There are many tutorials and instructions available on how to deal with driving test examination nerves and fear.
Many of these present themselves with the idea that you can beat or conquer your fears with positive thinking which in itself is ludicrous simply because it gives false hope and leads a person to believe that they can when they can’t.
Your nerves and fear cannot be conquered and any attempt at trying to remove that fear, anxiety and nerves is like trying to splice your windpipe into two, your mind will try hard to put it back.
The nerves and fear are there for a reason and that reason is to protect you from some perceived danger. Obviously there is no real danger but it is that part of your mind that produces the fight or flight response – without thinking, your nerves are coming from a part of your mind that doesn’t think, it’s the non-thinking part of your mind which is just automatically responds or produces this reaction to keep you safe and get you away from danger.
There is no logic in it, it is just automatic and you cannot communicate with that part of the mind with normal human language because it operates on a different level altogether. You are not meant to access it.
The perceived danger or threat within the driving test is unique to each individual and no two people will be the same although it does appear to be the same, it is not.
Generally speaking it is the anticipation and the apprehension of failure and feeling or believing that you will not meet either your own or others’ expectations to succeed. There have been many associated reinforcing experiences throughout your life especially through schooling which you would have forgotten.
And here’s the thing, it is the unconscious programs that you carry around with you about unmet expectation from others from your past that haunts, as though they were there now with you in this very moment.
When we say fear of failure or fear of unmet expectation in others, this means not meeting their required standard or level of achievement can be the result of our past experiences in this particular area and for some this is chronically worse than others when in similar situations now with similar expected outcomes to meet irrespective of the content or task at hand to complete.
Many people pass the driving test first time for various reasons such as holding high confidence and a determination to succeed and that they believe they will do well and not have it any other way and that belief is so powerful it often produces success simply because there are no negative or invasive intrusions of thought.
At the other end of the scale you have some people who are quite intelligent and strong in themselves but all of a sudden intrusive thoughts and feelings will appear and often it can become very muddy and complex and a whole array of thoughts and feelings bombard the mind and affect concentration.
Most of these are totally irrational and a total hindrance and yet that non-thinking part of the mind keeps producing them to get us away from the danger at all cost even though there is no danger.
This response is the result of connected and associated experiences throughout your life running in the background of your mind; these cannot be recalled because in themselves each piece is just a scrappy bit of information strung together from an original experience or cause.
Anxiety or performance nerves is probably one of the biggest reasons for failing a driving test otherwise your driving instructor wouldn’t have booked you into the test.
There is a very good chance your driving instructor felt comfortable and confident with their training and your performance and ability to safely and confidently drive the car but when the actual crunch moment comes, the mind experiences fearful intrusions and them intrusions can be varied along with apprehension and stomach turning sickness to say the least along with physical alterations in the body such as sweating, increased heartbeat and blood pressure along with many other unwanted reactions.
Trying to push this away, block or fight it will only make it worse because that part of your mind believes you need to have that reaction at that precise moment and the more we try to push it away the more it tries to put it back.
Yes the mind does that, and it’s the same with other symptoms like depression, if you try to take it away or block it with medication it will come back faster and harder with a vengeance.
Understanding this is a starting point to understanding what you’re feeling and experiencing at that time.
A certain level of nerves is healthy and can keep us sharp and on our toes to do well but anymore can often spill over into disorder and mental confusion, total sickening confusion and many heightened stress responses which do nothing but harm us especially when the situation, is in reality totally safe.
When we are on our driving test we know that the person sitting next to us is analysing and interpreting our every move and action. Understandably we’re going to be somewhat nervous of this silent stranger!
Trying to turn the nerves to our advantage can be done to some extent as long as we acknowledge or embrace the nerves and turn them into something to assist us.
This is easier said than done but can be done well.
Firstly you must not try to push those nerves or anxiety away, it absolutely will not go away as there is an evolutionary block to stop conscious logical thinking or deliberate action from changing what the non-thinking or unconscious part of the mind is doing.
Acknowledge the nerves and embrace them and confirm to yourself that you’re not going to push them away but you’re going to attempt to understand them in this situation and that you understand that the nerves appear as a misunderstanding or an incorrect faulty belief that you need them and that there is a part of your mind which is producing that response due to the stored information you have in your mind as a result of your past life’s experience related to this particular performance or task at hand.
And whilst it is a false and incorrect reaction, it is trying to look after you based on storied up faulty information which we all hold and gather throughout our lives.
Acknowledge that you feel nervous.
“Today I am feeling nervous, and I feel the sickness in my stomach but I’m going to do my best to be successful in this driving test without trying to push the nerves away. I understand they are there to protect me from an incorrect belief that I am putting myself in some sort of harm or distress and whilst I am in that situation I will be successful as I can be. I will succeed in passing this test and I will do it with the help of these nerves and this anxiety”
When you’re in the car keep referring back to an aloof, couldn’t give a damn attitude whether you pass or fail.
We all have an aloof couldn’t give a damn attitude when we want to especially when faced with nerves. Try to adopt a shrug of the shoulders and keep referring to it by saying to yourself its okay, if I fail I fail, it is only a test and I’ll take it again and again if I have to.
In other words take the power out of it, depower it, reduce the importance of it and certainly don’t take any high-level of unnecessary expectation with you on the test or it will make you ill.
Trying to succeed if you are sick with nerves will be a battle. Obviously the driving test is important to you but if you’re faced with sickness and anxiety and nerves then take the importance out of the task.
Outside of the nerves this will sound or seem irrational but when faced with the sickness and the nerves, it is a way of lowering the apprehension, anticipation and fear by making it less valuable and less important.
If that seems unacceptable to you then start focusing on how acceptable it is to fail.
If you fail you fail!
Try focusing on that state of mind and what often follows when you say to yourself ‘it’s no big deal’ especially when others are flapping around over any situation and you are not.
Look carefully at failing and not passing and making that acceptable and okay. This way you are reducing the threat which may be totally imaginary and irrational, either way it’s still perceived as real by the mind.
Lay on your bed and relax, use deep down relaxation techniques, deep slow breathing and relax then visualise how acceptable it is to not be successful in this test.
Obviously you know you want to pass and obviously you know you need to pass and whilst you may pass you must find a balance with the thoughts of failing and not passing.
Also you may want to look at certain words that affect you, certain keywords like the word failure, it’s just a word but it’s the meanings behind the word which affects us all.
If you’re worried about others comments, views and the fear of unmet expectation in others eyes then keep your test date secret.
Don’t tell anyone, that way there is only you and your instructor that will know.
Remove the things on the path that could affect you such as others expectations, comments and views or judgement or whatever it is that affects you which again will be unique to you.
Also before you get into the car be very aware of the manner and position of the examiner and that his job is to assess your ability on many levels including how safe you are.
Don’t even attempt to talk to him or her, as they are often stony faced and professionally detached and very cold and non-responsive to you.
This demeanour or position is OK but can make some people feel uncomfortable as though they’re really harshly judging you.
Be aware of how cold and detached the examiner will be, it is their job to remain poker-faced and neutral and don’t even bother saying anything to them with your nervous laugh, they don’t care either way. Get this in your mind that they are not your friend and never will be and you do not and cannot please them if you even tried.
There are often horrible stories and feedback going around from people who have failed driving tests. Don’t listen to them, dismiss them; they’re not your concern, so what!
Your job is to do your best, be as nervous as you need to be, be the best you need to be without bothering with the horror stories you may have heard. They are often blown out of all proportion and exaggerated to justify others experiences and need for drama.
When you take a test don’t bring all the past garbage with you and let other stressful situations like screaming kids or arguing family members take place prior to the test.
Be alone for a few hours before the test and prepare yourself mentally and visually.
In the last few sessions with your instructor before your test confide in your instructor and tell him or her about your concerns about nerves and anxiety and what you think may happen and to practice certain manoeuvres in accordance with how you think you will be with your nerves at certain points.
Make sure you do some sort of a mock up of test with your instructor and pay for that extra test if you have to because you may have more nerves going on than other people and ask your instructor to take you through the whole experience from start to finish. This really helps!
Practice visualisation techniques days and weeks before the test and go through every manoeuvre with your eyes closed over and over and over again until you absolutely have it drilled into you so it becomes automatic.
Also visualise making mistakes and seeing how you are at that muck up moment and seeing how you react and again take the power out of it by seeing yourself making mistakes and accepting them as opposed to trying not to make mistakes.
You will do the right thing when the time comes.
View your examiner sitting next to you has some sort of computer monitoring system, less human because you certainly won’t strike up a friendly relationship with them so see them as a computer collecting information about your driving, that’s all. They don’t care if you pass or fail; they just need to see you can handle the car and that you are safe amongst other road users.
Remember your driving examiner couldn’t give a damn about your success or failure. They couldn’t give a damn about you, so why should you them?
If you fail you fail and if you pass you pass and it’s as simple as that in their eyes. Don’t even try to be nice, chatty or please them. Just do your best and just treat them with the same silent ignorance as they will treat you with, their position is not personal in any way to you; just do what they ask of you.
Remember all human beings fail constantly throughout their life. It really is no big deal; all successful people fail to reach the desired goals so they keep on trying.
Positive thinking doesn’t work!
Positively saying to yourself you will succeed, you will pass, you will be successful against the anxiety and nerves may be futile because you already believe and fear you will fail and if the dominating state of mind is a fear of failure occurring then that is highly likely to happen.
It is that you must keep in your mind and again you must adopt a, couldn’t give a damn attitude to take the power out of it. Actually this would be the only time when you do that.
You don’t know if you will pass, you want to pass, you need to pass, you hope you will pass but you also strongly believe you will or you may or you might fail and if you’ve got that going on then trying to fill your head with positive thoughts will just reinforce the negative thoughts that keep intruding upon you.
If your mind is filled with fear of failure and anxiety then telling yourself positive things in THAT state of mind is totally nuts.
Telling yourself positive things in a relaxed and positive safe calm state is when you do engage in positive thinking to enhance you, NOT when you are in a full blown state of fight or flight. It won’t work and any adviser or therapist that tells you this in this state is at fault!
Can you see why it’s so important not to kid yourself but actually go with the reality of the matter, go with the reality that you might fail and you know there’s a very good chance you will be successful if you think that way.
Listening to people who will tell you to fill your head with positive energising successful thoughts will not work in such states, it will work for those who are positive and confident who have a few doubts but if you are consumed with anxiety and nerves then it’s essential to be truthful with yourself.
Positive thinking sometimes is the worst thing you can do because positive thinking in itself becomes dishonest according to the information that is filling your head space, see the point?
Keep it real has they say means being honest with your feelings and your fears and your thoughts and why the hell should you be doing all this to yourself?
You don’t deserve it and now you have a better understanding of how to embrace your fears and nerves instead of trying to push them away or bury them with so-called positive thinking.
Be truthful with your feelings and thoughts.
Visualise as much as you can your driving performance to make it more automatic and natural.
Visualise making some disastrous mistakes and failing, see what that is like.
Visualise the worst thing that can happen to you!
Visualise specifically recovering from those horrible rotten feelings of mistakes and/or failure. Because if that happens that’s what you’ll do anyway, you will recover and you will ease up on yourself and you will get back to where you were before all this started so you’re going to return back to where you started anyway, feel the fear and do it anyway.
Visualise the worst-case scenarios which are unique to you and bring into play your worst fears and insecurities and just let them happen in the visualisation.
By doing this you are slowly and minutely reintroducing back into the cycle of feeling and thought things which are operating outside of your conscious awareness and by reintroducing these feelings and thoughts (fears) back into the natural cycle of feeling and thought you will become more acceptant and familiar with them.
Adaption and acceptance comes out of bad such as when we experience trauma and tragedy in our life so adapt up front before it happens by visualising the worst and accepting it.
By visualising the worst-case scenarios and being honest with ourselves we are conditioning and desensitising ourselves to our fears and demons.
By visualising these things and completing the visualisation with a shrug of the shoulders or acceptance of that failure you are returning back to a better place to try again and increase your confidence.
If you’re driving instructor books you in for your driving test he she will do so with your confirmation and agreement and neither of you will do it if you believe you are not up to scratch.
Therefore you are physically able to handle and drive the car in all situations that you’ve trained in and if you bring into play the above guidance on depowering the things that are making you nervous then you can return back to knowing that you do have the ability to perform all the tasks at hand otherwise you wouldn’t be booked in for the test.
Trying to fill your head with positive thoughts when your stomach is turning with nerves will cause ambivalence and confusion and dishonesty within yourself by trying to think positively one way when your mind is saying think this way instead is completely futile. Don’t do it, it won’t work!
It is essential that you are honest with your feelings because you are specifically dealing with something that is running parallel in your mind and those things are apprehension, anticipation, fear, failure or unmet expectations, self judgment, others judgments, rejection, ridicule, laughter, mocking and so on.
This advice is for guidance purposes only. If in any doubt consult a GP or doctor of psychology or health care professional before adjusting any medication or before taking on board any mind altering visualisation techniques. We accept no responsibility.
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