Six Methods for Processing a Traumatic Event Like A Car Crash

Guest blog by John Smotherman

After a car or truck crash, a car accident attorney can help you fight for your legal compensation, but the lawyer cannot heal the mental scars. A traumatic injury or event can upend a person’s life in countless ways. 

If that has happened to you, here are some options to consider as ways to help weather the storm and thrive in spite of it.

1)  Lean On Your Relationships To Help Keep Your Thinking Objective

When we experience a major shift in our life, especially one that is disruptive, it can be challenging to make sense of it.  The mind tends to hyper-focus on trauma.  While this hyperfocus can be helpful for spotting details and nuances that could otherwise be missed, it also tends to blur the event’s proper place within the bigger context of our life.

Hyper-focusing on a situation is much like holding a dinner plate up in front of your face so you can study it in detail.  While details about the plate do become clearer, two other things happen as well. 

First, the plate looks much larger than it actually is.  In other words, the trauma can get overly magnified in our minds. 

Secondly, it obscures much of what we could otherwise see behind it.  This can have the effect of making us miss important information, perspectives, or possibilities. 

So while hyper-focusing can be helpful in learning lessons, when out of proportion it also can weaken our ability to be objective.  And the less objective we are able to be, the poorer the decisions we make.  Really good decisions require analysis from both a subjective and an objective perspective.

Regularly conversing with friends and relatives who are not directly affected by the trauma, especially those that you know to be level headed, can help keep you grounded in a more objective perspective.  If you don’t have personal relationships that are suitable for this, it could be wise to engage a minister, counselor or therapist. 

Without objective feedback about ourselves, our perspective, and our situation, it is very easy in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event to get heavily disoriented.  This disorientation can lead us to make unwise decisions or miss important information, insights, and opportunities that lie outside of our hyper-focus.

2)  Accept What Has Happened And Work Forward From There

A famous psychologist, William James, said:  “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”  It is very easy for our minds to get locked into not accepting what has happened. 

Wishing things had turned out differently than they did, or ruminating on the unfairness of it, is pointless and can keep us stuck like a ball and chain.

Needless to say, this inhibits our forward progress.  Once we have accepted how things actually are, that frees us to begin looking for options on how to make it better.

3)  Reaffirm Or Redefine Your Purpose

One of the most grounding things we can do, that can help us regain our balance, composure, and determination faster than anything else, is to focus on our purpose in life.

Some people believe we are born with one.  Some believe we choose one.  Either way, it is very helpful to be clear about what you believe it is or should be.

This can be a very powerful way to center yourself and refocus your thinking in a positive and constructive direction.  As Seneca said: “If you don’t know to what port you are sailing, no wind is favorable.” 

If the pain and suffering you endured left you with uncertainty about how you can now fulfill a/your purpose – this can really add to the feeling of being lost and adrift in the after-wake of the event.

Invest the time and effort to refocus on, clarify, or even create a new purpose for your life.  While your life may look much different in the future than it did in the past, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Many people have spoken and written about how what appeared to them to be tragedies in their lives at the time, set them along a course that led to an even better life for them.  If the way things were will no longer work, looking for new possibilities, and matching those with our strengths and deepest motivators, can help us determine a purpose for ourselves.  Doing so can provide a big boost to your outlook, optimism, energy, and determination to press forward in a positive direction.

4)  Meditate

Meditation, or internal reflection, is an invaluable tool in constructively processing difficult emotions and thoughts.  It is hard to get to a place of healing unless we can connect to the core of who we are, and then see how that can be lived out in our daily lives.

Achieving that clarity requires us to look inside and pull up all the dreams, fears, frustrations, and drives within us.  Then we must work through them, finding a way to address each one constructively and arrive at a place of peace and positivity.

Additionally, meditation is an ideal means of examining, refining or recreating a purpose for our lives.

While meditation can be used for a wide variety of objectives, the Sunrise Meditation method is easy to learn, basic and generically useful method of meditating.  If anyone would like a PDF on the Sunrise Meditation method, outlining how to do it, they can email me.

5)  Journal

Ruminative thinking is when our minds keep thinking the same thoughts about the same things over and over and over.  Our minds are naturally predisposed to ruminate on things we are uncomfortable with until they are resolved.

But continually rehashing the same thoughts in our minds can be counterproductive in two major ways.  The more we return to an unresolved situation, the more frustrated with it we become.

It can magnify the situation’s presence and intensity in our mind and emotions.  It also significantly expands the period of time the situation seems to have been with us and is taking from us.

Journaling can be a very valuable tool in countering ruminative thinking.

The subconscious tends to hang on to and repeatedly bring to mind information it sees as important and at risk of being lost. When we journal, we commit our thoughts to writing.  Since they are then preserved, it is much easier for the subconscious to let go of them, without fear that they will be lost.

So in journaling, we should follow the rule:  Once a line of thinking is written down, we will not return to it except when we are journaling, or if we get some new insight or information on the topic.

Holding firmly to this rule helps us break out of “circling the dead horse,” and move in more of a straight line forward.  A very valuable benefit this provides is, since our minds are not preoccupied with ruminating, we have more space to enjoy what we do have.

We are also much more likely to notice opportunities and possibilities that may actually help us.

6)  Do Kind Things For Other People

Humans are social animals.  It is hard-wired into us to want to be valuable members of our tribe – whatever our tribe may be.

When a traumatic event shakes or changes who we believe ourselves to be, it is much easier to struggle with feelings which question our self-worth.  While they may not consciously arise, there is a good chance they are lurking somewhere within our subconscious.

But when we forget ourselves and do something nice for someone else with no expectation in return, our actions reaffirm our value.  If we are able to make someone else have a better day- the fact that we have value cannot be disputed.

It certainly may not be all we hope to contribute to our word, but, when we are topsy-turvy in the midst of an upended life, it can be a wonderfully reviving breath of fresh air.

On top of that is the fact that it just feels good to make someone smile.  Brightening someone else’s day inescapably brightens our own.


John is a life strategy consultant, founder of Forging Oak Consulting, speaker, and author of The Consciousness Paradigm.  John helps people use their minds more effectively to create a better experience of life.  John can be reached at [email protected]


At Parker Law Firm, our experienced car accident lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.

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