For all the years, I’ve been writing about divorce, relationships and my less than desirable love life one thing has remained consistent. I have focused on healing and the process most people need to go through in order to come out on the other side. Believe me, I have done it all wrong at times. Looking back at some of my stories, I see how stuck I was in my own narrative. Stuck in despair, anger, bitterness, and most of all fear.
Fear is the driving force for all negative thoughts and beliefs. Fear is what prevents you from taking that next step forward. Fear keeps you paralyzed in belief systems that you have created in your own thoughtfully crafted narrative. For some, the narrative is that you were a victim of a cruel person that mistreated you, for others, it is the story you told yourself about feeling disconnected or unloved.
It’s not that these narratives are untrue but if you’re fully honest with yourself you would have to face the facts that a part of you allowed it to happen. A part of you ignored the red flags that were waving right in front of your face. Psychologists call it “cognitive dissonance”. Essentially, it is when a person has conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors and in order to ease the mental distress they alter that belief in order to restore balance. In layman’s terms, they basically justify their behavior or make excuses for why they stay in a relationship with someone who they know is a giant asshole.
I have also heard people consistently use the pain and tragedy from their childhood as an excuse for their bad behavior. I experienced this throughout my entire marriage. I excused behavior I normally would never tolerate because I felt compassion for him having a difficult childhood. I bought into his narrative and allowed him to use it as a reason to behave badly. Ultimately, I was an enabler. I had a blind spot when it came to my husband because I thought I could heal him. Unfortunately, that never happened and I was left with my own wounds to heal.
We all create a story, don’t we? We all use this story as a justification to continue the status quo or justify our actions.
I’ve been forced to challenge my own narrative lately. I make it a daily practice to check myself and to reverse the negative thoughts that take over my brain and clog my reality. I realized I spent way too many years believing that I was a victim instead of taking responsibility for how I responded to my new reality. I let the negative beliefs control me, and those beliefs shaped my reality.
Now I have more awareness of what I call my “monkey brain”. I become an observer of my thoughts so that I could do my best to reverse them. Have you ever woke up in the morning and been an observer of the crazy or negative thoughts that pop into your head? I don’t know where the hell they come from half the time but I find myself creating a narrative in my head about what will happen at work to piss me off or get annoyed at the long list of “to do’s” that I have to tackle that day. I’m already exhausted and in a bad mood before I’ve even left my bed.
My practice now is to shut off my monkey brain and find three things I’m grateful for and I set my intention for the day. I have to admit that some days the positivity only lasts until 10 a.m. before I want to throw something off my desk but at least I’m trying. The truth of the matter is that I struggle with staying Zen because I’m not happy with what I’m doing. My heart wants to be a writer and mentor other people going through painful divorces but that won’t pay the bills at the moment. Someday it will but only if I re-write my own narrative. I have to change the limiting beliefs that tell me that I have to stay in a 9 to 5 job in order to survive. Even when I know in my heart that it’s not where I’m supposed to be.
I’m grateful for the people in my life that always remind me to live my purpose. Those encouragers remind me of what I should be doing instead of staying stuck in my insecurities. We all need those people in our lives that build you up instead of tearing you down.
It starts with your beliefs and ends with you taking actionable steps to create the life that you want by shaping a new reality. If you’re unhappy with a certain aspect of your life then ask yourself what you could do to change it. If you point the finger at someone else needing to change his or her behavior in order for you to be happy then you are dead wrong. You can’t control how another person behaves all you can do is change how you react to it. Now, I’ll admit this isn’t always easy to do especially when a person triggers you, but you have to take responsibility for the part you play. Allow yourself to process the situation and the emotions behind it but try your best to push reset and change your beliefs and negative thoughts.
Divorce can be a long hard journey with ups and downs, but you can shorten the difficulty with one little thing…your beliefs. When you find yourself stuck in the vitriol take a minute to breathe and allow the emotion to pass through you not stay stuck inside you. The truth about divorce is that you’re both hurt and you want the other person to hurt like you do. That’s why we lash out at each other. We want to be right. We want validation that the other person is the one to blame. Everyone creates the narrative that serves themselves and his or her perception of why the marriage fell apart.
Truth is you’re both to blame. Perhaps not equally but we all placate to the roles we created in our marriage. Once we sever that relationship we both go to our corners of the ring to begin the boxing match of who is right and wrong. It doesn’t have to be a bloody brawl but often times we forget that we once loved each other and the gloves come off. Here is where the challenge comes to a head. The challenge is to not lose yourself in the anger and remember that whether you like it or not you are family and you always will be. You can choose whether you want that family to be contentious and petty or find some middle ground. Pain and fear can cloud your judgment at times but it’s up to you to create healthy communication with mutual respect. This will determine how difficult this awful process has to be—you write the narrative so choose to have awareness and not let the monkeys control your brain.