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How I learned to stop worrying and love the bridge

When you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are several bridges that you have to drive on in order to cross over the bay.


There is the Bay Bridge, that takes you from the city to the East Bay.


There is the Richmond Bridge, that takes you from the East Bay to the North Bay.


And there is, of course, the famous Golden Gate Bridge.


That is the one that I have driven over countless times.


There was a time when I drove over it every day to commute to work.


It is a bridge that inspires people all over the world; it's probably the most iconic bridge in the world, and it’s the number one thing that visitors to San Francisco want to experience.


And yet, when I first moved to the Bay Area, I could not enjoy driving over the bridge, because I felt anxious.


Driving over a bridge is a very vulnerable moment. I mean . . .


What if the big earthquake hits while you are crossing the bridge?


What if a terrorist sets off a bomb on the bridge?


Every time I drove over one of the bridges, those distressing thoughts or other similar ones would make me feel anxious, with a queasy feeling in my stomach. I would cross the bridge anyway, because I needed to . . . but it wasn't fun, and my cortisol probably went way up each time.


But then one day I remembered something.


I remembered that when I was little, we used to take road trips, and sometimes we drove over very long bridges. I remembered how I felt, riding in the back seat, relaxed, watching dreamily as the water and the sky moved past.


I remembered that back then, going over a bridge didn’t evoke any fear, but rather a child’s “wheeeee!”, because it felt like we were flying.


So I decided to tap into that childhood feeling/memory, and from then on, instead of focusing on fearful thoughts, I would let myself feel the “wheeee!” when I drove over the bridge.


Later, when I studied hypnotherapy, my teacher taught me that how we feel about anything comes down to the words and images we associate with it.


In that moment around 10 years ago, although I had not yet been taught that principal, I discovered on my own how to use it to change my experience (and overcome my fear). I changed not only the images, but also the kinesthetic/emotional feeling that I associated with going over bridges.


You can use this technique to change your experience too.


When something is evoking fear or anxiety in you, you can choose different words and images to associate with it. And if you are kinesthetically inclined, you can feel those feelings in your body.


How?


For example, let’s say that you have an upcoming trip planned.


Perhaps it will be your first time traveling since the pandemic. You might be worrying about catching Covid on the airplane.You might feel anxious as the date of your trip approaches. Maybe flying itself makes you anxious. Maybe you feel like you’ve forgotten how to pack a suitcase, and you are worried that you will forget something you’ll really need.


So in this instance, you can decide to stop focusing on the worries, and instead, start visualizing the happy things.


Envision your suitcase packed and ready two days before your flight, everything taken care of. (Notice how good that feels in your body.)


Imagine yourself on the airplane, feeling delighted and excited as the plane takes off. (Feel the excitement bubbling up in you.)


Envision the joy and elation you will feel spending time with the friend you are going to visit, the one you haven’t seen in so long. (While envisioning this you might feel yourself smiling, as if you were there with your friend already.)


By changing the words, images, and /or kinesthetic feelings that you associate with your upcoming trip, you will change how you feel about it.


I love this technique. It’s one of the great secrets to life, in my opinion.


. . . But it isn’t always easy to do.


If your fear or anxiety is related to past trauma, especially something in childhood, it can live very deep inside of you, and it isn’t so easy to change with your conscious mind.


Or if your nervous system has gotten stuck in fight or flight mode, and your stress hormones have taken over, you might feel too overwhelmed to do this on your own.


This is where hypnotherapy can come to the rescue, by “reprogramming” your mind to have positive associations (or in some cases neutral ones) with the thing that you fear.


That is only one small part of what we do in a Transformational Hypnotherapy session, but it's a powerful one.


. . . So how about you? Is there a fear or an anxiety that is creating suffering for you, or getting in the way of fully living your life?


Contact me if you would like to take a first step towards overcoming your fear or anxiety.


with love and light,

Valerie



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