Make divorce the starting point, never the end point.
The divorce rate has never been higher. There is no doubt that it is an incredibly stressful and distressing experience —– so what can be done to help heal the hurt and look towards a happier future?
Even when a split is amicable, there is a wide range of adjustments that need to be made emotionally, socially, and financially.
It is quite normal to feel angry, depressed, helpless, vulnerable, hurt. The list of negative emotions could go on and on. Many people find it difficult to come to terms with what has happened.
The result is that the past consumes the quality of the present and the future.
I've worked with lots of people who have recently divorced and who are struggling to deal with the aftermath and what I’ve learned over that time is that there are 5 key strategies that my clients have been found to be universally helpful. You could find them useful too.
Everything we do is a choice. Even not choosing is a choice. Where things happen which are completely out of our control we still have a choice about how we react.
Bearing a grudge does nothing. Holding on to our negative feelings doers not affect the person who is the cause of our hurt. Instead, it is like taking a poison ourselves and expecting the another person to die.
Negativity is corrosive. It eats away at our self worth and ability to move forward. Indeed there is much research to show that sustained periods of emotional negativity impact on our immune system and long term health. Friends can only take so much of listening to an endless catalog of hurts and moans.
The very people who want to offer support end up getting worn down and begin to dread another hour of listening to what an *sshole a partner was.
Forgiveness is not about forgetting or condoning what the other person has done or failed to do. In forgiving the other person you cut the chain between them and their power to hurt you any more.
I have a number of clients who have suffered the most atrocious abuse who have gained an incredible sense of freedom and power by forgiving the perpetrator for what they have done.
In every challenging situation their will be something to learn. And it is usually about ourselves! It is the gift among the garbage. Once you identify it, the learning and the healing becomes so much easier.
1. Live life moment to moment.
We have three time arenas: the past, the present and the future. There is an old saying that the past is history, the future a mystery but the present is a gift.
How many are squandering the gift of living in the moment? Yet the moment is all we have.
Rather than focusing on all the negative things which have happened (which you have absolutely no way of changing) the most useful thing we can do is to look at the positive lessons the past has given us.
One recent client looked at the 30 years of marriage that had come to an end. The last 20 years had been unhappy. Her husband had been very controlling, he constantly belittled her despite the fact that she was a very successful professional.
Her self worth was non-existent and she was in despair.
I could see she was really struggling but she dug deep to find what she has received from this experience.
"If I can survive that, I can survive anything, I will never settle for being treated as if I was of no account, I have had the courage to leave, and I can do more than I ever thought possible.”
Every one of those lessons has great value for her present and her future. I've no doubt that however challenging your divorce has been there will be valuable lessons that you can bring forward into your present and future life.
2. Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
However awful things have been, the sooner you decide to forgive your ex, the sooner you will begin to heal and build yourself a better life.
Wanting revenge is a perfectly natural impulse, but revenge keeps you trapped as does anything which keeps you emotionally entangled with the person who has hurt you.
All the time you hold on to the hurt there are chains keeping you bound to the old relationship. Until you are willing to stop being governed by those chains you remain the victim.
As a victim you significantly limit your choices and you diminish your personal power.
I was working with a client who was struggling to let go. He felt that he hadn't been heard and had so many things he wanted to say.
I asked him to write a letter. One he wasn't to send, but to be brought to his next session. I asked him to take his time in writing the letter.
To think about everything he was angry and upset about, everything he wished he'd said.
He returned with a letter spanning several pages. To see if he was prepared to forgive his ex wife, I asked him to calibrate his willingness as a number out of 10. Ten was fully ready and one was no way. He gave it a five.
I told him that forgiving the other person does not excuse or condone the other persons action. They remain entirely responsible for their actions. In forgiving someone you are not condoning their action nor are you forgetting what they have done.
You are removing the power that past hurts have to continue hurting you.
After this, his readiness to let was between an eight and nine and he was ready to move forward.
I explained that we were going to ceremoniously going to destroy his letter. There are many ways of doing this, and some find it easier if the letter is read out loud first.
He said there was no need to go over the letter again, and opted to burn it – so he tore it up into a metal bowl and watched as the smoke drifted up into the sky.
He began to cry and was able to express that he felt an enormous sense of release. Over the next few weeks it became clear that he had made a significant leap forward.
3. Make molehills out of mountains
Most of you will be familiar with the concept of making a mountain out of a molehill.
Many of you will have experienced a situation which has seemed huge at the time, caused great anxiety and angst. After a period of time the intensity and importance of the situation has lessened until it leaves your conscious thought all together.
This strategy uses the same principle but in principle in reverse. The example I'm using is from a client who came to me as she was dealing with a very difficult divorce. She arrived incandescent with rage as she had just has a long text from her soon to be ex.
I asked her to think about how she was feeling and whether at the moment it felt like a mountain or a molehill. She said vehemently "A mountain!!!!!"
I asked her whether it would still be a mountain or a molehill after a week.
What about a month? A year? Five Years? At the end of her life?
She looked really puzzled, so I asked whether this would be downgraded to a molehill at sometime in the future and she said that it would.
“If you’d be prepared to downgrade this to a molehill in the future what are the advantages of holding on to the intensity of the response? Why not downgrade it sooner and save yourself all that negativity?” She agreed that might be a good idea.
I then suggested that if she was going to let go of it sooner rather than later why not let go of it now. After all, being upset and angry was going not to change anything about her ex husbands behavior, but letting go would allow her to have the choice of how best to deal with the situation.
She smiled and said that she could see the value in letting go but wasn't sure how, which is when I taught her the following strategy which is really helpful in letting go of any negative emotion….
4. Let go of negative emotions.
Give yourself permission to let go!
Negative emotion has one true purpose. It is a call to action to do something differently in the future. Once you have identified the lesson, it's time to let go.
Imagine you are lying in a beautiful tropical lake. Using your senses, imagine what you can see: the vegetation, sky and water.
What can you hear: the water lapping, insects humming, birds singing. What you can feel: the sun on your skin, the warm water. The smells and anything you can taste.
The more detail the better. Everything is safe and beautiful.
At one end of the lake is a beautiful gentle waterfall. The sun is glistening on the water droplets, golden healing energy is raining down into the lake.
At the other end of the lake the water looks like an infinity pool, gently rolling over the edge, down into the river below. At the edge of the weir are a series of magnets. These are as big as they need to be to draw out the negative emotion.
As big as Pluto, if needed. Let the negative energy go over the weir into the river where it will be carried away to be transformed into something more positive.
Swim under the waterfall and let the golden healing energy wash out all of the negative energy. Take deep breaths, and as you do breathe out all the hurt and anger.
Whatever negative emotion you are experiencing. Send it out to the magnets. If you feel resistance increase the size if the magnets.
Allow the golden healing energy to fill you up. Think about what emotional state would be helpful.
Calm, courage, resilience, love, strength. Imagine the golden healing energy entering each cell within your body and as it does allow it to become the positive emotion you need.
5. Learn to love yourself.
Self-worth and the capacity to love oneself has been the greatest casualty in all of the clients dealing with divorce.
Failure to learn to love who you are and to appreciate that you are a unique, amazing human being with many skills and attributes makes creating a future inter-dependent, truly loving relationship with someone else unlikely.
Treat yourself as you would a really good friend. No better, but no worse. Be kind to yourself but not indulgent.
Look after yourself, your physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing are all important. Take control of your life. The quality of your life is entirely up to you. You can look at everything which is negative or lacking or you can focus on the positive and build on them.
A really helpful strategy is to collect gratitude during the day. Make it easy.
Notice things which make you smile, or things you find beautiful or funny. Things in nature, a friend phones, someone makes you laugh.
Just before you go to sleep scan the day and choose your favorite five gratitudes. This will help your brain refocus on the positive things in your life rather than the negative. Done regularly it is incredibly powerful.
I’ve done it. You can too!
I've learned to walk twice as an adult. I've used a wheelchair for most of my adult life.
It would have been very easy to focus on all the things I cannot do. By choosing to focus on the things that are possible and the many things I can enjoy and be grateful for I have enjoyed a far better quality of life.
It's a no brainer.
Of course divorce is incredibly difficult but it is important to remember that there is life after divorce and that it can be happy and fulfilling or one of bitterness and regrets. It's your choice!
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Gina Gardener is an Inspirational Speaker, Master NLP, Business and Life Coach, and author of Chariots on Fire a remarkable story about how to create a positive advantage.