Why are People so weird with me when I talk about Divorce Pain?

I just got home from a night at the movies with my friend (who will remain nameless). I felt awful. The deflated feeling was what I could imagine an insect feels after being squashed and scraped across a pavement.

I had just retold my divorce story to her (ok, it was the second time) but halfway during my story, she looked out the window. Even when I stopped talking, she was so absorbed in her own thoughts that she just kept staring out the window. I was shocked. Had I said something wrong, was I boring her? Was she that disinterested in what I was saying?

Whilst I sat in silence with her absorbed in her thoughts, the conversation in my head went something like this:

  • It’s ok for everyone if I feel the pain but I cannot be a basket case
  • I am expected to discuss the break up with my friends but only once (don’t overdo it as no one wants to hang around with a miserable person)
  • I must not mope around, it’s not ‘healthy’ – it also makes people feel awkward
  • I must be productive and professional at work (don’t bring emotional baggage into the office)
  • But whilst doing all this, at the same time I must not look ‘too happy’ (or face being branded as insensitive or immature)

ARGH. I stopped dead in my tracks and realised something: I was alone in my break up. No one really understood how I felt.

This thought didn’t make me angry.

I realised that when I talked about my ex-husband’s indiscretions, she was wondering if her own husband could ever do something like that. I could see that all she wanted to do was go home to check if they were ok. (Months later, I asked her about this and she admitted this was the case too) I excused myself quite briskly and left to give her the opportunity to do that. I realised at that moment that friends are fantastic, but we all have our own lives, our own issues and if anyone was going to help me – it would need to be me.

If the truth be told, I totally avoided people after my ex and I split. The first time I told anyone was about 3 months after it happened. It reminded me of going to one of my best friend’s mum’s funeral. I felt so awkward. I was standing next to her, both of us wearing black and her face a picture of despair and grief. We had been playing dolls literally a week earlier and now I had no idea what to say to her and just looked down at my shoes. I couldn’t wait to get out of the church and away from this coffin and away from her pain.

When I got home from my dinner with my friend, I stayed up all night Googling relentlessly and the next day I took myself off to the British library for a spot of research. Surprisingly I found recurring evidence that as people, our ability to handle life’s full range of emotions is limited to the actual life experiences we have had. If nothing hectic had actually happened in our lives, we never had the opportunity to carve those learnings into our neural network pathways and experience knowing, understanding or compassion in drastic situations. For most of us, we are cool with happiness, laughter and can handle slight disappointment and some setbacks but raw despair, grief or overwhelming failure is something, that unless you have experienced it, it’s not easy to navigate through the minefield. If you think about it, did anyone ever pull you back in school and teach you how to deal with a traumatic circumstance BEFORE it happened?

When my friend looked out the window, at first it looked like intolerance but what I actually saw in my friend’s face that day was fear and overwhelm. She was scared of catching whatever disease I had because if we were so close and it could happen to me, it could probably happen to her too. She felt awkward. She wanted to help but didn’t know what to say – I really got it. I remembered feeling totally helpless at my friend’s funeral and I could imagine what she may have felt in that moment with me.

What made people like Nelson Mandela so extraordinary was he had walked through the valley of the shadow of death and he had huge experiences whilst he was in jail for 27 years. Nothing he would ever encounter in coming out of jail would be as huge as what he had encountered during his prison sentence.

So, what is the point?

Divorce grief is normal and natural but as a society we have been ill prepared to deal with it

Grieving after the loss of a relationship is about a broken heart, not a broken brain. All efforts to heal the heart with the head fail because the head is the wrong tool for the job. It’s like trying to paint with a hammer – it only makes a mess.

I found recurring evidence that as people, our ability to handle life’s full range of emotions is limited to the actual life experiences we have had. If nothing hectic had actually happened in our lives, we never had the opportunity to carve those learning’s into our neural network pathways and experience knowing, understanding or compassion in drastic situations. As human beings, we are far better prepared to deal with minor accidents than we are to deal with grief. For most of us, we are able to deal with happiness, laughter, slight disappointment and some setbacks but raw despair, grief or overwhelming failure is something that unless you have experienced it, is not easy to navigate through.

Your Friends and Family may not understand what you are going through

Although your friends and family are an important part of your life, you may find that they are ill equipped to adequately support you with your loss. I personally found that even though my friends and family were well meaning, they often said or did things which were inappropriate. Every time I hung out with them, they would try to take the pain away so we all had a pleasant time together. I would leave their company feeling superficially better but almost like I had moved two steps backwards, invalidating my emotions or my right to have them. It was only a matter of time before I realized that I was going to have to get divorce support elsewhere.

Before you find yourself getting upset with your friends or family for not being better equipped or trained to help you deal with your loss, remember that they are probably trying very hard. They have been conditioned by society to deal with loss in a particular way. It’s really not their fault. They love you very much and whatever actions they take, remember that their commitment in the background is to try and make your pain go away. They hate to see you suffering or in pain. They will do whatever they can think of in the moment to achieve this. Here are some points to bear in mind about friends and family. You may be able to relate to some of them:

  • They are afraid of our feelings
  • They offer intellectual theories and want us to stay positive
  • They have no idea what to say, try to change the subject or pretend to not hear us
  • They don’t want to talk about divorce

Give the people in your life a ‘Weirdness’ Pass

Give everyone in your life a ‘Weirdness’ Pass. This is a ticket you grant to them allowing them to say weird or inappropriate things to you whilst you are dealing with your divorce. They just don’t know any better and no one trained them in how to handle you.

NOTE: The important thing to remember is not to take on board anything that they say. Remain aware at all times of what they are saying, the myths and possible generalizations in what they say so you guard against getting enrolled in any intellectualization that they might offer you.

Until next time, I wish you well and send you love and light!

Divorce is a Unique Opportunity to Transform Yourself Completely…

Consider that instead of biding your time to get over your divorce or waiting for ‘time to heal all wounds’, you could use the intense force of this divorce and change in your life to your advantage…

Ilya Prigogine, who won a Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1977 is widely regarded as the Isaac Newton of our time. Essentially his work centered on a concept called PERTURBATION. Most systems found in nature are not in harmonious equilibrium because they are continuously subject to flux of matter and energy to and from other systems. In other words, things in nature are always changing.

Perturbation is the driving force behind evolution of organisms as it refers to the alteration of biological systems induced by external or internal pressure. If an organism experiences external pressure, it will reach a threshold of vibration where it one of two things will happen:

  • The organism is ‘lucky’ enough to have a strong ‘container’ or cocoon which holds it in place while it reorders itself into something more complex so it can withstand the pressure and in so doing take on the properties of the pressure applied to it OR
  • The organism is unfortunate to be left alone and will move to a state of chaos or disintegrate due to the pressure. This is called entropy.

Prigogine’s revolutionary work was adapted further into the field of human behavior through Marilyn Ferguson’s book ‘The Acquarian Conspiracy’. Her work explained  that how we handle changes thrown at us completely determines our transformation or disintegration.

My Story: I grew up in a town called Kimberley in my native South Africa. Kimberley is known for its diamond mines and kimberlite pipes. Whilst growing up, I became fascinated with how diamonds are formed as it was a natural marvel to me that something as dark and ugly as coal could transform into a brilliant diamond. I began to study these Kimberlite pipes and found that they are funnel-shaped and produced as a result of a volcanic eruption, a few hundred meters in diameter. They narrow with depth, becoming a narrow ‘container’ which extends deep into the earth’s crust. Thousands of diamonds are produced inside these Kimberlite pipes under extreme heat and pressure to the extent that Kimberlite pipes cause the single biggest deposits of diamonds worldwide.

So what does this have to do with your divorce?

Well, studying how nature works and how organisms evolve under great pressure gives us some insights into how human beings may transform under pressure too.

To explain more about how this impacts you dealing with your divorce, let’s look at the how dark ugly coal transforms into a brilliant diamond.

  1. Coal (graphite) and diamond are of course both primarily carbon. For coal to become a diamond, the carbon atoms have to be re-arranged into a new pattern.
  2. To change the atomic ordering of coal into a diamond requires high heat and high pressure (like try temperatures of over 1000 degrees Celsius and many thousands of atmospheres pressure).
  3. To ensure the coal does not disintegrate in the process of this change or perturbation, it requires a very strong ‘container’ holding it together whilst this immense pressure and heat is applied or the coal will break up into dust.
  4. If the coal is held together in such a strong ‘container’, the heat breaks down the current bonds to free up the carbon atoms, and energize them to bond in a tightly packed fashion…and voila – a diamond.
  5. A Kimberlite pipe is just such a container and not only does it hold the coal together, it can handle a volcanic eruption which is so violent that it carries up coal fragments from the mantle fast enough that rapid cooling preserves the diamonds.

In the same way as coal is transformed into a diamond, this type of Perturbation exists for human beings as well. In all the corporate work I do with clients, I spend most of the time creating such a ‘container’ with people to help them adapt to change and hold their lives together in the process. In my experience, without a ‘container’ in place, the change usually goes very badly.

Similar to the immense heat or pressure being applied to the coal – Divorce is a very chaotic change and represents that huge heat being applied to your life right now.

If you don’t consciously create a strong Divorce Cocoon to hold yourself together, your divorce could literally break you up into pieces and eat away at your self confidence, esteem and possibly leave you bitter or full of resentment.

As Prigogine suggested, if an organism has a strong cocoon which holds it in place, it can reorder itself into something more complex so it can withstand the pressure. Much like a moth who transforms itself into a butterfly, the Naked Divorce is designed to create such a Divorce Cocoon which if followed, can support you to hold yourself and your life together whilst you withstand the heat and pressure from your divorce.

When you have this powerful foundation, you can withstand and USE the heat and pressure from this huge change in your life as a catalyst to transform yourself into anything you want to be – a diamond or butterfly. It also means you can heal faster. Through your transformation, you will take on the properties of the pressure applied to your life in the form of being stronger and you extend our ability to take on difficult challenges because of who you will become as a result of your divorce.

the Naked Divorce uses the premise of Perturbation to create transformation in your life.

‘What doesn’t kill you, CAN REALLY make you stronger…’

TIP: Make use of this heartbreak, this pain, this Perturbation which has thrust you into a hurricane or forest fire. This is a unique opportunity to grow, develop and become the person you always wanted to be…

Interesting stuff hey?

Till next time…

Hello world!

Dear Girlfriend

I know when you are going through a divorce that the roller-coaster ride can ‘feel’ very extreme. It alternates between activity and passivity in the very human and desperate efforts to avoid the change triggered by the divorce.

The initial state before the cycle begins is often quite stable, at least in terms of the subsequent reaction on hearing the bad news. Compared with the ups and downs to come, even if there is some variation, this is indeed a stable state.

And then, into the calm of this relative paradise, a bombshell bursts. The cycle runs as follows:

The Naked Divorce Grieving Cycle

  1. Denial
  2. Anger and Betrayal
  3. Panic and Negotiation
  4. Humiliation, Fear of Failure or Looking Bad
  5. Despair
  6. Loss, Grief and Depression
  7. Space & Nothingness
  8. Acceptance
  9. Responsibility and Forgiveness
  10. Gratitude

Let me explain the stages in a little more detail. There is the initial ‘Shock’ stage which is an initial paralysis at hearing the bad news of the break up, this is followed by…

  1. Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable
  2. Anger and Betrayal stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion
  3. Panic and Negotiation stage: Seeking in vain for a way out. Making deals with ex
  4. Humiliation, Fear of Failure or Looking Bad stage: gradually sinking into a spiral, feeling embarrassed and avoiding seeing people
  5. Despair stage: Realization that something horrible is coming and you are strapped into the rollercoaster with nothing you can do
  6. Loss, Grief and Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable, surrendering to the grief
  7. Space & Nothingness stage: Once you have grieved and grieved, experiencing loss and pain. There is a feeling of ‘nothingness’ – where you cannot cry anymore
  8. Acceptance stage: Seeking realistic solutions and finally finding the way forward
  9. Responsibility and Forgiveness stage: Taking responsibility for where you may have been responsible for the relationship not working out. Forgiving your ex and yourself for any failings you feel happened during the relationship
  10. Gratitude stage: Transformational experience – learning from your divorce and seeing positives and negatives from the whole experience

Sometimes just understanding WHERE you are and that it is a process and that you will get through it, really helps. The important thing to keep in mind is that although the graph looks linear – you will bounce between the first 6 ‘stages’ many times.

If you would like to see where you are within the Naked Divorce Grieving cycle, take the How Hung up Are you Test. Click on http://www.nakeddivorce.com/How_Hung_Up_Are_You.html to find out more about taking the test.

Till next time, sending you a big hug!