How to Switch Your Thinking to Lessen Your Driving Fears

memoryOne of the contributing factors to driving fears can be a horrific experience that started the whole driving anxiety ball rolling into action. Perhaps you were in an awful car crash. Maybe you saw one happen. Or you may have been cursed with an early driving learning experience that made you want to throw your car keys into the lake and vow to walk or take the bus forever.

A new study out of the Bechman Institute at the University of Illinois points out a simple tactic you can use to reduce the power of the negative experience which, in turn, may take some of the power out of your driving fears. All you have to do is change the way you think about the experience. Try thinking about the concrete details rather than falling prey to the emotions.

Let’s check out how it works.

How It Is Now

Let’s say your bad driving-fear related memory is of a real jerk of an instructor who would bark and scream that you never did anything right. When you normally think of the experience, sickening things start to happen in the pit of your stomach. You begin to relive the shame of not being good enough at driving or the horror you felt when the instructor would slam on his passenger-side brake.

With this kind of mindset, you become subjected to emotional upheaval every time you recall the experience. The negative emotions can supply a steady stream of fodder for your driving fears or even push you into depression.

What the Study Says to Try

The study discovered that we could switch our way of looking at a memory and enjoy a whole new way of thinking. Instead of focusing on all the negative emotions linked to the memory, you may find relief by instead focusing on anything about the non-emotional context of the memory. Context could be anything from the driving instructor’s facial hair to the color of the car you were driving, from the weather of the day to the fabric on the auto’s seat.

“Once you immerse yourself in other details,” study author Florin Dolcos noted, “your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be focused on the negative emotions as much.”

What the Study Did 

The study had two groups of people recall a memory, with one group focusing on the emotions of the memory and the other focusing on non-emotional context. MRI brain scans of the groups found that those who focused on the context had two regions of the brain working together: emotion process and emotion control. The end result was an overall lessening of the emotional impact of those memories.

Switching the focus of memories can be easier than other techniques for dealing with them. Regulation strategy demands you look at a situation from another angle, which can be exhausting. Suppression involves bottling up emotions that can later erupt and make things worse.

The finding’s potential for helping those with depression and anxiety can be huge. A good place to start may be giving it a whirl on one of your memories that typically stirs up your driving fears.


Photo Credit: -Reji via Compfight cc