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More on What to Do for a Driving and Height Phobia

28 Apr

Hello. My Hypnotherapist referred me to this site. I am planning a trip to Utah and I have an extreme fear of driving across bridges and through high mountain roads, and some of the elevations are around 13,000 ft.

Is there a CD that would help me with this? I leave July 30TH? Don't want to ruin my husband's dream vacation!!!

Tamara

Dear Tamara,

First, kudos to you for setting your sights on healing your height/driving phobia (in plenty of time, by the way) so you can have the vacation that you and your husband both want.

Bottom line: you can do this.

But first, let me say that you're in plenty of good company – a ton of people are phobic about driving on highways, bridges, mountains. We get this question a lot.

In fact, check out this week's Inspiring Story page where we're re-posting a success story on this very issue. I especially like this story, because it shows how a phobia can sneak up on you and, before you know it, take over.

A phobia goes from being a fear to a full-blown phobia when it starts running your life – when you avoid doing the thing that scares you, even when it's hugely inconvenient, to yourself and everyone else.

As was mentioned in last week's Q & A, the first thing you want to do is learn to relax at will. This will break the anxiety cycle that's started taking on a life of its own. You start out practicing with a relaxation tape in a safe and comfy location (as opposed to behind the wheel of a car or on a ledge!)

For this, I recommend our Panic Attack imagery or Relaxation & Wellness program, or our Guided Imagery Mix. If those don't work for you, find something else that does, in the alternate suggestions on those product pages – you can listen to sound samples to make sure the voice and style suit you - but usually there are segments on one of those 3 audios that will work for you.

Find a cozy spot and allocate about 20 minutes a day to listening to segments that you choose – it might be the simple relaxation exercises, the guided imagery or the affirmations – it doesn't matter what, as long as it relaxes you.

You may want to adopt a posture or gesture as you listen and settle into your peaceful state – maybe folding your hands over your belly, or holding the palm of one hand over your breastbone – something you can do physically to remind your body to relax later on. It's a conditioning trick, called in hypnosis circles an "anchoring device".

After about 2-3 weeks of doing this once a day, you should be pretty skilled at conditioning your mind and body to settle down into a peaceful state.

At this point, you may want to start driving around on non-scary roads while playing the affirmations or some other non-hypnotic segment. Do this til you feel ready to move on. Take your time – you've got til July!

The next step is to drive over a fairly low, short span of bridge or chunk of highway that (briefly) takes you over a railroad or shallow valley. You may want to start this with someone in the car with you, or you may prefer to do this by yourself. You may want to drive yourself or maybe you'd rather be driven. In every case, do what you prefer and what's easiest for you, graduating to the next hardest thing when you feel ready.

For this, you'll also want to use your hand gesture as well as listening to segments of the audio.

If you start to get overloaded with anxiety, no worries – just take yourself back to the cozy corner for some more practice.

Another thing you can add to your toolkit is Mary Sise's DVD, called Thought Field Therapy for Stress Management and Peak Performance.

This is an acupoint tapping/affirmations/distraction protocol, which looks weird as all get-out, but it's effective, so who cares? She demonstrates it with people who have various phobias and other challenges, starting with a man in her audience who is terrified of heights and can't climb more than one step of a ladder without getting excruciatingly anxious.

By the end of the session, he's up on the top rung and cool as a cucumber. She goes on to demonstrate the method on several other people and situations as well, and by the time she's at the last session, which is open-ended for working directly with you, the viewer, on your issue, you've watched the method being applied enough times to have it pretty well down.

Between these two approaches, you should be good to go. Don't worry about back-sliding – you have your protocol and you know how to go back and start again. It may take a couple of tries – so what? Sooner or later, you'll master this.

So I encourage you to get cracking! You've got plenty of time. So start out by getting really good at self-regulation and relaxation – skills which will serve you well for all kinds of things – and enjoy that Utah vacation!

All best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award.