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