The floating bridge connecting Seattle to Bellevue was particularly wet this one afternoon. Waves from the storm had been washing over the bridge all morning saturating the road surface. Local radio announcers were advising everyone to drive the bridge with extreme caution.
Due to the weather, the traffic was slow on the downtown freeway that afternoon, which was likely the reason why many drivers, being late getting home from work, sped onto the bridge, totally disregarding the speed limit or the computerized safety warnings, ignoring too the wind and rain pounding the windshields. I was one of those speeders.
When the car in front stopped dead, I slammed on the brakes and my car skidded. There was nothing I could do to stop it from ramming into the back end of the stationary car in front. Surprisingly and thankfully, there was no damage to either occupants or cars.
That evening, after telling my wife and friends about the accident, I settled down to a relaxing evening, only to find self-incriminating thoughts starting to spring up. I had already admitted my fault to my wife and friends, that I was wrong to drive so fast in unsafe driving conditions, yet these unrelenting, merciless thoughts seemed to want to take it further than that: “Why did you drive so fast? You should have braked earlier.” They continued to rage at me.“ You’re an idiot. Whenever things are going right for you, you blow it, and you’ve blown it again! You are going to get sued big time for this.”
As these thoughts continued to pound me an intense pain began in my abdomen and lower back. The pain increased to the point that it started to become unbearable. I decided to talk to my wife – not about the pain, but rather about the thoughts.
I told her of the thoughts in my head that were severely beating me up for the accident, creating guilt, condemning me for not thinking ahead. I was starting to believe them. I felt I should have done better, that I felt like an idiot. I told her of my worry that we could lose a lot of money over this incident. As best I could, I represented the myriad of emotions that were flooding me. I did not pause to consider whether they were trivial, irrational or inappropriate. If I felt them, I expressed them.
As I told my story, the pain in my abdomen and lower back pain began to rapidly recede – then disappeared. By the time I had finished my account, I was free of pain, and free of thoughts.
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