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Test Driving a Talking Mat


Guest Blog by Ruth Cape 

Ruth is Lois Cameron’s daughter and she has contributed the following guest blog about her recent experience of taking and passing her driving test and how using a Talking Mat the night before her test developed a nerve controlling action plan!

My Driving test -a  nerve wracking prospect  

Even the simplest of actions within the context of a nerve-wracking event can be magnified to stomach churning proportions. The thought of opening a car door and putting on a seatbelt has never before given me much trouble.  Now suddenly I’m imagining fumbling with the handle, not finding the seatbelt lock – or worse, forgetting the thing altogether; while trying to look cool and collected in front of a reportedly ‘no-benefit-of-the-doubt’ driving test examiner. It was the night before my practical driving test. I had recently failed on a nerves-getting-the-better-of-me manoeuvre and knew I’d be unlikely to get another test for 3 months if this one didn’t work out. I live on the Isle of Harris. Winter gales make cycling difficult, if not often impossible. Winter busses are sporadic. My housemate-cum-chauffeur-cum-co-driver had just left the island. My driving lessons in Stornoway required a four hour round trip. To put it lightly, I was pretty keen to pass. If I’m honest, even if I knew I could get another test the next week and if my day to day life wouldn’t be much effected by the use of a car, simply the thought of 40 minutes in that vehicle-turned-pressure-cooker, every move scrutinised by a stranger in a high-vis would have given me the tangled stomach I suffered from that test eve.

Talking Mat trialled as a pre-driving test nerve-gatherer

Timing was on my side this time round; my mum – Lois – and her colleague – Sally – happened to be on a Talking Mats training visit to Stornoway that pre-test day. Finished with a day of training, we met for dinner and, as plates were cleared away and calming herbal tea was ordered, out came the pen, paper and post-it notes. This – I gather – was the first Talking Mat trialled as a pre-driving test nerve-gatherer; proving just how versatile a tool it is. With a top-scale to gauge my confidence levels, different aspects of the test were handed to me and ended up in a cluster around the lower two steps of the scale; opening the door and putting on my seatbelt sat just a little above parallel parks and three point turns. While this mostly went to show that it was the whole experience that was knotting my insides, it allowed a valuable opening for discussion on how to go about unknotting, or at least concealing the knots.

Reframing thoughts and strategies for success 

Re-framing the nerves to focused adrenalin, positive mantra, power posing and deep breaths – the mediation of the Mat provided the opportunity to work through strategies for success. I went to bed, glad – at least – to have had something to do to that evening to channel the nervous energy. The following morning I opened that car door, put on my seatbelt and proceeded to pass with one minor. Now, I can’t allow Talking Mats to take all the credit for this turn of events, but I can definitely praise the tool and thank my two informal practitioners for keeping me focused. From this experience, I’m sure there is potential for a wider Talking Mats scope for tackling anxiety and for use in relation to stressful situations.

Now Harris has opened up, and I’m off to explore…