Whether it’s people who say excuse me whilst already barging past that fill your head with rage, or those who stand at the end of the aisle leaving the doorway to be crammed full, who leave you with murderous thoughts. Regardless of if it’s the person who leaves their bag on their back who leads you to silently scream, or if it's the guy who plays their terrible music incredibly loud that means you disembark with clenched fists. Every Londoner can agree on one thing; the commute can elicit fury that’s not often seen in the rest of our lives.
This concept has been discussed by many psychologists seeking to ask; why is it that all manners go out of the window when it comes to the tube?
Although they might classify it differently, most have come to the same conclusion, in that the majority of the issue lies within crowds. Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP Healthcare, says that large crowds, such as those seen on the underground, lead to deindividuation and a loss of self-awareness and, along with it, individual accountability. This deindividuation means that things we’d normally refrain from, such as shoving, suddenly become not only normal but preferable.
It may surprise some people, but this problem is actually worse in Britain than in other areas of the world and it is due to the very reason some may be shocked; we’re seen as too nice. When anger does rear its ugly head during travel, commuters may find it is more pronounced in London than say, in NYC, because we habituate it. The British culture of restraint lends itself to passive aggression, which bubbles under the surface, expressing itself in exhaled breaths and pushing, rather than calling out behaviour we disagree with.
Anna Brech, Journalist for Stylist, chalks this down to what she calls Low Level London D*ckheadness, or LLLD for short, which she describes as “casual contempt for strangers that most people living in the capital display on a daily basis” and although this isn’t confined to commuting, the reference to strangers is important. Dr Sarah Brewer suggests that the anonymity we feel when travelling to and from our destination is crucial, stating that our rage lies in non-social transient behaviours. She writes, “we are surrounded by strangers who we don’t need to impress and will probably never see again, so our natural frustrations from being crowded and in an enclosed space comes through”.
Not needing to impress strangers has led to confrontations and behaviours that most of us would be embarrassed of in everyday society. Behaviour such as that uncovered in the 2014 “bump test", where only 20 out of over 100 passengers gave up their seat for a heavily pregnant woman. This is low-level passive rudeness; however, women have said that it’s not an isolated incident, with people even asking them to prove their pregnancy when not visibly showing. Ridiculously, these types of verbal confrontations could be more comfortable for some commuters than polite conversation, which Londoners are often mocked for hating. In fact, any attempts to alter the unspoken rule to never speak, have fallen on deaf ears, with TfL’s Tube Chat badges going down like a lead balloon.
We all know there are ways to avoid the potential rage of both yourself and those around you when travelling into the city, however, whilst a bike ride might seem more relaxing, cyclists also report high levels of abuse, with women 2x as likely to be harassed. Making sure you enter work less sweaty (although only slightly so) avoiding certain lines can be more conducive. Beeja Meditation have already done the research for you on which lines these are, with the Central Line coming up top as the most stressful. Beeja say you should also avoid Kings Cross Station if you require a chilled morning, as their combination of crowds and delays is most likely to test your temper. Responses to these findings, however, have been almost as hostile as rail users themselves, with regulars to different stations claiming theirs to be the worst.
The truth it seems is that we can all bring a bad mood into the carriage in the morning and if that extends to a few sighs every week then a podcast just might help, but if you find yourself biting your tongue more often than not, ask yourself, could it be the destination and not the journey that needs to change?
Get in touch to see if we can make your journey into a new role the happiest trip you’ve ever taken.