Bolster your self worth and be strong during the changes in identity that cause stress in divorce
Breakup, separation and divorce lead to an identity crisis
“I’m not sure who or what I am anymore!” Have you felt unsure of yourself, confused and shaky about yourself as you consider the big step of divorce?
You are not alone. An article by Slotter et al in the February 2010 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that after a breakup people have more muddled views of themselves. They had difficulty switching from “we” to “I” when talking about themselves.
The more committed a partner was in their relationship the greater they expected to change when the relationship ended.
Changing your appearance, activities and other external things may allow you to feel ’separated’ in the short term, but makes you even more stressed in the long run when it doesn’t work.
Nothing compares to the inner turbulence you experience when you sever ties with a spouse.
Recalibrating your personal identity is the ‘psychic’ stage of divorce, the hardest one of all to deal with among the five other stages of divorce. Women appear to have more difficulty than men in redefining their views about themselves and can suffer more long term stress as a result.
How to divorce by managing the stress of your identity crisis
1. Tell other people about your divorce in a planned and uniform way.
- Each time you do it you will be rehearsing a new but consistent and stabilizing story about yourself.
- The experience will create new memories, edging out the old ones that hurt you and make you feel helpless.
2. Inform others from a place of conviction that you are taking positive action for yourself.
- When you hear yourself talk confidently about your plans you will create new neural pathways in the brain that take you away from overwhelming fear and doubt.
- Instead of being paralyzed by negative emotions you will be liberated by a sense of balance and stability by taking care of yourself.
3. Discuss the pros and cons as you see them when you talk of your divorce.
- The dialogue you have about the costs and consequences of divorce for you personally will help you process the loss of identity that goes with separation.
- The conversation will open up new doors and build the foundation for renewal of your personal identity.
- That way you don’t loose important parts of yourself, feel stronger, more confident and have access to all your healthy resources to function effectively.
4. Make a list of core personality characteristics that you value and that you feel are integral to your sense of self. Conscientious nature, generous to friends, a good cook, pet lover, jogger, spiritual etc. may be a some of the core things about yourself you want to integrate into your new life.
- By honoring the parts of you that are important you are giving yourself a message that you have substance and impact whether or not you are a spouse.
- You may have had to hide or bury some very special aspects of yourself in order to fit into a marriage. Now is the time to give yourself permission to be all the things that matter to you.
- Feeling authentic and comfortable in your own skin is the best and most long lasting antidote to the stress that comes from an identity crisis brought on by divorce and separation. Own yourself with pride!
5. Listen with interest to the compliments people pay you in all the different arenas of your life. Write them down, and pay particular attention to how and when you behave in these positive ways.
- Tuning into the regard with which others hold you, gets you back in touch with your healthy and effective relationship skills.
- Validating those essential aspects of your core identity will act like a continuous positive feedback loop, giving you constant and consistent doses of self-worth and motivation to live fully despite the changes that divorce brings.
Copyright Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2010