Overcoming a Phobia

Fear of Driving

Actually, this post should be titled “How I’m trying to overcome a phobia and how freaking difficult it is!”

Growing up in the east coast of Canada, in a city with great public transit, I never felt the need to learn how to drive…or so I told myself. I could get around just fine, and it was something I just didn’t have an interest in learning how to do. Fast forward to present day. I live in the Bay Area and still take public transit everywhere, but I’m feeling the pressure when it comes to not having a driver’s license. So, with much prompting and encouragement from others, I reluctantly went out to get my permit and began learning to drive. This is when I realized I had a phobia- the moment when the possibility of driving actually became a realistic thing…something I was going to do. My anxiety became overwhelming, so much so that just thinking about driving turned me into a sobbing hysterical mess. Even writing about this topic still brings tears to my eyes, despite the fact that I’ve come so far. Currently, I am taking driving lessons, practicing and I even drove on the highway for the first time a few days ago. I’m just waiting for desensitization to (finally) take hold, as this has been going on for months…but I have to admit, it is getting better.

Here are some examples of art therapy directives I thought up that would help someone with a similar phobia (and can easily be adapted to other forms of phobic behaviors):

– Using art making to visualize yourself driving. For example, you can begin by drawing, or perhaps collaging a picture of yourself in a car. The next step would be to create a visual story or comic strip about the drive itself, where in the end everything works out okay and you return safely home.

– Using art making to reduce anxiety before and after a visualization or in vivo session. This can mean simply making a mandala, or perhaps knitting or sewing…anything that you find to be meditative and relaxing.

– One may also decide to create a piece of artwork that includes encouraging phrases or images. This artwork could be also be made before or after a visualization or in vivo session, or perhaps it could just be hanging around the house or car so you get a dose of encouragement through out the day.

3 Replies to “Overcoming a Phobia”

  1. I like the idea of making positive artwork, I think I have become a more positive person after I decided to follow the themes of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas rather than monsters and war themes…

  2. Thanks for these tips. I have a phobia of flying. I recently had to fly somewhere at the last minute, and it was awful. I have to fly again in August, and I’m dreading it – but I will try your art therapy ideas, and hopefully that will help me through.

  3. Hey Liz,

    I also wanted to recommend the phobia and anxiety workbook: http://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Phobia-Workbook-Edmund-Bourne/dp/157224223X

    You may find that using this book while working with a therapist is helpful, since therapists can serve as the gentle but firm motivation needed…something that can be hard to find with other support people in one’s life. Speaking of support people, the book has tips for them too, so if you have someone who will be travelling with you they’ll have an idea of how they can help. I went over these tips with my husband before he went driving with me, and I think it helped us both to stay focused and know what’s helpful and what isn’t.

    Also, since I’ve written this post I’ve noticed that my anxiety has lifted a lot. I don’t know if its because I’m facing it in a new way- being open, honest and willing to talk about it in a public forum….but either way I think just talking about it here has helped.

    I guess all this is to say that it is possible to get over a phobia even though it feels like one of the hardest things I’ll ever do. And you can do it too!

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