Who’s Driving Your Car

As a Psychotherapist, I am always trying to find metaphors and pictures that help clients find the words that make sense of what they are experiencing. I love it when a client say’s “That’s just how it feels!” 

Over the past week or so I have found myself using the metaphor of driving a car. I wonder if this resonates with my readers. Imagine you are driving at eighty miles an hour in a thirty mile an hour zone, your hands are gripping very tightly to that steering wheel, it’s so frightening because someone else’s foot is on the accelerator. Do you ever feel like your life is a bit like that, emotions and stress levels can be through the roof creating anxiety, panic attacks and even depression as well as many other diagnosed disorders. If it does, then I wonder if you have ever sat and thought about who’s foot is on your accelerator.

When I have asked clients this question, the answers that come back include expectations of work bosses or colleagues, or family and parent’s which is common, people can be driven by the need for affirmation from mum and dad, as they have been conditioned to believe that love and acceptance comes through performance. Others are the expectations of husbands, wives and partners, and even children can be putting pressure on your accelerator. 

Through self-awareness and making sense of what or who is driving you, gives you choice and the incredibly liberating reminder that you have a brake pedal.  

If you are reading this, and thinking “this is me”, then it might be worth considering what blockages you have to putting your foot on the brake right now and taking control of your own life. Often, it is the concern of how others might react if you do. It can be draining always trying to be what everyone else needs you to be to avoid conflict, and end up with a drowning feeling in the process. 

Have you ever thought about how we can be trying to protect our own feelings by rescuing other people from taking the responsibility for their own feelings? For example, we might not say “no”, because it’s likely that others won’t like it and negative thoughts about us, so we say yes to protect them from having to feel feelings that they don’t like to feel. The reason they may have bad thoughts about you is not a reflection upon you, it is just because you are making them face feelings that they don’t want to face, so you end up rescuing them from their own feelings by compliance. But the result is that you are driving at eighty miles an hour with everyone else’s foot on your gas.

Often clients I work with feel trapped. When their partners feel out of control with their own feelings, they must control their environment to make them feel emotionally safe, which includes controlling my clients, and that control can escalate into emotional or physical abuse, it is incomprehensible the lengths that some people will go to, to avoid taking responsibility for their own feelings.

It might be time to put your foot on the brake and exercise your NO.

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