Don’t Let Your Feelings Drive the Bus: Better to let Your “Wise Mind” Take Charge During and After Your Divorce
Divorce/divorcing can bring out intense unresolved feelings. During the process and afterward, it is not unusual to feel anger, hurt and sadness. Guilt and blame may be strong. In addition, there is normal grieving over the loss of our dream of how we thought the relationship and our life would be. With all this emotion and intensity, we can lose our perspective as to what is in our best interests or, for that matter, our children’s best interests.
During life transitions such as divorce when we are feeling upset and highly emotional, basic survival instincts kick in. We go into “fight or flight.” We may perceive a threat to our survival. Realistically, often in divorce, we are actually facing high stakes and potential losses of all kinds. Fear is understandable.
It is also understandable that we may want to make the person who hurt, abandoned or betrayed us, suffer in some way. It is human nature to want to get even or get revenge. Those old sayings, “What goes around comes around” or “Karma is a bitch!” sound appealing as we think of ex- spouses. Even if we adhere to the spiritual belief that the universe will eventually make our ex-spouse “pay” for harm done to us, we are sorely tempted to jump in and help move the process along. Not a good idea.
Ultimately, we are in a quandary. In a divorce or any other of life’s challenges, we need to validate and honor our feelings yet make smart rational choices. When the stakes are high and our feelings are intense, we are taking a risk if we judge options simply based on what “feels right”. We need to think about what choices are in our and our children’s long term best interests.
This explanation is an oversimplification, but may be helpful. Think about the left side of the brain as a center for logic, analytical thought and objectivity: the source of our “rational mind”. The right side of the brain can be thought of as a center for intuition, creativity and subjectivity: the source of our “emotional mind”. Ideally, our rational and emotional sides operate together so our thoughts and feelings integrate giving us access to our “wise mind” and good decision making.
If your divorce is particularly contentious and your emotions are running especially high, it is challenging to tap into your “wise mind”. Some things which can help are 1) having regular discussions with your most level-headed friend(s) who may help you shift your perspective, 2) working with a therapist to help you process your feelings, 3) hiring a good attorney trained to focus on a rational approach to analyzing and solving problems. Don’t forget that in the end, ultimately, we want to work effectively and successfully within the legal system which is rooted in logic and rational thought.
Bottom line: When feelings and logic are integrated, we are more likely to develop good strategies and make good choices. If we think of ourselves as on a bus driving down the highway of divorce and its aftermath, we need to be sure our feelings do not drive the bus. Better to let our “wise mind” drive while we respect, validate and process what we feel.
Action Step: Focus on what emotions you are feeling about different aspects of your divorce or whatever life challenge you are facing. Let yourself feel your feelings. Be kind and understanding. Of course, you find yourself upset as a result of whatever you have gone through or are going through. Choose the subject you feel most intensely about. Recognize that this may be your greatest vulnerability, the area you need help with as you consider divorce related decisions. In a notebook or diary, write all about your feelings on this subject, exploring them completely. Just the act of doing this will help your progress toward keeping your feelings out of the driver’s seat. Good Luck!