Rainer’s son was an excellent soccer player who had been invited to Chicago for the September long weekend to play soccer. Rainer had told his son that he couldn’t participate because he didn’t want to drive to Chicago. June, Rainer’s wife, blew up. She knew that the real reason for Rainer refusing his son permission to go to Chicago was Ranier’s driving anxiety. She insisted that Rainer deal with his ever-increasing driving anxiety.
During Rainer’s first counselling session he told how his driving anxiety developed slowly. Initially he was just nervous about winter driving in snow. Little by little any kind of precipitation made him anxious behind a wheel. Despite feeling anxious he had continued to drive but recently he found himself refusing to drive on long trips in case the weather would turn bad. He was concerned that there might be thunderstorms on the drive to Chicago. Ranier also shared that in the last six months he had declined two business trips to San Francisco because he didn’t want to drive along the city bridges.
In his late twenties Ranier had on two occasions been responsible for driving groups of teens to an event hundreds of miles away. Each time there had been a severe winter storm. Ranier vividly recalled how afraid he had been during those two trips. The trips went well but Ranier noted that since that time he was always hyper-vigilant during winter driving.
Prior to Ranier’s birth, while his mother was carrying him, there had been an auto accident in which Ranier’s three year old brother had died. Ranier didn’t know many of the details because his parents never wanted to talk about this time. Ranier himself didn’t think that this long-ago accident was at all connected to his current driving phobia.
Rainer: Able to drive again
Ranier agreed to EMDR and the first target he chose was the worst of the two winter trips from his youth leader days. During the processing Ranier spontaneously began to think and talk about his brother’s death. It was as if “memories” of the accident his brother had been killed in surfaced. Of course Ranier had not yet been born so Ranier’s “memories” were not the stuff usually equated with memory. This segment of EMDR processing was emotional and difficult for Ranier. It took a number of sessions before Ranier felt calm about that long-ago event before his birth.
Along with the calm Ranier felt about that long ago event Ranier also felt calm about current driving. He reported how he had driven home in an unexpected summer storm without even thinking of his fear until he was parked in his garage. He took his son to Chicago for soccer and he began taking business trips to San Francisco again without any problem.
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*The person in the above account has given permission to use his story. For reasons of confidentiality, identifying details are disguised.