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Stuck in Divorce – Working through emotions

You may have heard someone say:   “When you’re going through a divorce, you have to keep emotions out of it!”   But, is that really true? Progress in the field of brain physiology now teaches us that human beings process virtually all information in a central emotional center before it gets sent to the higher functioning, analytical portions of the brain.   And that’s not bad!   For thousands of years, this feature of human physiology has helped the human race to connect memory with feelings and intuition, which has helped the species survive and thrive.   The faster these connections can be made and sent to the reasoning brain for action, and the faster the reasoning brain can send the action orders to the body, the more successful we become.   One can easily see how this applies to mammoth hunting, or office politics, or divorce. The danger comes when the information gets stuck, in one place or another.   It can get stuck in the emotional center, as fear, anxiety, anger or simple dread (freezing with fear in the face of a man eating tiger, or a vengeful spouse).   Or, it can get stuck in the reasoning center as continuing analysis in greater and...
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Stuck in Divorce – Getting locked in your head

The mind can play strange tricks on us when we are in times of great stress.  And divorce rates right up there for most people as one of the most stressful events in life – for good reason!  Relationships with your children, financial survival – so many important things are at stake! We know from current research on brain physiology that all information is first processed by human beings from a central emotional place – where the brain checks the data to see if the situation is safe enough to take the time to send it on to the reasoning center for more thoughtful consideration.  This feature has been critical to the survival of the human species, combining memory with feeling for purposes of taking immediate action:   fight, flight or freeze. In divorce, most people now understand that fighting through their lawyers in court is likely to hurt the children, waste their money, and not achieve important underlying goals.  And fleeing is not an option, because there is no escape from making important decisions – at least, not unless you want to walk away from children, assets or income. What is left?  Freezing. No one wants to see themselves as...
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Stuck in Divorce — Stuck in anger

This is a tough one.  It’s not tough because anger is a “negative” emotion, or is likely to turn off many people around you (although both can be true).   It’s tough because it’s a mixed bag, and one that can be very difficult to manage. We’re not talking about self-help classes here – you know, the “Anger Management” parodied in recent Hollywood films.  We’re talking about recognizing and harnessing the true good that can exist in anger, and how to use it effectively and efficiently. When is anger good?  It’s good when you have worked through the preliminary stages of denial and bargaining over the end of a relationship, and have decided that the super-low energy phase of situational depression has run its course.  At that point, when anger floods in with its powerful energy, it can clean your head and heart and lift you out of the swamp.  It can clear the way toward a brighter, more successful future. How do you know when you’re there?  Typically, it starts with a sharper, more focused self talk:  “Wait a minute – wait just a doggone minute – who is the one who was trying hard to make this work?  I...
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Stuck in Divorce — Mired in the past

It can be difficult for many couples to find their legs in a divorce process and get meaningful work done, because they are facing the wrong direction – backward! Fixing the past by renewing the marriage for the future is so important – if both parties can invest themselves in the work to make that happen.   Couples owe it to themselves to leave no stone unturned in exploring this possibility fully, because the future will not be as secure without it, and no one wants to face the future with regrets over the good which might have been.  There are resources listed on this website who specialize in such work, and can make sure every effort has been made to renew the marriage. It can be especially hard to face the possibility of divorce if one or both partners have strong personal or faith values which their spouses no longer share – or perhaps never did share.  Work on the marriage takes two people, however, and if one partner is committed to leaving, waiting too long to take reasonable action on a divorce process can have dire consequences. If one spouse has chosen to end the marriage, the law regarding...
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Divorce and Addiction – Catching Thought Flu

Everyone knows that getting caught in a small, stuffy place with someone close to you who is coughing and sneezing can spell trouble – usually within 3 or 4 days.  Catching the contagious form of disordered thought which naturally grows from addiction, however, can take months and even years to fully develop for loved ones and family.   In addition, because it is a somewhat different strain of the same “virus”, it can be difficult to recognize at first. It starts in small ways.  The addict needs “just a little help” to deal with a crisis.  Then, things seem to get better.   But unexpectedly, perhaps for no apparent reason at all, the chemical use spikes and sends them into a tailspin.  It’s unpredictable.  But life has to move on, and needs have to be met, so loved ones and family members act to compensate.  Because they never know when the next crisis will hit, they may take on more and more responsibility – until there is little left of their own lives and personalities.   For loved ones and family members, friendships, hobbies, and other things that make life more enjoyable and meaningful start to drop off.  If the addict has been...
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Divorce and Addiction – 3 Family Myths

Everyone wants to believe that they are in control of their own lives – at least most of the time.  Why is that?  First, the effort to control our personal environment can be seen as a necessary step toward accepting maturity and adult responsibility.  It makes us feel strong and effective.  But second – and probably most important – we as human beings hate uncertainty and like to plan instead toward an intended result.  The unknown is frightening. For families who live with a loved one who is an addict it is no different.  They want to continue feeling that the life of their family is under control.  The need to feel in control can be so strong that they even fail to notice when things spin completely out of control.   Why is that?  It’s because they are still exerting so much energy to get things functioning well – efficiently and orderly – that they start to lose their own sense of perspective on reality.   They start to lose their personal, objective truth. In order to maintain the delusion of control, family members frequently need to tell themselves the following things: I caused this (addiction), or at least contributed to...
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Divorce and Addiction – 3 Tips for Families

What if a couple struggling with addiction issues decides that divorce is necessary for their family? Once the decision to divorce is made, the focus shifts away from working on marital issues – the couple is no longer trying to fix the marriage.  Instead, the focus is on the present and future – on solutions which will help the family be successful in two homes. If a family could not succeed in one home, how can it expect to do better in two homes?  Surprisingly, long term studies of divorcing families have shown that a surprising number of parents who struggled to be fully engaged with the children in an intact family did substantially better in two homes.  In one study, 80% of the children reported after a period of years that they felt the divorce had been a good idea, and that they actually had better relationships with their parents as individuals after the divorce (especially, they reported better relationships with their fathers).  Both parents had more “space” for their separate parenting. But what about special concerns over addiction issues?  Here are 3 tips for addressing some of the most common issues faced by divorcing families struggling with addiction...
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Divorce and Addiction – a strong connection

The statistical connection between addiction and divorce has been estimated to be staggering – some sources have concluded that families struggling with issues of addiction are four times more likely to face divorce.  On a personal level, addicts may leave a marriage because the home is no longer a comfortable place to use alcohol or drugs; a non-using spouse may leave based upon months or years of living with deception and failed promises.   Families which face addiction issues, however, may be unaware of a profound truth which has come to be recognized by professionals in the recovery community:   addiction is a disease of thought which affects the entire family.   Some professionals describe addiction as a powerful aversion to uncomfortable feelings, situations and circumstances (see David Lee on www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB8hFaF7gpk‎).  Addicts develop great skill at avoiding this discomfort by every means possible, including the emotional manipulation of those who love them.  They can keep their loved ones going around in circles to insulate themselves from the consequences of this avoidance.  This is accomplished through tactics of creating fear, fostering sympathy, expressions of anger and blaming others, or even a manipulative use of hope – all to keep things going along the...
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