AT THE CROSS­ROADS

TIME ALONE WON’T HEAL ALL WOUNDS; RESET YOUR RE­AC­TIONS TO CHANGE YOUR BE­HAV­IOUR

Life & Style Weekend - - MIND - MIND YOU WORDS: ROWENA HARDY

Back in Jan­uary 2014, I was driv­ing along the main road from our home to go to an early meet­ing. Some­thing I do daily. There was some traf­fic and it was start­ing to rain so I put on my head­lights, noth­ing ex­traor­di­nary or un­usual about any of this apart from what hap­pened next.

As I came to a four-way junc­tion where I had right of way, I was aware of var­i­ous ve­hi­cles; some ahead of me, some be­hind, oth­ers wait­ing to turn off, on to or across the junc­tion and then, with­out warn­ing, a car pulled out di­rectly in front of me, across my path and we col­lided.

I had been ac­cel­er­at­ing from a 60kmh zone into the 80kmh zone just be­fore the junc­tion when this hap­pened so the im­pact

was sig­nif­i­cant. The steer­ing had been dam­aged and, as the air bags re­leased, I could no longer see where I was head­ing. I re­mem­bered there was a boggy area to the left I wanted to avoid and a raised traf­fic is­land on the right that would stop my car and did what I could do to steer to­ward that.

For­tu­nately, some­one called the po­lice and am­bu­lance and the lovely driver in front who had seen what hap­pened came to check on me and gave me shel­ter in his ve­hi­cle while I waited. Much to my sur­prise (and re­lief) the only in­juries were a frac­ture in one of the small bones in my foot, a frac­ture in one of my fin­gers, along with whiplash, bruis­ing and shock.

Why am I shar­ing this?

As you can imag­ine, it took me a little while to drive through that junc­tion again. At that time, with no ve­hi­cle and Nick away, I couldn’t drive, but I also didn’t want to. The thought of it and the phys­i­cal sen­sa­tion and emo­tional dis­com­fort was enough to de­lay me. How­ever, I couldn’t avoid it for long.

The first few times were dif­fi­cult. I was hy­per-aware, ex­tremely cau­tious and some­what anx­ious be­cause part of me ex­pected it to hap­pen again; from be­ing a pos­si­bil­ity that I had never con­sid­ered it now felt like a prob­a­bil­ity.

Over time it be­came a little eas­ier; it’s not that I for­got what hap­pened but I even­tu­ally ad­justed my re­ac­tion to what had hap­pened, redi­rect­ing it to a re­sponse in­stead. What does that mean, ex­actly? I learned to re-set my be­lief and re­lease my emo­tional re­ac­tion; the be­lief I’d formed that it was go­ing to hap­pen again at the same junc­tion, the fear of it be­ing a worse out­come and pro­ject­ing my anx­ious thoughts out to what felt like a cer­tain fu­ture point.

In­stead I recog­nised that be­ing that way wasn’t help­ing me and so ob­served and adapted my be­hav­iour, which al­lowed my nat­u­ral cau­tion to re­main; I was still vig­i­lant but the fear dis­ap­peared.

Five years on, I oc­ca­sion­ally feel a faint jar­ring sen­sa­tion in my body, like an echo of the event, but I no longer have any emo­tional con­nec­tion to the event; learn­ing to ap­ply the lessons of the event cer­tainly helped me.

Rowena Hardy is a fa­cil­i­ta­tor and coach at mind­saligned.com.au

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