There are a few ways driving anxiety occurs, believe it or not there is a positive intention behind it although I know it doesn't feel that way. Both paths often resulting in the same problem – Driving anxiety. Whether you have suddenly developed a fear of driving or you have struggled for a while, the following insight may help you understand your driving anxiety further.
When I experienced a panic attack which was the start of my driving anxiety. I experienced something I had never experienced before (consciously at least) and yet in that moment, I had an intense fear. I had a belief that I would k**l myself and everyone else on the road. That fear was not just a subconscious belief; it was ever present in my life every day. Every time I got in the car, each time I woke each morning and alive and kicking at 1 am when I was struggling to sleep. It remained so until I worked through it with my hypnotherapist.
The mind jumps to conclusions
You may not be aware of this but our minds jump to conclusions. When it isn’t sure what’s going on it jumps to conclusions. This can be in the form of a panic attack, irrational thoughts, or a feeling that we’ve felt some other time in our life. These jumps are well-intentioned, they make them in an attempt to keep us safe and free from harm, and on the whole, they do a good job but not in the case of severe anxiety.
We experience something every day of our lives and sometimes we can experience something that on a deeper level we aren’t quite sure of. In an attempt to make sense of it, our mind links it back to an emotion or a sensation that we felt when we were younger connecting that feeling to now. This triggers your mind into replaying the feeling or sensation you established way back when. Explaining why you can suddenly struggle to enjoy driving despite having done it automatically for most of your life.
And this idea that you did something or could have stopped it from happening can consume you. Asking why it happened to me! When in reality it could have been established 15 years ago. It’s simply that your mind jumped to the conclusion that both emotions or physical sensations were similar and hey presto you have driving anxiety.
Once established every time you get in the car it activates you to feel this way just like a place reminds you of a specific time or person. In essence, you are fearful of driving now because your mind is reminding you of an experience from years ago – Driving has very little to do with it, and it explains why rationally you know you used to be a confident driver and yet no longer feel that way.
Now, you might be questioning why an event that happened when you were 5 for example which was in no way connected to driving can make you feel so terrible in adulthood. You may have even tried to rationalise how this jump could have taken place and there lies part of the problem. Logic and reason are a conscious act of the mind whereas this jump takes place subconsciously and no amount of thinking can figure it out.
The subconscious mind is that part of your mind which knows everything about you, it is always listening and always aware. It sees, hears, and feels everything that has happened to you ever since the day you were born, things that you no longer remember. It’s human nature to focus on the negatives as it has helped us to evolve and stay safe. These events big and small add up, you may not even be aware of something that has impacted you but your subconscious mind remembers. Each time you experience something negative it adds to the pressure building up.
As we go through life this pressure adds up, for some it happens so gradually that they never really notice it but for others, it builds up, and although consciously they may not be aware of it the subconscious mind is keeping score. Building to such a degree that the pressure has to come out and this often happens during driving.
Nothing quite matches driving in this respect. It’s emotive with other drivers honking their horns, jumping lights, driving faster than you feel is safe. You may feel judged by other drivers if you take more time. Most of us do it automatically, it’s a space to turn off and let our mind wander and yet it can be dangerous if we don’t pay attention. Combined with the time pressure of traffic and the possibility of running late our senses become heightened. The release of pressure then gets associated with driving.
The panic attack I experienced felt like an out-of-body experience (read more here) was an attempt to release this pressure. What was most interesting to me is that this happened in a second, one second I was a confident driver and the next I was a wreck. Of course, the mind plays lose with time and what felt like a quick decline into no longer driving more likely took 3-6 months but because I was so focused on what happened and where my confidence to drive went the timeline became blurry.
During 1:1 sessions I have witnessed clients relate to each path instinctively knowing when it started. Others having no idea about where a connection has been made (why would they when the conclusion was jumped to subconsciously) and yet ultimately they find clarity during a session. Often connections are made in the unlikely of situations and insight can be gained helping you to release pressure and build your confidence.
You may understand the story of your anxiety well, and you may know the exact point where it started but no matter how hard you think or reason the problem doesn’t go away, that’s because the problem needs to be resolved subconsciously. Often the way your mind copes with your anxiety is to increase the symptoms, however they show up for you. It may stop when you reduce or avoid driving together. Have you ever noticed how when you decide not to drive or you avoid the motorway your anxiety goes away? That’s because your subconscious mind did a good job of keeping you safe and goes quiet again. Often becoming louder when you try to drive again.
Ultimately your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations are a sign that something is blocking you from feeling the confident driver you used to be. In a way they are a message that something needs to be resolved. Hypnosis is a great way to clear blockages and connections that have been made which are no longer helping you. If this resonates with you and you are interested in getting to the root cause of your driving anxiety book a discovery call to discuss how hypnosis can help you.