Friday, December 19, 2014
The problem with gratitude.
As you read all sorts of advice to feel grateful for what you do have rather than angry and grief-stricken about your divorce, you may be feeling frustrated.
You sit there with your journal, listing ten things a day for which you are grateful, but in the pit of your stomach, this doesn't make you feel any better. It just makes you feel exhausted.
If one more person tells you that, no matter how bad things may seem in your life, that you're still better off than 99% of the world's population, you secretly want to smack her.
What you don't dare tell anyone is that this is how you really feel: "It's so unfair. Can't anyone focus on me for a while? I'm soooo tired of being strong and handling all this on my own.
"Isn't there anyone here for me, someone who really cares about what I'm going through? Isn't there anyone who is concerned about me and wants to comfort me? Even just a little?"
It can feel so shameful to be thinking these kinds of thoughts. But sometimes, you can't help it, when you're running way past empty trying to care for everyone else. In fact, you've been doing it for so long that no one even thinks about what you might need anymore. Maybe no one ever really thought about what you needed even before your marriage blew up.
So, here's what I suggest.
1. Stop trying to be grateful. Just stop. Instead of writing that gratitude list, start writing a "putting myself first" list. Replace the gratitude list with at least 3 or 5 things each day that you can do for yourself to make your day a little easier and happier. (Hint: A great list-starter is to think of things that you wish your ex had done for you, and start to give those acts of kindness to yourself.)
2. Let it all out. You need to get those feelings out of the tissues of your body, where they hide out and make you feel awful in a physical, tangible way. Have a moment alone at home? Bury your face in a pillow and cry your eyes out. Get it all out. Or drive your car someplace private and scream your heart out. Swear at your ex to your heart's content. Or just collapse into a fetal position and cry like a baby. You can't just bury these emotions under a facade of everything being okay. (Trust me, I tried.) And these really strong, scary emotions might not be ones that you want to reveal to your friends or your children. You might decide to schedule a weekly date alone in your car to purge all those horrible feelings that make you sick to your stomach. You'll know when you're done with this step. While you're working on this step, find a confidante (see step 3).
3. Find someone who will listen to you, and not judge you. I don't mean that this person listens to you vent in a highly emotional manner for hours on end (that's what your car or pillow is for). But, you do want someone who will listen and empathize. A person who has also been through a bad breakup or divorce is an excellent choice. You don't want them to join you in vilifying your spouse. You don't want them to fan the flames of your hurt and anger. You just want them to listen and actually care. Give you a hug and hold your hand. Baby you a little bit. You can set a time limit so that you don't wear down your friend or family member. Because you may need to confide in this person again and again. It's not just a one-time thing. And, yes, you can do it on the phone, but it's very nurturing to be sitting on the couch with someone who cares and can hold your hand.
4. Decide when you will speak of it no more. Do allow yourself to get it all out. But once you hear yourself repeating for the 15th time the same sad story, you know that you're ready to speak of it no more. Continuing to speak of it keeps it alive and keeps you hurting. You'll know when the time is right to promise yourself that you will not tell the sad, sad story again. When you need to refer to your divorce, you can summarize it in a few calm, descriptive sentences -- but no longer allow yourself to go back into all the raw emotions. By doing so, you keep those emotions alive.
5. Increase your self-love and self-care even more. You've been writing a daily self-love list (step 1). Now's the time to draw from the list and start showing yourself how important you are -- to yourself. It's the first step in becoming truly important and valuable in the eyes of someone else.
Want more about this? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.