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The National Council of Psychotherapists

Est. 1971

Changing Perceptions


A recent Radio 4 interview with a Professor John Adams highlighted his view that the introduction of improved safety devices in cars has led to the perception in car drivers that they are in some way invincible, and therefore able to take ever-increasing risks when driving.


He also spoke of his view that whilst he would applaud maintaining and introducing road safety measures, such as speed limits and other such general rules that emphasised the roads being a shared space with pedestrians and cyclists etc, he disapproved of protection systems in cars that lead to drivers risking others lives by means of excessive risk-behaviours underpinned by false beliefs of invincibility.


Some years ago I wrote a piece for 2CVGB (the national club magazine for 2CV owners) which invited folks to take one example of such car safety systems, in this case the Volvo SIPS, and to rename it to take into account the reality as we saw it of road safety and driver attitudes. The answers that came in were amusing, and telling – some are mine, used to set people off thinking.


These included, amongst others,


Some Idiot Pretending to Steer

Sod you, I’m Perfectly Safe

Standard Investigation Proposes Slapstick-driver

So, If Possible, Steer-clear

Silly Invention Prompts Stupidity

Suicidal Idiot Prangs Someone

Special Identity? Properly Stinks!


You may be able to think up a few of your own.


As a result, the real-life validity of proffered changes and so-called car safety improvements are not automatically accepted without question, and we drive with all due care and attention, without the faulty belief that we are invincible. We maintain the responsibility of being in charge of our cars, of not taking excessive risks, and do not leave the responsibility for all eventualities back there with the car manufacturer.


The above was brought to mind during a training lesson in hypnotherapy. The notions of stopping automatic rule-following, making fun out of something not usually taken in a light hearted manner, and the introduction of humour to interrupt the train of thought is all included here, and as a result I have never been able to accept without question any claims of improved safety from car manufacturers or the politicians who change the rules for the roads.


I am told that this has also prompted in others the critical appraisal of such rules and systems, and it occurs to me that this may well be of help when working with a client who unquestioningly runs life and belief rules that are not necessarily to their benefit or comfort. This has been of help to some clients within the field of psychiatric care, and they tell me that it has allowed them to take a breath before jumping into well-worn patterns of thought and behaviour. When the ‘rule’ is named and visualised printed out clearly on a sign, they can then take the sign down, bringing it within reach, and find different names for it; find the names that use all the ingredients but may not be patently logical or sensible; brainstorm all alternatives; and then take time to view all these different sign names. Noticing the difference in the level of power assigned to that initial sign, the one that had previously been accepted and acted on without question by the client, this highlights the difference, and in underlining the differences and the changes the client can make, they can find their own power and take charge to their benefit.


Rosalyn Young. R.M.N, LNCP


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