How I Survived Divorce - In 45 Days
A Practical Guide for Surviving Traumatic Loss
Perfect Bound Softcover
Divorce -- ouch!
This is one of the most emotionally challenging experiences one has to deal with in life. Especially if you're not the party who initiated the proceedings. Especially if it comes with a few unpleasant surprises about new lovers, child custody, financial obligations and the like. Getting your life reorganized is challenging enough, but it is made far more difficult by the emotional rollercoaster one has to ride at the same time.
Thanks to my background in clinical psychology and my long involvement with spiritual, social, and personal growth movements, I, your esteemed author, was able to navigate the ending of my own relationship with a fair amount of insight and awareness. Within the first few weeks it became apparent that the various hurts, angers, and other emotional difficulties all centered around a dozen or so basic issues. By keeping aware of these issues and the psychological principles at work behind them, I found I was less likely to be ambushed by feelings like rage, depression, shame, and insecurity. Further, I was able to keep the normal sadness, hurt, and anger down to manageable proportions.
As a result, my "ex" and I had virtually a textbook model breakup (well OK, dividing the home sale proceeds was a little bumpy, but other than that...), and we now get along far better than when we were together.
Along the way, it helped me to write up my various struggles and breakthroughs, and now I hope these experiences and insights will help you. In addition, with psychotherapy now averaging about $100 per session, this information may save you several thousand dollars!
So if you are struggling through a divorce or other traumatic loss, I'm here to tell you that it can be survived, that you can avoid becoming stuck in counterproductive patterns of thought and feeling, and that the suffering you are experiencing can be kept to a manageable level. Divorce may not be fun, but it doesn't have to be agony!
Moreover, by going through this process with awareness, you will become a larger person, better prepared for your next life adventure. So take heart!
Causes of Suffering - Dealing With Those Damned Feelings
Obviously, the greatest challenge in dealing with divorce, or any traumatic loss, lies in handling all the feelings that it stirs up – the fears, doubts, sadness, anger, indignation and their many variations.
Just so we get started on the right track here, let me assure you that this chapter is NOT about talking yourself out having any bad feelings, avoiding legitimate grieving, or attempting to trivialize your loss. There IS a necessary grieving-and-letting-go process that your psyche has to go through in order to accept and integrate the changed situation and then be able to move on. But there is a lot of confusion around the causes of our feelings, and this commonly results in excessive and unnecessary suffering.
Below, I describe most of the major issues I encountered and had to deal with in this process.
You Are Not Your Feelings
When you are in the midst of an emotional experience that has been going on for a long time, you may eventually begin to confuse the feelings with your own perception of self. That is, you may lose sight of a feeling as simply an experience you’re having, and instead misinterpret it as a fundamental characteristic of who you are. “I’m feeling depressed” becomes “I am a depressed person”. Instead of “I’m a person having a sad feeling”, you may tell people that “Yeah, sadness is my middle name”. “I’m someone who has suffered a loss” turns into “I’m a loser”. This increases your suffering because, now, you don’t believe that feelings will simply pass like bad weather, but that you now live in a world that is permanently overcast.
Art and poetry often reinforce this by personifying abstract things, feelings and experiences - “I’m a Loser” (The Beatles) - “Tears of a Clown” (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles). I’m not sure how many popular songs are based on the theme ” I’m a victim because he/she done me wrong”, but doubtless the number is quite high. Poetic sentiments are fine -- they add to the human experience. But remember, if the experience they are adding to is your suffering, it’s OK not to be a poet in that instance.
Again, feelings are experiences you have, not something you are. The body and psyche “play” feelings sort of like a radio plays music. No matter how many times you tune in to a station that plays classical music, your radio never becomes a “classical” radio. It is perfectly capable of also tuning in to rock-and-roll, or country music, or the news. Or, you can simply turn it off!
[…Chapter 2 continues…]
Bill Miller, raised with mainstream Midwestern values, eventually moved to wild and wacky California, where he received an MA in Clinical Psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary - Graduate School of Psychology. Since then, Bill has been involved with a number of San Francisco Bay Area non-profit Institutes and Foundations dedicated to research and education on the topics of economics, the environment, consciousness, spirituality, and human evolution.
He currently lives in Menlo Park, California.
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