Your divorce might be the most challenging change you ever face. Your entire life can be altered, your primary relationships reconfigured and your financial security threatened. You hire a lawyer to help you sort it all out and figure out how to make the best of a terrible situation, but your confusion and panic persists. Maybe your lawyer has even told you that you’ll be fine, that from a rational, objective perspective, both you and your spouse are good candidates for co-parenting and you actually have enough money so that you’ll all be comfortable. Still, you are frantic and disoriented.
Logic and reason are not very helpful, in terms of providing an understanding of how human beings respond to dramatic change. Under the depths are emotions and psychological patterns that, far more than logic, determine our responses. Most people feel something—they may not even know what—and then make up reasons for why they feel it. This isn’t a deliberate, manipulative activity, it’s how the brain works. It experiences something and tells itself what’s going on.
Sometimes a simple event can lead to an entire story that the brain tells itself. Your soon-to-be ex-spouse mentions she’s going away for the week-end. You feel uneasy about this, and your brain begins to create an entire scenario of her week-end rendezvous with a lover who is not only your superior in every way but who is determined to replace you in the lives of your children. You become snarly and the conversation deteriorates, not because of anything real but because of your emotional reaction to your own thoughts.
Emotions drive your divorce far more powerfully than you realize. In the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring how to recognize your feelings, how to hit the pause button when creating a fantasy scenario, and how to separate your thoughts from your actions.