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A Driving Force of Integration

I had an amazing time practicing driving with Nat. We navigated winding roads and a one-lane bridge, and talked about how learning to drive can help build confidence and independence. We even came up with a special code-word to remind us of this special moment. Come read more about our journey and what we learned!

Navigating the Road to Independence: A Driving Adventure with Nat

By Michael Levin

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Nat and I had a wonderful driving exercise time. She drove to WaWa and back, including parking and pulling out of the parking lot. She did her first 5-point turn in a small dead-end street, and we took Clubhouse all the way to the end, navigating winding mountain roads with people walking on them, and going over a 1-lane bridge waiting for cars to come through, and being waited for as we went through. We are communicating better than ever. I’m working on my listening skills and talked a bit about the internal “other you” who you are absolutely talking to and with during such activities as journaling.

That part of the talk was in response to Nat’s assertion that she doesn’t trust or believe herself when she does a good job. The self-reward feedback loop is interrupted, and in particular, there is a kind of getting stuck in a panic mode. Her in that state only hears or believes internal information and not the overwhelming evidence from eyes, ears and other senses taking in information from the objective outside world. As an example of good information from the senses of that objective outside world, I suggested that still being alive is an excellent one to pay attention to for someone who’s learning to drive.

I can think of perhaps no better exercise than learning to drive to come to grips with these things about one’s self. It’s stuff that simply has to be overcome in order for driving to be safe. It’s fascinating to see. Full integration, and indeed even trust between one’s different inner selves, is not actually necessary to start committing the skills to muscle-memory and become a good driver. You can actually develop the skills and muscle-memory and become a good driver before you believe in yourself. Then the truth of driving well must eventually provide the evidence. That’s some pretty overwhelming evidence.

Also regarding the choice of muscle-memory skills to develop to force these issues of self-discovery, driving is a good one. It is one of the most important skills for independence and personal power in our society. Driving buys you freedom and even financial wherewithal with access to more jobs. There is little “avoidance” in pursuing the skill of driving, such as there is with sinking the same commitment into luxury pastimes such as rich-people sports or flying lessons, both of which are of no practical value, at least not on the same order as driving a car.

The human animal is a fascinating thing. Executive function of the neocortex can absolutely override the more base-animal (or “lower” animal) parts of ourselves, but it’s a learned and practiced skill. We are born much more like deer with a propensity to get stuck in headlights. Rough and tumble play and sports often forces its development in kids. In play-fighting you feel like it’s life-or-death when it’s not. Your body learns that not everything presented as life-or-death actually is, and we develop that uniquely human skill of saying: “No, that threat’s not real” and thereby not being like a deer stuck in headlights. But it’s possible to miss those lessons, or have the exact opposite lessons drilled into you by childhood trauma.

We reached a point in the conversation where I thought it would have great utility to recapture that moment. Progress up to that point. I figured “code-word!” This looks like a good time for a nickname. We had to figure out a way to know that some sort of interruption exercise was called for in that deer-in-headlights moment. Something that could at least remind us of that point in the conversation and that oh-so-salient point that there needs to exist some sort of… interruption exercise! Code-word achieved.

Good job, My Love.