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Car accidents are traumatic. It doesn’t matter if there are serious injuries or not. Just being in one can leave us feeling shaken and unsure of ourselves. We might even develop driving anxiety that makes getting back on the road difficult if not impossible.

The good news is, hypnosis and NLP (neurolinguistic programing) can help.

What Causes Driving Anxiety?

When we get into an accident the body’s natural defense system kicks in. This results in accelerated heart rate, dilated pupils, increase in metabolic rate, and increase in blood flow to the muscles. This activity is coordinated by the amygdala and allows us to respond appropriately to danger.

The thing is, the limbic system, of which the amygdala is a part, is a learning system. Whenever we experience some threat to our safety it is “recorded” in our memory. When we experience similar situations in the future, the limbic system responds in the same way that protected us the last time. In other words, similar situations become a “trigger” for the fight/flight response.

Normally, this fear response is turned off after we recognize we are no longer in danger. Our heart rate slows, our breathing becomes deeper and more relaxed, and our whole body returns back to a state of equilibrium.

In the case of driving anxiety, the fight/flight response either gets triggered in inappropriate situations or gets “stuck” and doesn’t automatically shut down. Sometimes the system goes so haywire that just thinking about driving sets the heart racing as we spiral into a cycle of fearful, anxious thoughts and feelings.

How Hypnosis Can Help With Driving Anxiety

Hypnosis is a natural state of focused awareness where the analytical mind temporarily takes a break, allowing us to more directly connect with the subconscious mind.

A 2015 Stanford University Medical School study showed that, while in hypnosis, participants showed decreased brain activity in the neocortex (the “thinking” part of the brain). At the same time, activity in the limbic system (the part of the brain that deals with emotions) actually increased.

Because driving anxiety is a deeply felt emotional state, hypnosis allows us to work through the issue where it lives: in the subconscious, emotional part of our being.

While in hypnosis we may work through driving anxiety using a variety of strategies.

    • Memory Regression Being in a car accident can be a terrifying experience. As mentioned before, intense emotional reactions that make a person feel like the accident is still happening can linger for years after the actual event. In hypnosis, we can safely and gently revisit the original trauma and disconnect the fear from the memory. This is largely achieved by assuring the subconscious mind that the danger is passed and that the person is safe and has survived. Often this alone can be enough to stop the cycle of anxiety.
    • Anchoring Resource States The saying goes, “Practice makes perfect”. Anchoring resource states in hypnosis is a way to use that principle to our advantage. While in trance, we create positive emotional states such as confidence, self-assurance, and feeling protected. We then imagine ourselves back in the driver’s seat, safely completing our daily commute or trip to the grocery store. By mentally practicing this over and over, we can rewire our anxiety response to driving without ever stepping into a car.
    • Parts Therapy This strategy is based on the premise that our personalities are made up of countless parts. For example, “A part of me wants to eat pizza but another part wants to order a salad.” In hypnosis we can enter into conversation with the part of ourselves that oversees the process of driving anxiety. During this conversation, the part is allowed to express its core positive intent to keep us safe and eventually recognize that there are more productive and appropriate ways to do so.

These are just a few of the techniques and strategies that we can use in hypnosis. Ultimately, we trust the basic goodness and positive motivations of our subconscious mind to guide us to the methods that will be most effective.

If you would like to learn more about how hypnosis can help with driving anxiety or other issues, please visit my website at