Back Seat Driving Angst: 5 Emotional Fitness Tips

Back seat driver? Victim of a back seat driver? Back seat driving can be  a relationship killer. Backseat driving quots

Upset by back seat driving? Control issues  boss you and your driving competition.  Feeling in charge of your life is a common human need. Even two and three-year-old  want to feel in charge of what they do. Think temper tantrums; think potty training problems.

The need for control starts in fear. Psychoanalyst Charles Brenner believes all strong negative emotions start with pain because something bad has happened or fear that something bad will happen. Makes lots of sense to me.

Jerome Kagan adds to these ideas when he notes uncertainty about what is happening or will happen motivates humans almost as much as the quest for food and sex.  Uncertainty about our competence is a major source of uncertainty.

Kagan also notes that the ability to tolerate uncertainty is an inborn temperament trait. Some of us are shy worry warts, others bold risk takers.

Reality Check: Both the back seat driver and the driver seek control in order to reduce one fear or another. The driver does not want to seem incompetent; the back seat driver wants control in order to assuage fear and uncertainty.

Reality check: Life is full of things we do not control. Start with the thinking about the weather, then move on to thinking about other people, and accept that bad things happen.

The “Just Do It” gurus suggest we are in control of everything. Not true. Sometimes bad things can be avoided by our actions, but not always. Accidents happen, good and bad luck visit, random acts of evil compete with planned acts of evil; life is not predictable.

Three things fuel my back seat driving.

The first? I have a well honed sense of direction. Moreover, I love figuring out different way of getting to and from this place or that. One friend told me I was like a New York City cabbie because I could make my way around traffic jams.

My husband admits he has no sense of direction.  One would think that he therefore would accept my navigational advice. Ha. Hardly ever, because as he says “I always get there.”  True,  but often after wandering around for far too many minutes than my want-to-get-there-ASAP- mindset easily tolerates.

The second: Occasionally, my back seat driving has lead to avoiding an accident. Sadly not often enough to make it acceptable.

The third: I realized recently that I had Driver Education and rules were drummed into my head. “Always use your turn signals even when no one is around.” “Think ahead so you can switch lanes smoothly when you need to make a turn or exit from a four lane highway.” “Obey traffic lights.”

When these rules are not obeyed, my anxiety increases. Risk takers are not the best rule followers.

The fact remains no one controls all that happens, no one controls other people, accidents happen. Moreover,  back seat driving has been shown  to reduce safety, particularly when it creates negative feelings in the driver. Use the following tips to get yours under control.

Emotional Fitness Training

Emotional Fitness Training tip one: Know yourself.  It helps to think a bit like both Kagan and Brenner. What hurts, what are you afraid will lead to hurt, what uncertainty fuels your fears. Then check those fears against reality.

Emotional Fitness Training tip two: Know the other. What fears, hurts, or uncertainties drive them.

Emotional Fitness Training tip three: Safety issues aside, let go of trying to control what cannot be controlled,  particularly other people. 

Emotional Fitness Training tip four: Practice imperfection to build comfort with not controlling every thing. 

Emotional Fitness Training tip five: Improve your self-soothing skills.   Start by practicing some Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises. Then think about buying my eBook Self-soothing to Create Calm in Your Life.   As with all of my ebooks this one costs much less than a movie and gives more value.


Give lots of choice but also be firm when choice is not an option.  With the pre-school crowd, it helps to announce you have two choices and state them. With those who can read, start asking “What choices do you have.” With all ages make it clear when choice is not on your agenda. “No choice.” “Must do.”


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This post was inspired partly by this  WordPress Daily Prompt Helpless by Michelle W. – Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

My mind leapt to “Back seat driving.” The post is my response.


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.




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