When moving through and beyond difficult life transitions like separation or divorce, many people try to avoid or at least minimize the discomforts and pains that usually accompany these.
There are many ways in which people do this, and the most common choices seem to be to escape to a different time, that is, to mentally propel yourself either forward in time (and spend much of your days focused on worrying and worrying about what might happen tomorrow, next week, or next year) or to move backward in time (and devote great energy to rehashing what happened; what went wrong, and why, over and over again).
While these strategies are, of course, preferable to worse choices such as: Abusing substances, losing your mind, or running away to a deserted island, it seems there simply must be a better way to endure the transition, get through the pain, and move on. There is!
Believe it or not, for many people, a better way to move through and beyond the pain of a failed marriage is to spend more time in the present or to ‘BE HERE NOW’. What this means is that rather than avoid, escape, or deny, you can make a conscious choice to meet and experience all of your feelings about the situation, head on.
While it may be hard to imagine why anyone would want to focus on and experience all of their feelings about their divorce (especially the anger, disappointment/sadness, or worry) doing so actually makes sense.
Here’s why: Being here now means you will have to slow yourself down, stop ‘doing’ and just let yourself FEEL whatever it is you are experiencing in the moment. By letting yourself fully experience all of the emotions connected to your separation or divorce, you can let these feelings unfold within you, move through and then move OUT of your system, naturally.
Feelings connected to your divorce, if experienced fully, can be viewed as visitors in your mental house rather than new tenants moving in permanently.
You can also think of the intense feelings surrounding divorce as the thunder and lightning that accompany a severe rainstorm. After the loud booms, crackles, and flashes of electrical current (think anger, sadness, or anxiety) the storm passes and moves on, leaving fresh air and sunshine in its wake.
This is pretty much how feelings around a divorce can work. You must experience your feelings as they arise and as upsetting as it can be, you can feel reassured by the knowledge that, just like a thunderstorm, these too will pass.
When we don’t let ourselves experience our feelings fully, these can delay healing or ‘back up’ in our systems and cause us to become more susceptible to a host of other difficulties. These can include prolonged anxiety and depression, insomnia, moodiness, or even physical symptoms such as: back pain, migraines, digestive ailments and a host of other problems.
While experiencing all of your feelings may be uncomfortable or hard to tolerate in the moment, it is an effective way to mentally ‘clear the decks’ and move ahead toward the next phase of your life.
Why does it seem so challenging to simply be here now and just feel any old feeling that comes our way and is appropriate to the situation? One explanation is that any kind of change, particularly big, bold life shifting transitions, can stir up a lot of feelings in us and provoke a great deal of anxiety.
It can, after all, be very worrisome to set out on a new journey without any type of roadmap or prior knowledge as to the lay of this new land or some type of GPS to see us through. And, that’s exactly what it can feel like when you are choosing to move out and separate or leaving the familiarity of a long-term marriage to try to build a new life.
We simply do not know how things will turn out and for many of us, the not knowing and the sense of not being in control of ourselves and our own destinies, can feel overwhelming.
So, how can you go about feeling all of your feelings about the situation? You can use this time as an opportunity for self exploration. You can join forces with an experienced psychotherapist, mental health counselor, or divorce coach and embark on an inner journey, with their support and expertise to guide you.
Working with a supportive professional can make it easier to face your feelings and deeply held beliefs and learn from them. After all, what better time is there than during or after your divorce to learn more about who you are in relationships, what your contributions may have been to the failed relationship, and what to work on for future relationships?
Being fully present and feeling all of your feelings about the ending of your marriage and your divorce (and taking a deep breath or two in the process), can help you move yourself through the healing process and beyond to your new, after-divorce life….give it a try!