The influence of divorce on my needs

 

house and family

Our needs can be grouped together such as basic needs (food, warmth), safety (home, security), relationships (partner, family) and higher mind needs (work, leisure).

After a crisis, our needs return to basics before moving to needs higher up. The ending of my marriage was such a crisis and as everything crashed down, I coped by focussing on the basics of eating a healthy diet, walking in the mornings, following a routine during the day and cocooning myself in the warmth of my bed at night. I was in a survival mind-set of fulfilling basic needs as all else was gone; my perceived safety, my security, my family unit and my companion. As I continued to crave the comfort that my home and routine provided, I wondered whether I would remain there. Could I ever move on to higher needs?

I had become confused about my needs.

There is a difference between my needs, including emotional needs, and those things that fill those needs. My needs have actually not changed. What has changed are those things that previously satisfied them. I had been clinging on to the concept that I needed the same type of ‘satisfiers’ to provide for my empty needs. Taking an honest look, my needs are not a home, a sound financial asset base, a life-companion, work, hobbies and experiential pastimes. They are satisfiers of my needs, not the needs themselves. My needs are stability, security, a sense of belonging, a need to contribute and create, and a need to celebrate the joys (and sorrows) of life. What is gone is the person and shared projects that previously satisfied those needs. What I need to do going forward is to find other things and other ways to fulfill those needs.

In regard to need satisfiers, you can receive them, be self-reliant, or give them. As a simple illustration: people in third world countries can be provided with food hand-outs or they can be taught how to be self-sufficient and grow crops. The first aids a continual need to be provided for, the latter aids self-reliance and improved community spirit.

One of the consequences of my divorce in regard to needs is that it moved me from a self-reliant ‘I need to do’ and contributing ‘I need to give’ strength to a fragile ‘I need to have, I need to be provided for’ mind-set.

My confusion over needs versus satisfiers and my fragile ‘I need to have’ mind-set together have influenced both life decisions I made in the months post separation as well as some day-to-day choices.

Life decisions:

I need to feel safe and comforted. My home provides me with safety and comfort.
I need security. The job I have provides me with financial security.
I clung on to my home and my job in the year post separation.
Those satisfiers for my daily comfort and security conflict with my long-term need for belonging as my children and family live far away. Therefore despite the daily comfort, there remains an ache. A year ago I looked at my real underlying needs as opposed to merely things that satisfy and I made the decision to change for my forward journey.

Daily choices:

I sometimes have feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, resentment regarding my divorce. These are voices of pain ‘I am scared’, ‘I am lonely’, ‘I do not matter’ and ‘it’s not fair’.
These voices reflect my underlying needs of security, belonging, significance and respect.

In my last post I wrote how I now recognize those voices of pain as a call to protect my present. While it is tempting to go for a passive need satisfier providing comfort (watching TV,  over-eating etc) or leaning on a confidante who will provide a sympathetic ear; that keeps me at the ‘I need help’, ‘I need to be comforted’, ‘I need to have’ mind-set. I need to transform that ‘having’ mind-set into ‘being’, ‘doing’ and ‘giving’ strengths while providing for my own needs of *protection, *connection, *creation, *contribution and *celebration.

 

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*I have created these new terms for my own needs as creativity is a ‘doing’ need of mine and that is my start :).

You may also want to read:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Tony Robbins six needs
Max-Neef Human Scale Development.

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Healing from the pain of betrayal

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive.
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative.
Don’t mess with mister in between.”

Johnny Mercer

 

 

Intimate betrayal is when someone very close has hurt you by abuse, aggression or constant criticism; or failed to take care of your well-being by deceit, infidelity or abandonment. The betrayal cuts deep because of the broken trust and an expectation of continual love and care. The resultant pain is intense and long-lasting. It is accompanied by the raging symptoms of anxiety, dread, deep sadness, guilt, shame and resentment.

Since my husband left me, many a day I have cried out, ‘please just stop the pain!’

Consider this situation.

Children are playing outside and kick a ball against a window. The window breaks and shatters. Inside, a shard of glass flings out and plunges into your arm creating a deep cut with profuse bleeding and deep pain. What do you do? You may run outside, work out who kicked the ball, then berate that child for his bad behaviour. You could look at the window, consider why it shattered and postulate why the glass cut so deep. You could grab a towel and mop up the bleeding. Alternatively, you may give painkillers to numb the pain.

Meanwhile you bleed to death.

The cure for a deep cut is attending to the cut, not numbing the pain, mopping up the bleeding  or working out who to blame. I know that. Yet when I was confronted with the pain of betrayal and abandonment I spent some time analyzing my ex-husband’s behaviour, my behaviour; and our marriage with its strengths and weaknesses. I wanted to know, why, why, why? Then I spent some time relieving the gushing symptoms of anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and resentment. When that didn’t completely work, I spent a lot of time numbing out the pain by living in the joys of today, engaging in pleasurable and / or distracting activities; or keeping busy. More recently I have wondered why the pain had not completely stopped and I had not fully healed.

I had not addressed the pain. The pain went so deep that I had tried to ignore it, cover it up, numb it out or avoid it rather than face it.

Pain is a signal, a call to action.
If you put your hand on a hotplate, it is a signal to remove your hand or it will burn.
If you present to your doctor with a headache, it must firstly be ascertained whether there is underlying stress, migraine, lack of sleep, or brain tumour; before planning a course of action.

Emotional pain is also a signal, a call to action.
It is not a signal to heal the past, it is a signal to heal the present. It is a protective signal that there is something in your current life that you need to change.

While the obvious symptoms pouring out from the cut of betrayal, abandonment and its aftermath were anger, humiliation, resentment, sadness, anxiety and guilt; I gradually learned these were stemming from the emotional pain underneath of feeling disregarded, unlovable and devalued;  losing something valuable (my 37 year marriage); having a sense of dread for the future; and feeling that my own values had in some way been violated.

These signals of emotional pain are a call to action for me. In order to heal from this pain, I need to focus on raising my self-regard; becoming more loveable; increasing my competence; building on my relationships with family, friends and other connections; facing and planning for my future; and abiding by my conviction to live by my values.

This is my action plan: each time I experience any form of emotional pain, I will pause and recognise this as a call to action. I will eliminate any reactive ‘fright, flight or fight’ thoughts. I will remember my core values of courage, kindness and fairness. I will then plan an action response in one of the following areas:

  • Protection
  • Connection
  • Contribution
  • Creation
  • Celebration

These will become my Foundations of Comfort as I rebuild my life.

(Note: I think the last sentence in the quote helps a lot too :) )

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You may want to read Living and Loving after Betrayal. Steven Stosny

My life in transition # 6 – anxiety

 

ID-100131775.AfricaAt the beginning of this series of posts I wrote down all the negative emotions I was feeling dealing with my life in transition and the property settlement. I planned to devise steps to tackle those negative feelings. The last feeling I noted was anxiety. I have discovered that working through the other steps has cured the anxiety.

This is a simple summary of the actions I have taken over the past few months:

1. In the depths of turmoil, I found a place of quiet and realised it was quiet.
2. I reaffirmed my conviction to live by my core values.
3. I adjusted my vision by re-framing my transition as steps towards my bright future.
4. I wrote a list of all issues, broke them into tasks and steps; then started on the first one.
5. I enlisted help for issues too difficult to handle on my own.
6. I resolved to build foundations of comfort to create certainty in my world of uncertainty.
7. I am bringing every choice I make back to my core value decisions.

As a result, instead of sliding backwards, I am now moving forward… anxiety-free.

(most of the time :) )

 

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My life in transition # 5 – the aloneness of decisions

” Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” C S Lewis “The Silver Chair”

ID-10022566.Danilo.RizzutiChoices are not the same as decisions.

A choice is when there are two or more items on the shelf and you choose one.

A decision is the end-point and the thing you get to live with after the other choices have been discarded.

In its cruelest sense, I was the discarded item of choice. The decision was the ending of our marriage. The choice was his and he gets to live with his choice. I get to live with his decision.

I coped to a large extent from the consequences of his decision by making my own choices. For example, I chose aloneness over loneliness.

Loneliness was feeling sorry for myself.

In the early days post separation loneliness descended upon me.  I felt my whole world had collapsed and with it all those levels of companionship and support my husband had seemingly provided. Gradually I realised that comfort could be provided by other means and from other people. I even embraced aloneness as my companion and as an opportunity to develop my creativity. By doing so I have not let myself become enveloped in any further loneliness.

Aloneness is a state of being alone

Aloneness does not simply mean living alone. Aloneness is being the only one in exactly my position with my strengths and weaknesses, the only one with my inner beliefs and desires, the only one who can face my difficult moments when I feel most bereft.

When I was married all major decisions could be shared. Where to live, how to provide financially, which projects to become involved in. Now all those decisions are mine and mine alone. My problem now is agonizing over the consequences of any decision I make, making sure any decision is fair and reasonable to myself and others, and feeling utterly alone in the making of those decisions.

I realise now these are not my decisions, they are my choices – where to live, how to make or spend my money, and what to do with my time. I realise that I can enlist help from others in making those choices and I can take my time in making them.

In contrast my most difficult decisions have been mine alone and have not been made with choices laid out for me. They were not made after protracted analysis or at times of quiet deliberation. They were made at times of distress. At those times of distress, the raging turmoil within me grew so intense that the only choices I had were sinking into complete collapse or finding calm. I chose calm.

From the calm within the turmoil I made those tough decisions – alone and with yet with total conviction because I just knew they were the right decision.

Those difficult decisions have been to change myself, to face the truth and to live by my core values no matter what.

Any choice I make now will come as a consequence of those life decisions I have made.
In fact, for any seeming conflict I have within myself for any current choice I now need to make, I only need to look back to those decisions and the choice becomes an easy one.

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“When the pain of what we are living becomes greater than our fear of changing, we let go. When our fear of drowning swamps our fear of holding onto nothing, we start to swim”. Louise Gallagher

 

 

 

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My Life in Transition # 4 – Overwhelmed and Overloaded

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

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One of the first emotions that I felt in the hours after my husband left me was panic. My mind was in complete turmoil as I battled despair and hurt from the betrayal, sadness at my lost past, and fear for my future. Feeling completely overwhelmed I compartmentalized my pain and deferred major decisions. I put those into metaphorical boxes and shut the lid tight. Two years later I was having to open those boxes. The difficulty in facing those decisions had not subsided, not one little bit. I was feeling overwhelmed again.
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Overwhelmed is when you think you cannot cope and you spend much time in worrying about not coping and the fact that you are feeling overwhelmed.
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Overloaded is when you genuinely do have a lot to do and cannot physically do it all.
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I was suffering from both.
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As I descended further down into another well of despair, the message I was receiving from loved ones was ‘stop worrying, it will all work out’. Then one day the sage advice given to me by my mother was different. ‘You have to face whatever it is that needs doing and get it done’.
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In a state of near implosion one day I found a place of quiet and realised that my mother was correct. I took a moment to learn how to breathe again (instead of panic) and then wrote down all that needed to be done. The list shocked me. I was definitely overloaded. I was in this transition state. I was still battling emotions of losing my past. I was forming my vision for my future. In my present, I was connecting with my loved ones scattered around the globe. I was trying to do something for myself to make me feel good about myself. I had a lot of responsibility in my current work that I could not delegate. Then suddenly – all at once – there were several ‘big’ issues that arose regarding the property settlement that only I could do. I felt I simply could not do it all. I felt so alone.
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Nevertheless, I had taken the first step by writing it all down.
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The next step – as hard as it was – was deferring my future to the future. I had to get stuck in and deal with the here and now. I took comfort from the fact that in the early days after my crisis I feared the future. Now I was looking forward to my future. To cope, I re-framed my property settlement tasks as steps towards my future.
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Next, taking Mark Twain’s advice above, I started to break each of those overwhelming tasks on my list into incremental steps. Then I started on the first step and I finished it. That first step, which was writing a quick email, only took me two minutes. It was not a major step but it meant that I had started. All I had to do was keep moving through each of those incremental steps and I could finish every item on the list. I felt invigorated
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I then went back to some of my business management strategies and prioritised tasks. I made sure that I started moving on the top priority tasks. Too often I became distracted with urgent less important tasks, and neglected the important non-urgent ones.
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For those tasks on my list that still felt overwhelming to me, I have enlisted some help. Over the three weeks since that first advice from my mother I have moved ahead and I have calmed down.

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My advice for anyone who is feeling both overwhelmed and overloaded is to start addressing being ‘overloaded’ first and write everything down. Writing down my list gave me back a sense of control and lessened my feeling of being overwhelmed. As for starting on that first step? That was empowering as it meant I had started on that first step towards the future I crave.
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You may want to read or try:
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Getting Things Done. David Allen
Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. Steven Covey.
Toodledoo: electronic To-Do list with priorities, goals, tasks, and sub-tasks.
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ImageCourtesy[Stuart Miles]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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My life in transition # 3 – Resistance

“Resistance is a powerful motivator precisely because it enables us to fulfill our longing to achieve our goals while letting us boldly recognise and name the obstacles to those achievements”
Derrick A Bell.

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It is two and a half years since my husband left me and I am still stuck in a transition world between my old and new life. Resistance has been a factor with obstacles that have either kept me stuck in my old world or sprung up to hinder my progress.

These are the steps I am taking to overcome resistance:

(i) Clarify my motivation for change.

(ii) Write down my resistance voices.

(iii) List clear obstacles to progress.
This is a summary of my voices and practical considerations.

(iv) Prepare a comeback to each level of resistance.

(v) Seek out supporters.

(vi) Monitor progress.

(vii) Keep going

Resistance factors

This is the list I came up with as per (i) to (iii) above and my comeback for each:

1. No motivation to change.
Clearly change motivation has been difficult as change was thrust upon me.

2. Clinging to my old life.
In my old life I coped well in a crisis. I would focus my energy on recovery, integrate whatever change was required into my life and quickly bounce back to normal. The crisis of my divorce was different. My normal was gone. I craved normality. I coped by blocking out the reality of my changed situation by clinging on to as many remnants of my old life as I possibly could. In particular, I deliberately deferred some major decisions that would require major changes to my life.

This deferral was necessary to allow me time and space to process the emotional impacts of what had happened. In this time and space I grieved the ending of my marriage.

3. Fear of the unknown. I survived my grief period and in time learned to live with the level of discomfort that was now my new normal. Living with discomfort became easier than facing the unknown. Those deferred decisions remained in the “to be done later” box.

One day my fear of living in continued discomfort outweighed my fear of change. I had an epiphany. In a single moment of time I decided that I wanted to start a brand new life. This in itself overcame my first resistance. I had regained control over my choices and hence my motivation to change. My motivation is now simple. I want to make my own new life.

4. Fear of identity loss. My decision to change plunged me into an even deeper mourning period as I faced the reality of what the changes meant. I would need to strip away the rest of my identity by giving up my home, my work and my community.

I still have my inner core of my values and beliefs. That is my real identity. I can take that with me, wherever I go, whatever I do.

5. Fear of not being strong enough. “I can’t do it” is a loud voice together with.voices that give me reasons for not doing things, for putting things off, or for why I am struggling.

Yes you can. It will take courage, perseverance, and belief in yourself but you can do it

6. Legal and financial constraints Moving from my home, changing my avenue of work, and moving away from the community are all major steps, which will require careful financial consideration after I am legally able to begin those changes.

This is where I am up to. I am leaning on professional advisors to assist me through.

7. Practical considerations All these changes do and will continue to require a lot of physical, emotional and mental stamina yet I am tired, so tired.

Then rest if you must, but do not quit.

Writing this post has proved two things.

Firstly; the crisis of divorce is different from any other crisis I have faced before as it is not simply a change within my life, it is a change to a new me. I cannot bounce back. I must bounce forward.

Secondly; I am not stuck. I am through five of seven very difficult steps.

I continue to work on a clear vision for a new me and a new life and progress towards that.

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” Peter M Senge
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My life in transition #2 – from resentment to conviction

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul”
from ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley

I am not by nature an angry person. When anger swept over me in the weeks after my husband left me it was a foreign feeling which I hated. I went to great lengths to conquer those feelings of anger so they did not convert into angry actions. I did not want to become an angry person. I chanelled the anger-energy into spring-cleaning, writing and making a conviction to live by my core values. The poem Invictus became my saving grace and I read it every day. I swore to be the ‘captain of my soul’.

I squashed anger before it took hold. Resentment crept up on me.

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Resentment is disguised anger; with subtle differences. Anger is a feeling triggered by a single event; whereas resentment is an underlying attitude and sense of unfairness. Whereas anger is an aggressive retaliation against something received (pain); resentment is a defensive response to something missed out on (care, trust).

Before, my underlying attitude was positivity and calmness. Fleeting annoyances, such as being kept waiting for an appointment or someone behaving rudely, washed over me. Of late, I found myself irritated by such things. How did this come about? How did an act of betrayal by my spouse two years ago, allow me to become disturbed today by a passing remark by a stranger in the supermarket?

After I conquered the anger of the initial insult, I began to wonder how my marriage collapsed without me seeing it coming. I looked for signs. I found some. At the time I had ignored them because I trusted him. The seeds of resentment were planted.

Then I thought of parts of his personality, such as being gregarious. I began to see that as a sign which should have made me wary. Resentment sprouted.

Unrelated yet annoying behaviours of his, that as a trusting caring spouse I overlooked, I now began to see as things I should have objected to. Resentment grew.

Meanwhile, I was alone with my financial security in tatters, still trudging through marital mud, unable to move on. Resentment flourished.

Initial angry feelings directed at him gradually evolved into an attitude of resentment at the unfairness of my changed situation and thinking of myself as stupid for not seeing signs, trusting too much, needlessly putting up with things and being “too nice”.

Struggling with this sense of unfairness, self-blame and mistrust, the classic misguided protection-from-further-hurt thought “I won’t let that happen again” set in. This is the defensive response of resentment. I am not an angry person so I will not lash out in anger, but I will defend myself against further pain and loss The trouble is, it was false protection. I was indeed hurting, in need of security and warmth of others yet I began mistrusting everyone. Instead of empathy at people’s behaviour and acting with warmth and care, my defense armour went up. Being too “nice” got me into trouble before. Trust let me down. I was becoming socially isolated and wary and, in doing so, hurting myself.

Conviction to Core Values

The way out of resentment is the same way out of anger – by a conviction to live by core values. However, it is actually a lot harder to tame resentment as it is an underlying attitude that needs changing, rather than a fleeting feeling.

The simplest way I have found is to re-frame how I see things.
Resentment is against things, against unfairness, against my mistreatment.
On the other hand, a conviction to core values is for things, for fairness, for my well-being. This is a subtle yet profound difference.

Let me see how this re-framing may work for things in my current situation-

Resentment:
‘I was too trusting, too nice, too blinded.’
‘It’s not fair I am still trudging through mud’.
‘I should have moved away to a new life’
‘I cannot trust anyone’

Seeing through the eyes of resentment against things breads anger, blame and envy.

Conviction to core values:
‘I have always been a caring person. I will continue to be so.’
‘I am the person best placed to ensure our settlement is fair and reasonable’
‘I am able to choose if, why and when I shall move’.
‘I can trust myself to be the best person that I can be’

Seeing through the eyes of conviction creates enthusiasm, contentment or joy.

Gone is self-doubt, self-blame, unfairness and mistrust. Now within my focus lies self-compassion and self-forgiveness as a stimulus to create a healthy self-identity to regain my positiveness and act on my core values of courage, kindness, and fairness.

 

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You may want to read Living and Loving after Betrayal. Steven Stosny

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