The feelings we often have during our commutes to and from work where we zone out are referred to as “dissociative experiences.” When we’re making turns, using our blinkers, going forward when the light turns green – all while not being aware of it – we are in a state of hypnosis.
When does it happen?
Dissociative experiences normally occur when we are driving long distances or at highway speeds, driving during sleep hours, or if we are under stress or fatigued. Dissociation can happen while we are reading a book, watching television, attending school or even listening directly to someone. When we ask, “what is highway hypnosis?” we need to realize that we are present, but also mentally detached and less aware of what we are doing.
What is it not?
Highway hypnosis is not the same as driving while tired. Whereas the body begins to shut down for sleep when tired, with highway hypnosis, the mind can be fully functional, driving the vehicle, and yet not be aware of the experience when the drive is over. “Wow, that was a fast trip!” you might say. If you experienced the trip differently on the way back versus on the way to, it is because you were in a different mental state.
Highway hypnosis is not the same as daydreaming. When we daydream, we are creating imaginary scenarios with the creative parts of the brain. With highway hypnosis, we are performing the task of driving, going through the motions without being aware of those motions.
Is highway hypnosis a bad thing?
It’s not necessarily bad, but it can be dangerous because we are not as mentally alert as we should be while driving, so we want to reduce the likelihood that highway hypnosis occurs.
How can we avoid highway hypnosis?
The best way to avoid highway hypnosis is to get a full night’s rest, eat healthy meals; drink plenty of water throughout the day and exercise regularly, keeping stress levels low. By doing these simple tasks, you will keep your mind and body functioning at a higher level, staying more alert, ready to react to anything on the road in the appropriate timing and manner.
The most important thing you need to know is realizing when highway hypnosis is happening in order to help you avoid the potential pitfalls.