Solving Catherine’s Fear of Driving
Catherine came to ask my help because she had a fear of driving. Not only couldn’t she drive a car on her own, but she was also afraid of riding buses or cars as a passenger. As is typical with people who have been suffering from fears and phobias for a long time, Catherine was decidedly skeptical. While she genuinely wanted my help, she still demonstrated a strong resistance to change.
Most psychotherapists do not know what to do with a resistant person. After months or years of fruitless therapy, some schools of psychotherapy simply throw up their hands and declare that they cannot help because the person is resistant to change. However, resistance to change is an inseparable component of anxiety and phobia. A competent specialist must know how to use this resistance toward the resolution of the problem. In martial arts, especially Judo and Aikido, the stronger and heavier the opponent is, the easier it is to win. The key is to know how to use resistance in the favour of the client.
Now let’s return to Catherine’s fear of driving. After explaining to her that I am neither a doctor nor a psychologist, I asked her to perform a simple task of visualization. Then I gave her one more specific exercise to do at home every day for the next week.
All the tasks and exercises I give to my clients for their fear of driving is geared towards having them feel differently about their phobia. People with a phobia naturally try to think differently about their fears. Almost all schools of psychotherapy also try to have the person think in a different way about their irrational fear. However, thinking differently does not lead to a change of perception. Feeling differently does. Once people feel different about their fear of driving, they alter their perception, and consequently, they change their experience.
After two sessions, Catherine reported back that she felt better because she was able to drive without anxiety. However, she still wasn’t convinced 100% because there she had a vacation trip coming up. She had booked a trip to the Bahamas with a group of her friends. As part of this trip, a tour bus would shuttle them in between various attractions and places on the island. I told her that she would be fine and we set an appointment for her to come back after her trip.
Two weeks later Catherine came back and said that she fully enjoyed her trip to the Caribbean island. The funny thing was that during one of the bus rides, they had had an accident! She told me that that was a scary experience but it didn’t cause her fear of driving reappear. She said that, after the shock of the accident, her friends had realized that Cathrine was scared like the rest of them but that she didn’t have an anxiety attack.
I explained to her that it’s normal that she felt scared. Anyone gets scared in a car accident; it’s normal and healthy. Now she knew that her phobia of driving was a thing of the past. The accident in the Bahamas had proved to her that her fear of driving was gone and that there would be no relapse.