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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

How's Your Driving? Reflections from the Road

Dr Nadine’s Thoughts:

In my training as a psychologist, I was taught how to be a better observer of the world around me.  I discovered that there was almost always more than one way to look at things.  I learned that there are invariably multiple determinants of people’s behaviors, and as a budding clinician, I felt charged with the responsibility of seeing ALL that was going on for an individual or family or group.  Since then, I’ve continued to hone my observational skills and have become more experienced and quicker to see the nuances and subtleties behind people’s actions.

My awareness must ultimately translate into language that describes what I see for my patients.  What I know about them has to be offered in a way that they can see and receive it. So I’ve enjoyed using metaphors and similes during the course of therapy.  Metaphors and similes clarify and simplify complex experiences, help people organize their understanding of the world, help them conceptualize their situations, and provide insight into their emotional states.

I was reminded of this as I drove to the office a couple of days ago.  It was a cold, clear morning, and my “head was already in the clouds” (a “dead” metaphor) thinking about what awaited me there.  As I rounded a curve, suddenly my surroundings were enshrouded in a thick fog.  It took me by surprise, and snapped me back to my immediate reality. I found myself concentrating intently on the road because it had morphed into something unfamiliar.  The terrain that I “travel daily in my sleep” (yep, an “implied” metaphor) became an unrecognizable route, demanding my full attention.  I proceeded cautiously and slowly, turned my lights on, and just kept going.  I knew if followed the road, even if I couldn’t see what was ahead, that I’d reach my destination.

So here’s my point (and my simile):  Life is just like driving.  We most often drive the same route, day to day, for long periods of time.  It becomes automatic and comfortable. But then something unexpected happens and we find ourselves in uncharted territory.  We have to rely on our maps, our GPS, our dear ones, our mentors, our teachers, our doctors – anything that can help us find our way.  If we proceed with awareness, with persistence, with boldness, with kindness, eventually we get to our destination.

You can use this simile to discover your natural way of living your life.  Do you drive fast or slow, and has that changed over time? Which lane of the highway do you prefer – the passing lane or the cruising lane?  Do you prefer the scenic route or getting to your destination as soon as possible? What do you do when you find yourself behind a slow driver?  Or when another driver is tailgating you? How about when you get stopped behind an obstacle, like a mail truck at a mailbox? What if you don’t want to drive at all…?  What if you’re like me, and prefer to be in the driver’s seat (it’s a little bit related to having motion-sickness, but not all of it…)?  It’s a pretty fun way of looking at how you approach life, and how you live it.  And it can be eye-opening.

So challenge yourself to pay attention differently to how you drive, and how you live.  I bet you’ll take a fresh look at your route, your journey and your destination. Safe travels!

Dr. Zan’s Reflections:

Dr. Nadine’s use of driving metaphors and similes is bringing a big smile to my face. You see, recently, I went back to driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, allowing me to be more fully in charge of my driving experience. This change has also brought me great joy. My friends and family have heard me declare, on more than one occasion, “I had forgotten that it could be so much fun to drive!” Metaphor for life? I’ll let you decide.

For many years now, my driving has been focused solely on “getting the job done.” That proverbial job has entailed traveling around to a variety of places, often with multiple passengers in tow, and getting there as efficiently and safely as possible. Driving has been perfunctory and necessary, with very little attention to the pleasure it could evoke.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that “road warriors” is a term I have often applied to our family and directed toward my children, in particular, with a subtle but detectable sense of pride. We, as a group, are much more likely to jump into a car or SUV for a 12-15 hour ride than to book flights for the trip. We have declared the value of having our own vehicle once we arrive, the opportunity to be in charge of our schedule, and seeing the countryside during the journey. (This last argument is hard to justify when the trip has literally been made upwards of 20 times.) And of course, there is the reality of embracing a shared experience. My fondness for the “shared experience” has been declared frequently and fervently because I truly believe it is these shared experiences, which have no requirement for being good or positive, that bring us closer.

So now is the time to engage even more fully with the drive, whether it be scenic, meandering, and smooth or riddled with traffic, frustration, and obstacles. I’m grabbing the steering wheel, taking charge of anything that I can actually influence, and basking in my surroundings. Connecting with my passengers is the easy and fun part. Admittedly, my work lies in allowing others to be in the driver’s seat without too much of my well-intentioned, but sometimes annoying assistance. Ah yes, we are all a work in progress, and that just adds to the adventure!

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