You are happily speeding along the highway on the way to the airport.

You have a flight to catch in a couple of hours; you have more than enough time in hand.

Carly Simon is blaring loudly out of your sound system, you are feeling excited and footloose; suddenly...you see that up ahead the cars have slowed, red tail lights form a wall of despair in front of you and you join the back of a very long line of stationary vehicles.

Your very worst fears have been realised.

You take out your phone and text your boss:

'I'm stuck in traffic'.

Although sending that text might offer you a sense of personal relief that this situation is not your fault, but rather has been caused by the idiots around you; realise that you're not actually 'stuck in traffic',  you 'are traffic'.

It's not like there was an existing entity called traffic that existed outside of your involvement in it that you have become mysteriously entrapped in.

Probably because a truck has lost its load or a goat has wandered into the road, your own state of free driving has been transformed into a state of stationary car sitting, which we call traffic.

You are therefore not excluded from the context in which you find yourself.

Because you didn't see the 'overturned truck / goat in the road' situation coming (whatever the apparent singular cause of the jam might be), as an individual you had no control in your choice to become traffic on the road that you were on, and very little control of your current personal desire to stop being traffic.

Frustratingly for you, your near future is predictable; there's a good chance you will be late for your flight, you will most likely feel like screaming loudly and the Carly Simon soundtrack will most probably be irritatingly replaced by some vintage Foo Fighters, accompanied by deep drags of an old cigarette that you have found in the glove box.

We often fool ourselves into thinking of ourselves as apart from a collective phenomenon.

We want to blame others for things like traffic...for causing us to miss a flight, for making us feel frustrated, for creating chaos in our lives.

We are however an intertwined  part of the communities, the country, the economy, the world - that is creating the reality that we experience.

We might not like it, but we are part and parcel of it.

The solution is found in how we see the problem

As a member of the motoring community, knowing and accepting that highways plus goats plus cars can create the collective state of traffic, we at least have a few options as to how to prevent that state from happening.

We can collectively communicate problems up ahead, as they happen, so that alternative routes can be chosen before more individual vehicles add themselves to the growing state of traffic.

We can as a group decide to not use the road all at the same time, so that individual cars can bypass the problem in the road better.

Instead of seeing traffic as something outside of ourselves and wrongly blaming other individuals for the situation, ways of preventing the group from experiencing the issue collectively suddenly appear.  

The trick is in seeing the problem as a manifestation of a reality created unconsciously by the structure of a group of which we are a part of, and then working together to solve the issue.

This trick is also useful in our understanding that economic recessions are not things that we as individuals are apart of; nor pandemics, nor climate change, nor inequality.

When we know and recognise this, then we also have better collective remedies when faced with them, or in spotting the early signs of their emergence.

Step #1 is a collective awareness that small changes in these systems can create undesirable outcomes, step #2 is an acknowledgement of the part that we as individuals play in the problem itself.  

So the next time you are sitting in a state of traffic know that a better way lies within all of those around you, including yourself.