When stars fall from grace it hurts everyone who looked up to them. Part of our dreams fall with them.
All the more so if your own marriage has fallen from stardom to dust. You may find yourself at the same crossroad where Brad and Angelina now stand.
The stars seem prepared to do battle with an army of attorneys. They can afford the expense but what about the emotional toll? There is an option to seeking vengeance: to heal and move on, putting the welfare of the children first.
When you awaken to a marriage that has crumbled, the first battle happens inside. Will you give in to the urge to win or provide a more civilized role model to your kids through respectful collaboration?
I work as a mediator with divorcing families. They have taught me that the psychologists are right. You don’t need to like your adversary to rise above the fray and become the role model you want to be for your kids. The high road is a steeper climb – but it offers a wiser path.
Brad and Angelina – and anyone experiencing separation – can benefit from these tips:
1. Let the long term goal of freedom outweigh the immediate impulse for revenge.
2. Don’t give in, but meet your needs peacefully, through negotiation instead of battle.
3. Look at this conflict as an opportunity for personal growth.
4. Challenge your hatred, knowing its best for your kids (and for you in the long run) if your ex is healthy and prosperous.
5. Sit patiently with your pain. Accept it as your teacher, without pushing it away or reacting.
6. Direct your thoughts away from hostility toward compassion for yourself and your kids. Let that guide your heart.
7. Connect with the sides of yourself that are resilient, creative and strong. (Impotent anger won’t help. Motivate yourself toward positive goals.)
ENSURE THAT THE KIDS COME FIRST
8. Change is scary. Reassure them (and yourself) that they have the resources and skills to thrive.
9. When children ask for the impossible, reduce toxicity by directing conversation toward choices that ARE available.
10. Be the adult you want them to become: honest, engaged, sensitive, and able to have fun.
If you find yourself going through a separation or divorce, please don't hesitate to get in touch. At my family mediation practice, Reflective Mediation, we help families resolve painful emotional and financial decisions using positive, solution-oriented communication skills. We assist parents to work together in the best interest of their children, for now and the future. We teach easy-to-learn exercises that can calm emotions, and it’s okay to need a little help with your mental wellness when you’re in distress.
The Trump victory, for many, was a punch in the belly. It now looks like bullies win, that anger and ignorance and intolerance are in charge.
Reactions to Donald Trump highlight a dilemma we often face. Life sends curve-balls. Is there a way to deal with overwhelming emotion? Is there a healthy way to manage your response to events you can’t control?
The best revenge also happens to be the best defense: equanimity. That is, to stay being engaged while becoming untroubled.
I learned this in the early months of my own divorce, when impotent anger and anxiety made me feel like a cornered animal ready to win at all costs. That pain guided me to my yoga mat in search of relief.
Physical postures and breath-work provided an answer unavailable to my conscious intellect. Concentration on poses calmed my brain. They didn’t fix the external problem, but quieted the internal one.
Neuroscientists describe equanimity as a detached state of mind in which “you have a kind of space around experiences, a buffer between you and [your] feelings.” (Rick Hanson PH.D., Buddha’s Brain, p 111)
Relaxed awareness should not be mistaken for aloofness. “Equanimity is neither apathy nor indifference: you are warmly engaged with the world but not troubled by it.” (Ibid) Acquiring equanimity doesn’t rid you of emotion or suppress it.
However, brain scans show that during a meditation or yoga practice you remain as fully aware of emotional impulses as ever, but your nervous system doesn’t get triggered into the hyper arousal of fight-or-flight. Instead you remain clear-headed.
Equanimity allows attentiveness without the distortion that comes from being emotionally triggered.
So what will you do? Are you going to dwell on Trump and remain upset? Will you get triggered when a dominating person next steps into your life? Do you want to be a role model for your kids? Your best response, always, is to practice equanimity.
If you plan to be an activist, fighting against ignorance and intolerance, you will be more effective (not to mention healthier and happier) if you are calm and clearheaded.
So where do you begin if you find yourself in an extreme state of agitation about the state of the world since Trump’s election? Here are a few things you can try:
Begin a mindfulness ritual. Even if you’ve never meditated or done yoga before, now is a great time to start. Try the meditation app Headspace and spend 10 minute each morning following a guided meditation journey for beginners. Or find a series of a series of restorative yoga poses on YouTube and give those a try. Some helpful ones can also be found in my book The Yoga of Divorce.
Turn your frustration into concrete action. You may be powerless to do anything about who Trump selects for his cabinet, but you can join an advocacy group to draw attention to the issues that matter most to you. You can also leverage your worry for good by devoting some of your time — face-to-face — to helping those in need. You might volunteer in a soup kitchen or help an immigrant family to get settled, for example.
Spend some time outdoors. When it feels like the world has gone crazy, a walk in the woods — or even around the block — can help to shift your mood and remind you that there is more to life than what’s playing out in the news.
If you need more, get in touch. At my practice, Reflective Mediation, we offer mindfulness training and other stress-reduction practices that have been scientifically proven to rewire the nervous system. We teach easy-to-learn exercises that can calm emotions, and it’s okay to need a little help with your mental wellness when you’re in distress.
“The aim of yoga is to calm the chaos of conflicting impulses.”
B.K.S. Iyengar (the most influential yogi of modern times)
What if your yoga practice could help heal distress and resolve interpersonal conflict?
It can. Cooperation between opposing forces is the key to reaching peace. It’s not about erasing differences but balancing both sides. This is true on the yoga mat and at the negotiation table. Tensions in your body and conflict between bodies can’t be realistically resolved by getting rid of differences. We don’t want dark and light to blend into grey. Best results follow from maintaining yet balancing our differences.
Research confirms that balancing opposite forces on the yoga mat has a dramatic power to calm the mind. Calm minds solve interpersonal problems more creatively.Read More
Our brains are Velcro for negative thoughts, Teflon for positive. Evolution has wired us that way. Nightly news producers know it, which is why, out of a million commuters, you only hear about the ones who don’t get home safely. Our city functions as a miracle of co-ordinated social and economic activity but we hear about the cases of violence.
There’s a good evolutionary reason for our predisposition to focus on problems. Our prehistoric ancestors needed to think ahead, to worry about the coming winter, rival tribes or the next hunt. They had to sharpen their spears and their wits. Those who paid too much attention to the bright side may not have survived to pass along their genes.
In modern times (at least in the developed world) our issues aren’t about basic survival. Attention to problems can motivates us to improve our lives, when done in small doses. But a preoccupation with your problems can trigger the “fight-or-flight” reaction, which prepares your body for action by shutting down the creative, problem-solving region of your brain.
Dwelling on the negative is riskiest in intimate relationships. When you zero in on the part of your love life that is not going well, you may lose sight of your many blessings. As a family mediator I often work with spouses whose story of their past is dominated by what went wrong. Conflict saturates their memory, poisoning their appreciation for anything that remains positive.
Those painful events DID occur. He really WAS hurt by her inattention. She really IS wounded by his critical comments, and those issues deserve attention. But they aren’t the whole story. Problem-solving often loses sight of the positive qualities you offer one another. Whether your goal is to heal or end your relationship, you’ll both benefit by shifting attention from what’s broken to what works.
Whether you’re reflecting on the city, or your love life, you will be at your best with a buoyant appreciation for what’s going well. The realist sees the big picture. Not just the problems.