Friday, May 30, 2008

Am I Going Crazy??

For many divorcing people, the emotional swirl can be overwhelming. There are several key emotions that tend to surface during divorce, and these can all have direct and hidden impact on the choices people make and the way they behave.

For example, there is guilt. Many people experience guilt during divorce. Guilt for things they did that promoted the end of the marriage; guilt for choosing to end the marriage; guilt that parents, friends, children, and even the ex-spouse can impose; and guilt for not "being enough" for everyone that needs more.

This guilt can drive a person to make decisions in the divorce that are unreasonable, irrational, and often, regrettable.

Guilt over an affair, for example can cause a man to agree to a property settlement that is unfair and unreasonable. Later, after the man has resolved (or buried) his guilt, he feels "buyer's remorse" for giving up so many of his assets. Since it is now too late to reclaim them, he often positions himself as a "victim" of the divorce system, and expresses anger toward his ex-wife, who seems to be enjoying her life of luxury at his expense.

Along with guilt, there is pain/sadness at the grief that comes with the "death" of the marriage. There is fear/anxiety that comes with such profound change in the family structure and not being able to predict the outcome or know the future. And there is the grandest emotion of them all: Anger. Because anger is easy to see, easy to identify, and easy to express, it often serves as a cover emotion for the others. Unfortunately, most divorcing people stay in the anger, and never dig underneath it to address the true emotions - the guilt, sadness, and fear - that are influencing the outcome of their divorce.

The swirl of emotions, unplanned and unacknowledged, can often drive folks to do things they would never do otherwise. It can influence choices they would never otherwise make. It can cause a person wonder if they are going crazy (and, unfortunately, the ex-spouse and probably many others outside of the situation would confirm that in fact, the divorcing person is crazy).

However, this "craziness" is situational. There is a lot a person can learn from their so-called "negative" emotions, if only they will listen. And this is where a coach comes in. Many people never know how to listen to themselves or to what their emotions are telling them, until a coach teaches them how. A coach does not inform or enlighten the divorcing person. A coach does not counsel or diagnose a person. A coach teaches a person how to stop and listen to their own emotions, and then learn from what the emotion is telling them.

For example, a woman couldn't understand why she still responded to her ex-husband's put-downs and verbal abuse. "I know better", she would say. "I often feel so good about myself when I am at my job, or when I accomplish something. So, why is it that he still has the power to make me feel small?" After we listened to what her emotions were telling her, she discovered that the emotion she was responding to was fear. She feared that she would never be attractive to another man again. She feared that she was doomed to a life of loneliness. The mental recording that her husband had implanted said "you're no good", and her fear was "what if he's right?" After we faced her fear head-on, she was able to counter it with some tools she had learned in a powerful training class... and from then on she never responded again to her ex-husband's abuse.

Emotional turmoil is an inherent part of the divorce journey. It is empowering to acknowledge its existence. It's enlightening to use those emotions to your advantage and restore yourself to serenity.


No comments: