Why do we do crazy things during a divorce? Why did Britney Spears shave her head? Why did Alex Baldwin yell at his daughter?
People in divorce can be especially vulnerable to what some psychologists call emotional hijacking. When an emotional hijacking occurs, you are at the mercy of strong feelings that blind you to reason and make you capable of actions you would never, in your right mind, imagine. These emotions are intense, immediate, and overwhelming.
Reason and objectivity have long been regarded as fundamental to good decision-making.In the divorce process, you are often encouraged to put your emotions aside and think clearly.Sometimes you can.Sometimes your distress is so acute that you act in ways that are self-defeating at best, tragic at worst.
Emotions can actually be helpful to you. Recent research suggests that people who lack the ability to integrate emotion into their decisions make poor choices, because it is the emotional element that adds discernment to a decision.Emotions seem to be involved in the signals that tell you whether something is right or wrong for you—regardless of whether it is rationally smart or legally permissible.If you agree to something that you haven’t emotionally come to terms with, you may find yourself experiencing a backlash of regret, resentment, or second-guessing.
There are several strategies for remaining in control of your emotions and your choices. Having a trusted friend, therapist, clergy person—a trusted advisor of some sort—will help, if you share your real feelings and give them permission to tell you if they think you’re going off the track. A meditation practice is invaluable, because it supports the part of you that is capable of calm observation. Maintaining close bonds with family and friends helps compensate for the emotional frayed edges that come from ending your marriage. Take care of yourself emotionally by continuing as much that is familiar as possible in your schedule and contacts.
It is challenging to stay emotionally healthy during divorce—those intense emotions are ready to sweep you away. But attending to the healthy emotions that give you stability and comfort will help you to maintain balance, to make decisions that are both rationally and emotionally intelligent.