I love using props in my sessions as a way to help clients to understand where they are currently, but also as a way for them to understand how they may be able to navigate through their situation. One of these props helps me illustrate how we allow our focus to get easily diverted and how we get off our intended course or goal.
In my office, a windshield with a steering wheel and a rearview mirror are mounted to a wall. I have the client sit down and look out the windshield. Challenging them to engage their imagination, I ask them to describe the road that they see in front of them. Is it a smooth highway? A dirty back road full of potholes? Or are they off on a beaten path? Once they have this image in their mind, I then ask them to decide where they want to go. Do they want to change the direction they are headed and what would a new destination look like. This leads us into a conversation on goals and the process of counseling.
Next, I have them take ahold of the steering wheel and ask them to begin their journey to that destination they want to be at. We discuss what is in the way of getting to that place they want to be at in life? Is there something in the past, the rearview mirror, which grips our thoughts or holds our focus? Is it controlling us from going forward? Throughout this process, the client begins to see that while they can’t necessarily change their past they can learn to accept it and learn from it. Reflecting on the past is okay as long as it doesn’t divert us from where we want to be. We tend to hang things from that rearview mirror that keep us stuck in the present moment and prevent us from moving forward. These things may or may not be harmful and can include anxiety, depression, anger, and control. Other harmful things may hold you back as this is a personal journey and these issues can and will vary as you go down that road you want to travel.
This brings us to the steering wheel. This is what you have control of now, in the present moment. You have the ability to choose which direction you wish to take. Driving requires us to have both hands on the wheel at the same time. Taking a hand off to answer our phone, change the radio station, or possibly even grabbing a beer can cause us to drift. We lose control and lose focus on our intended goal. With the gas and brake at your feet, you decide how fast to move forward or maybe where you need to brake and work through some of those things hanging from your rearview mirror.
We have times where we have passengers in the car with us and this can be a positive influence or a GREAT distraction in getting us to our goal. Who we have with us in this journey takes discernment and some self-examination as to whether we keep them in the car with us or stop and kick them to the curb.
All this is happening in the present. What is keeping us motivated to look forward through the front windshield? Do we understand that we can control how fast we move, gas or break pedals, or do we allow our past, the rearview mirror, or present day distractions, what is hanging from that mirror, or is it our passengers that are keep us from moving towards that initial destination of where we want to be?
Mark Holloway, MA, LLPC