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Valerie M. Pederson

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Mindfully Conquering Road Fear
by Valerie M. Pederson   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, January 16, 2006
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2006

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I learned how to conquer my fear of riding in cars by mindfully changing each old fearful reaction to a road situation into a new calm reaction.

Somewhere along the line I picked up a fear of riding in the car.  Im not sure if this happened when I lived in NYC and my boyfriend, who was a NYC native and knew the highways would speed down the highways while we listened to the news telling us that there had been an accident where the top of the car was removed.  Or maybe, it was when I used to ride with another boyfriend who used to drink and drive, and could barely walk, but would get behind the wheel anyway.  Or finally, it could have been my husband, who had the habit of switching lanes every minute and calling all other drivers jerks. 

Whatever it was, I ended up with this fear of riding in the car with anyone!!  I mean I would sit holding the door handle, envisioning all types of horrors that could happen, such as that car that was coming down beside us would be paying a little too much attention to the other person on his cell phone to see that we were in the lane beside him.

I tried to conquer this fear in many ways.  Id meditate before hand, I am not afraid, I am not afraid.  Still, Id find myself with sweaty palms, afraid to get into the car for a long journey.  Now, since my husband and I like to go on car trips, this was putting a real damper on our vacations.  I would arrive a nervous wreck while he would be totally perplexed as to my nervous situation.

Even as I told myself there was nothing to be afraid of, a little voice inside said if you are not afraid, you will be killed in the car.  Well, that certainly scared me more than my affirmations calmed me.  Then, one day, I read somewhere the best way to calm fear was to take one situation at a time, so thats what I did, and thats what this article is about.  Mindfully conquering road fear, one situation at a time.

One week before our Christmas trip to Albany from my home outside of Boston, my fear started to arise.  I would find myself envisioning cars coming onto the highway and smashing into ours.  I felt my fear build up with the speed of the car.  I knew I had to conquer this demon.  So, I sat down and wrote out every fear I had and came up with different way to look at them.  I cant say the ride to Albany turned out to be fear free, but it was A LOT better than any other trip we had taken.

I came up with the following tactic for dealing with my fear:

      Describe the situation where I felt fear.  Just the facts.  For example, two trucks coming up on either side of the car.

      Describe how I felt when the situation occurred.  When the two trucks came up beside me, I felt like they were going to crush us without even seeing us.

      Give a name to the situation:  In the two truck scenario, I called it SqueezePlay

      Finally, describe a different way to look at the situation.  Again, in the situation with the two trucks, I should first realize the situation would pass quickly.  And, while the trucks were beside me, I could think of how good it felt when my husband hugged and squeezed me.  By the time I thought of my husband, and the warm feeling of his arms, one or both of the trucks had passed.




New Reaction

Two trucks come up along side of car.

Getting crushed or squeezed.


I feel like I am being warmly hugged by the trucks and I feel safe.

Car coming on from entrance.

They will not merge and we will crash into one another.


Remind myself that this has occurred many many times and that each car is being careful and noting the other cars on the road and I feel safe.  See how many entrances I can go by without staring at them.  Trust that the person who is coming on (even if they are going fast) want to stay safe too.

My husband seemingly driving erratically.  Changing lanes, driving fast, yelling at me.

I am in extreme fear.  Want to (and sometimes do) yell at him and try to control him (which gets him more upset)

Marks Whirl:

Count backwards from 20.

Focus on the radio, coffee cup, Lemony.  Breathe in and out counting to 5.  Remind myself that Mark has never gotten into an accident and though right now he seems not to be driving safely I am safe.  Maybe take out neck rest and nap.  Visualize beach, good meeting and what Ill do when I get to where we are going.  Think of safe times.  Also, remember I drive near 80 sometimes and I am OK and Mark has more experience.

Bad weather on roads.

Going to lose control of the car.  Drive real slow with fear.  Want Mark to drive real slow.

Know that it is the roads (and insurance companies who do not want to pay out for damages) job to keep the roads safe and at the noted speed limit (or a little above.)

My husband calling the drivers on the road crazy.

I agree with him and think/feel all the drivers on the road are crazy and out to cause an accident and not taking care, etc.  This is very frightening because I fear it increases the chances of an accident.

Ask Mark not to say that because it increases my fear and lack of feeling safe.

Realize that Mark also calls Merc and Lily crazy and think of them driving the cars (and then maybe smile at that thought.) In fact, mention this to Mark.  Realize that there are some crazy drivers on the road, but most are OK and watching out for the crazy drivers.  Trust what I think and know that I am safe.

Other cars are driving erratically.

Fear that the will cause an accident.

Remember that most cars are driving safely and noticing this crazy driver and taking care of themselves.  Always remember that most people in cars are working to keep themselves safe.  I am not alone in wanting to stay safe others are working at it too.  I am reminded of this when I see people driving near speed limit, using their signals, not changing lanes a lot.  I will feel safer each time I see these things happen.  Even if I dont see these things happening, it just means everyone is driving safely, just moving along.

Mark speeds up.

I get really nervous with the sound.  It reminds me of times when he has driven fast and angry.

I do not normally ride this fast (because I am not on the highway that often.) therefore, I am uncomfortable going this speed, but if I count to 10 forward, I will get more comfortable as the speed increases and he settles on a speed (which is usually near the speed limit).

Also, the sound means the car is working well.




Web Site: Surviving Life Mindfully

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