Would you think that me, as an HSP would be capable to do so? As the race car steerer, or the one who reads map? I felt excitement when I saw a opportunity to fall to that path of career, but how can I be sure I can really do it?
I’m not sure how this works, but can I get a reply note if some does reply?
I relate to this so hard!!! I have tried to go out on the road so many times but in the end I just gave up. People on the road are so rude. I just can’t handle the stimuli, the feeling of being a burden, and the people placing pressure on me. It’s like I can physically feel all the other cars around me and that is overwhelming enough. Add aggression and hostility into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. I gave up. I haven’t driven for a few years now, I have five years left before my Learner’s permit expires, and I still umm and ahh over whether I should ever try it again. What did you do?
It’s nice to read exactly how I feel. After I get back from driving I feel hurt, it’s like a slap when rude people treat me like I don’t exist or don’t matter enough for them to be even slightly courteous. I need to learn how to shake it off but so far haven’t figured out how to do it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I totally understand. It’s hard. Even knowing part of it is just the way some people process information and that they aren’t necessarily trying to be rude doesn’t help when they cut you off or speed ahead or honk at you. It can be rough some days, driving. ❤
What a terrific article, which explains some of what I go through when driving. I especially find it difficult to drive on roads with more than one lane going in each direction, such as highways, turnpikes and such. I get so overstimulated and overwhelmed that it renders me inept. I have managed to drive on four lane roads(2 lanes going in each direction) with high stress & exhaustion, but when trying to drive on any roads with more lanes I just freeze. This make me a danger to others and myself, so I let others take the wheel and I pay for gas.
LikeLiked by 1 person