49er Driving School 

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BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION

§∞ Not affiliated with the San Francisco 49ers - the NFL or NFL Properties (NFLP) ∞§
 
BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION IN DRIVING

 

Ronald S. McNees, Ph.D.

 

People drive in different ways and some of these ways are dangerous. When a driver speeds, tailgates, or "pokes" along, they are doing it for a reason; even though they may not understand what that reason is.

 

Dangerous driving is symptomatic of underlying motivations that are locked into the personality of the driver. These motivations stem from survival instincts during childhood. From the time we are born, all of us need food shelter •• and recognition, in order to survive. Recognition shapes the patterns of our behavior.

 

Recognition constantly reminds us of our purpose and worth. Recognition comes mainly from others in our environment. Recognition is either supportive or critical. We strive to attract the warm and the supportive while repelling the cold and critical. We want the good to stay and the bad to go away. If life however tends to be unfair, dealing us too many negative strokes, well…we may resign ourselves to a lifetime of seeking the non-supportive, i.e., criticism is better than no recognition at all.

 

We employ three main tactics in trying to control the type of recognition we receive. We seek harmony with others, or we strive to control them, or we try to avoid any involvement.

 

To understand this better let's go back to the beginning of life. When a child is born it starts out with the instinctive and natural actions to meet the needs of the moment. As it grows it learns to be creative, intuitive and manipulative. When it can't figure out what is happening or why, it reverts to "magical thinking". It believes it has the power to make others feel good or bad; likewise, it believes others have the same power over it. By the time the child is six years old its personality is formed and consists of three main parts:

 

The part that feels and wants to have fun; to be free (the child).

 

The part that tries to control, temper, and protect the child; the rule maker (the parent).

 

The part that tries to make sense of it all; the peace keeper, the master of reason and understanding, the thinker (the adult).

 

As a person moves through adolescence into adulthood, the interaction between these three parts will mold the personality into one of four distinct types.

 

The first type survives very well while the other three have a hard time of it. Number ones do well because:

 

They know they are in charge of their own destinies; they have outgrown "magical thinking", and they are concerned for the welfare of others.

 

The remaining three are either at odds with themselves, or others, or both.

 

They cling to many of the restrictive type messages they received from their parents and they still believe that others in their environment are exerting influence over them.

 

Thus, when someone makes a mistake while driving, such as accidentally cutting off someone in traffic, unless the driver who was cut off is a #1 type, then the careless driver's mistake is going to be taken as a personal slight.

 

And once a person feels that someone else is trying to control them, or make them feel bad, well…usually some form of retaliation is in order!

 

Beyond retaliation however, is the everyday driving patterns of people who have "not ok" personalities. For them, the automobile represents a most powerful means of gaining recognition, as well as being the great equalizer. The accelerator becomes an extension of their legs, allowing them to run faster.

 

The in-take manifold becomes an added lung, permitting one to run farther.

 

Unfortunately, such extensions of ones capabilities does carry a hefty price tag; in the form of stress. Stress is a natural factor in the struggle of the three different parts of the personality. When the internal conflicts of the personality are allowed to become more powerful through driving, the stress level goes up. On the average, the circulatory system of the majority of drivers will show a 10% increase in pulse rate while driving in rural areas, and more than a 20% increase when driving in urban areas. The more stress one feels, the harder it is for them to exercise good judgment (to be an adult).

 

Therefore if one wishes to learn to exert more control over the way they drive, they should come to realize that the stress of driving coupled to the extension of one's capabilities (due to the power and mobility of the vehicle), makes it easier for the fun seeking "kid", or the take charge "parent", to dominate the personality. Kids of course, act impulsively while parents tend to over-react. Neither can be relied upon because their motives are self-seeking rather than getting the big picture, which includes the welfare of others.

 

When the "adult" part of the personality loses control and the "child" or the "parent" or the "child and the parent" are in command, then recognition becomes more important than the reason why we seek recognition in the first place...SURVIVAL.
 
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