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Getting a Phobic Driver Back on the Road

09 Jul

We got this marvelous email from a phobic driver, who got herself back behind the steering wheel by playing affirmations… she probably has no idea how much good company she’s in with this challenge.  Here it is:

I wanted to share my experience with affirmations and driving. Maybe if there is someone else like me, it might help.

I am 48 years old and am terrified of driving. I got my driver’s license at age 16 as did all my peers, but never drove until I was 22 and starting my first teaching job after getting my degree.

My fear of driving blossomed into full blown phobia where I would even end up stuck in the middle of an intersection in a full blown panic attack and unable to move. You can imagine the cars honking around me and that didn’t help at all.

And talk about “enabling behaviors”!  We chose our last two houses on the basis that if I had to drive, I could take an easy back road to work. I stayed far away from highways because of the fear that I would suddenly stop in a panic in the middle of the road and cause an accident.

Four years ago, I lost what I perceived to be my second chance at life – my chance to fix the things that I thought had gone wrong with my life. My 10 year old daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly. Just as suddenly, I was thrust into the knowledge that if I was going to go on, I would have to start living my own life rather than living it vicariously through my children. This has not been easy.

A couple of months ago, I took a big step.  I convinced my husband that we needed a third car since our son was now driving (We won't even go into the anxiety that fact is now producing!). Even though my husband and I usually drove in to work together, there were times when we had to drive separately.

To make a long story short, for the past two months, I have been driving myself to work every day - even though my husband is also driving to the same place in our other car. (Yes, even with the high gas prices!) And this is even something that I now look forward to.

Before I would literally cry when I would have to drive by myself. The difference? On my way to and from work, I listen to my Belleruth CD’s – the Affirmations portions. They are just long enough to cover most of the trip between home and work and visa versa.

My car has now become my sanctuary. What was once a source of fear and anxiety is now a place of peace and tranquility, where I can focus and stop the awful mental chatter that plagues me almost constantly, and I can just enjoy being and living. I have four CD’s and listen to each Affirmation section for maybe two weeks and then switch - though I am finding that the Self-Confidence CD has the most affirmations that really hit home for me.

I have not been able to get near a highway yet, but just being able to enjoy driving to and from work is a miracle for me. As Belleruth says, affirmations can have a “profound” effect and they have certainly done so for me.

I have a long way to go to start living my own life, but feeling a little more in control in a previously phobic situation is a step in the right direction.

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